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Set in Jamaica in the late 1980s and 1990s, Prophets is a poem of rhythmic and metaphoric inventiveness, which “loads every rift… with ore.” It brings together an exacting a portrayal of the social and cultural resonances of Jamaican society with a soaring mythopoeic imagination that explores the tension between an ebullient cynicism and a heartfelt desire for faith.


Kwame Dawes
Date published
16 Jan 2018

As 24-hour television, belching out the swaggering voices of American hellfire preachers, competes with dancehall, slackness and ganja for Jamaican minds, Clarice and Thalbot preach their own conflicting visions. Clarice has used her gifts to raise herself from the urban Jamaican ghetto. She basks in the adulation of her followers as they look to her for their personal salvation. Thalbot has fallen from comfort and security onto the streets. With his wild, matted hair and nakedness, he is a deranged voice in the wilderness. Whilst Clarice has her blue-eyed Jesus, Thalbot brandishes his blackness in the face of every passer-by. Clarice's visions give her power; Thalbot is at the mercy of every wandering spirit. But when, under cover of darkness, Clarice 'sins' on the beach, Thalbot alone knows of her fall. He sets out to journey, like Jonah, to denounce the prophetess and warn the Ninevite city of its coming doom. An epic struggle begins... 

'Prophets is a narrative poem of sheer power, contemporaneity, and hope; one that is full of beauty, sadness, wisdom, and true humanism.' - Sudeep Sen, World Literature Today.

This revised 2018 edition has line numbers, and replaces the now out of print edition, ISBN 9780948833854

Check out Kwame Dawes' Prophets: A Reader's Guide by Jeremy Poynting

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Kwame Dawes

Kwame Dawes is the author of over thirty books, and is widely recognized as one the Caribbean’s leading writers. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. His latest book from Peepal Tree Press is Wheels, his sixteenth book of poems.

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