It’s easy to find information on the poet, writer, playwright, professor, editor and Bob Marley expert Kwame Dawes, even if you only caught a sliver of this week’s radio interview with him about the quasi-tradition of presidential inauguration poetry. If you missed his surname but heard, you think, something about what state he was in, you could just Google “Kwame + Nebraska.” Mr. Dawes is your first result. Actually, he’s the first 60 results. This probably says less about the popularity of the Cornhusker State among people named Kwame than it does about Dawes’ accomplishments, which include having had 15 of his plays produced and winning an Emmy for his seminal documentary treatment of the HIV/AIDS situation in Jamaica. That’s not to mention the poetry, of which there are many books with many prizes.
For President Obama’s second inaugural, Mr. Dawes is leading (quite literally; he wrote the first line) the nation in composing its own unauthorized, crowdsourced inaugural poem. It’s the brainchild of thetakeaway.org and it’s a happy idea: any poet, amateur or pro, must be raised up by the opportunity to collaborate with Kwame of Nebraska–he’s smart, genial, incisive, concerned, and animated by a generous Rastafarian One Love spirit. Plus he’s got a voice that sounds lifted from the firmament.