City of Bones
"The City of Bones stands beside the light found in Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. It is an urgent work of poetry that begets civic empathy, indictment, and clarity; one that stands in, but will travel well beyond, its own time. This is a major new book by a major poet."
—Rebecca Gayle Howell, author of Render: An Apocalypse
Kwame Dawes
ISBN number
Country setting
United States of America
Publication date
22 Feb 2018

City of Bones is a poet’s testament, his vision of time’s past and future. Composed in a language that is highly intelligent, tightly wrought, and buoyant—the inherent lyric quality derives its swing from reggae, blues, jazz, gospel, and spoken-word traditions—it is a road map tarred in civilizational wisdom. This is an astonishingly fine book. If I were to predict a future Nobel Prize winner in literature, it would more than likely be Kwame Dawes.”
—Sudeep Sen, author of EroText and editor of The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry

“In this book-length journey, Kwame Dawes guides the reader through the many circles of mnemonic hell. His are poems nailed into the white pages with the force of bestial silence; thick-neck poems written by a poet with hands and ear for old bones, for the shattering of breaking time, for the rituals of manhood. Whenever I picked a new book from the shelf, I always hoped it would be exactly this.”
 —Valzhyna Mort, author of Factory of Tears

“This testament is one of the remarkable books of contemporary English-language letters. I celebrate Dawes and his achievement, and in doing so celebrate all those who have a space in his poems and all those who are able to tune into his remarkable music, intellect, and spirit.”
—John Kinsella, author of Jam Tree Gully and Firebreaks

“Extending Kwame Dawes’s already wide-ranging and prolific body of work, City of Bones is a testament to a complicated past that replays itself in the daily lives of so many Americans today. In the shadow of the Thirteenth Amendment Dawes remixes the works of August Wilson and brings lucidity to our present moment. Unafraid to trouble the waters and make clear why American race relations exist as they currently do, City of Bones sets the record straight and leaves no doubt that the past is ever present and we have not yet overcome. City of Bones should leave no question in the minds of any contemporary reader that Kwame Dawes is one of the most significant poets working today. This is poetry’s ‘Redemption Song.’”
—Matthew Shenoda, author of Tahrir Suite

“Why read Kwame Dawes? Because he knows how to ‘listen for the calm voice of God.’ Because he will show you how to grieve and not be torn open. Because his poem “The Things You Forget in Jail” shares with us empathy so unlike that of most North American poets at work today. Go back to him because Dawes is in love with ‘music of mint, ginger root, garlic, sweet / onion” of our language, its tormented ‘promise of good earth.’ Why read him? Because words ‘when spoken will soften / your chest.’ Why read Kwame Dawes? Because you cannot stop. Because Dawes is the poet to read when ‘all talking / is over’ and you sit alone in this room.” 
—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Dancing in Odessa


Kwame Dawes

Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty-two books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. He is Glenna Luschei Editor-in-Chief of Prairie Schooner and George W. Holmes University Professor at the University of Nebraska. Dawes is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His awards include an Emmy, the Felix Dennis (Forward) Prize for Poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing, and the Windham Campbell Prize for poetry.
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