Kwame Dawes’ Requiem and Jacko Jacobus reveal a fresh talent, ready to take his place as one of the finest poets who has emerged during the 1990’s. Like his two great compatriots, Derek Walcott and Kamau Braithwaite who, undoubtedly, represent the best tradition of Caribbean poetry, Dawes is similarly committed to capturing the essence of the Caribbean islands in expressions of compelling lyricism.

In Jacko Jacobus, Kwame Dawes repositions the memorable Bible story of the twins, Esau and Jacob within a contemporary socio-political context of exile and memory. The biblical allusion becomes quite apposite as the poet tells of ‘the promise of betrayals to come/the mess of lost birthrights and the cheating of fathers,/of genocide, the blasting of human guilt…’

Eric, like his archetypal alter ego, Esau in the Bible, is the unsuspecting victim of his twin brother, Jacko Jacobus’ trickery, with their mother being an accomplice; yet the ‘unworthy trickster’ in Jacobus, nevertheless, becomes the focus of God’s faithfulness. At the heart of Jacko Jacobus, therefore, are such fundamental issues as betrayal triggered by deception, hypocrisy of self-righteousness, the necessity of reconciliation, the passion of love as opposed to the murderous danger of hate and revenge and of course, the immutability of prophecy.

The technical accomplishment of Kwame Dawes’ poetry is indicative of his ability to maintain a cool air while employing the genre of the lyric to explore his themes, and to cultivate an economy of expression while striving to maintain high quality in deployment of imagery.

Idowu Omoyele