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Speak from Here to There

During 2015 and 2016, two poets from opposite sides of the world, Kwame Dawes and John Kinsella, exchanged poems in two cycles, Echoes and Refrains and Illuminations, that were in constant dialogue even as they remained defined and shaped by the details of their own private and public lives.


Kwame Dawes, John Kinsella
Jamaica, United States of America, Australia
Date published
18 Jul 2016

Kwame Dawes’ base was the flat prairieland of Lincoln, Nebraska, a landscape in which he, a black man, originally from Ghana and Jamaica, felt at once alien and deeply committed to the challenges of finding “home”. John Kinsella’s base was in the violently beautiful landscape of Western Australia, his home ground, thick with memory and the challenge of ecological threat and political ineptitude.  In the first cycle, Echoes and Refrains, the poets sought and found a language for this conversation of various modes and moods.  They were linked by the political and social upheavals in their respective spheres – Dawes contemplating the waves of violence consuming the US and the world, and Kinsella confronting the injustice of the theft of indigenous land and the terrible treatment of refugees and immigrants.  These poems chart an unpredictable journey towards friendship. They reflect commonalities – love of family, cricket, art, politics, music, and travel – and in poem after poem one senses how each is hungry to hear from the other and to then treat the revelations that arrive as triggers for his own lyric introspection –  risky, complex, formally considered and beautiful. They stretch one another, and provoke to a poetic honesty that comes with authority and assurance. In the second cycle of poems, Illuminations, locations shift but the concerns remain and are considered in different lights. Speak from Here to There reminds us of how poetry can offer comfort and solace, and how it can ignite the peculiar creative frenzy that enriches us.  

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John Kinsella

John Kinsella's many books of poetry include Armour (Picador, 2010), Jam Tree Gully (WW Norton, 2012) and Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (Picador, 2016). He has published work in all genres and across a few of them as well, and collaborated with many artists, composers, writers and poets. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Sustainability at Curtin University.

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Kwame Dawes

Kwame Dawes is the author of over thirty books, and is widely recognized as one of 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. He has been elected as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

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