Dawes is a playwright, artist, reggae musician and storyteller, but his poetry is a revelation. Biographical is its form, Progeny of Air moves from Dawes’s schooldays and adolescence - poems forged from reminscences sharp and unsentimental about classmates and teachers - to portraits of Jamaicans of the Kingston ghetto and memories of days as a student in eastern Canada.
There is a memorable poem of a Jamaican mother, now emigrated to Canada ‘in the ice and snow sludge of Toronto taranta tarantula,’ dreaming of her criminalised son and finally receiving him as an illegal immigrant with an uncertain and anxious future.
His empathy with the oppressed and careworn, the victimised and those who set their stamina against misery, is expressed through a clarity of word and image and an assurance of versification which carries through his portraiture with boldness and truth. He pictures the people of his life - the gay friend beaten by his peers during
‘This dizzy day of crows circling
heated to a haze the old cream buildings
and lonely on the feet-worn dust
under the tamarind tree say Yap, wiping the blood
from his broken teeth’
Then there is the ghetto girl Annette exulting in the sexual power she radiates as she walks:
Make sure things not too rusty.
An exhilarating new Caribbean voice made in Africa, is Kwame Dawes.