Filmed at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival on location at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Footage used by permission of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
"I am a tornado child..."

Kwame Dawes

Tornado Child

"Tornado Child" is from the book Wisteria, Twilight Songs from the Swamp Country (2006), a collection of poems based on Kwame Dawes' conversations with the elders of Sumter, South Carolina, who shared their memories of growing up in the Deep South under Jim Crow. Dawes, a prolific poet, playwright, novelist, actor, and musician, was born in Ghana in 1962, and grew up in Jamaica, where the "reggae aesthetic," in particular, the music of Bob Marley, had a profound and lasting impact on the direction of his work. Like Marley, "Dawes understands that redemption is essential," according to the journal Chicken Bones, "and he finds it in the pure music of his art." In 2001, Dawes was awarded both the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize by the Ohio University Press and the Pushcart Prize for Best American Poetry. Dawes is the Distinguished Poet-in-Residence at University of South Carolina, founder and Executive Director of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative, and Programming Director for the annual Calabash International Literary Festival, in Jamaica.

To read this poem by Kwame Dawes, as well as biographical information about the poet, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.