Giving a voice to those often ignored

By Jeffrey Sartain - Guest Column
Sept. 27, 2017 at 5:21 p.m.

Jeffrey Sartain

Jeffrey Sartain   Contributed Photo by K. Jordan for The Victoria Advocate

A poet, essayist, lyricist, playwright and editor, Kwame Dawes frequently is billed as "the busiest man in literature."

It's easy to see why this moniker has stuck. He is personally the author of more than 20 books of poetry, fiction, essays and criticism. In addition to editing many volumes of work by other writers and scholars, he edits the prestigious literary journal "Prairie Schooner" as well as teaches in a pair of Master of Fine Arts programs.

Beyond his numerous talents as a writer, Dawes is also a producer, actor and singer. He is a frequently sought collaborator in both print and song. His deep respect for the collaborative process is reflected in his many projects with luminaries from music, literature and other forms of art.

All of this to say that, perhaps more than anyone else, Kwame Dawes is the perfect speaker to celebrate the first 100 speakers of the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Reading Series. His background in so many forms of literature, performance and activism reflect ABR's central mission to review frequently overlooked literature, giving a forum for writers to talk about writing that matters.

The writing that Kwame Dawes is involved in truly matters. An award-winning crisis reporter, Dawes was an on-the-ground correspondent during the aftermath of the 2011 Haiti earthquake and has written about many ravaged parts of the world. His work in crisis regions has won many awards and brought money and attention to human tragedies. His numerous collaborations give voice and attention to people too often ignored by the mainstream media.

Founded in 1977, ABR, in all of its incarnations, has sought to represent the books and authors that all too often slip past the attention of the public gaze. Representing an eclectic mix of fiction, poetry, drama and criticism, ABR's history reflects the unique mix of writers who have edited, contributed or spoken under its auspices during the journal's last 40 years. As writers themselves, ABR's writers and staff bring attention to contemporary works from independent writers and publishers.

After 100 guest speakers, the UHV/ABR Reading Series has earned a reputation as one of the most welcoming and hospitable events attended by many of our speakers. When I hear from speakers after their time in Victoria, it is the support for the arts and warmth of the community that they most frequently comment on. Such comments from writers who have traveled everywhere are not faint praise. Victoria has a serious commitment to bringing in the best writers, speakers and thinkers to enrich the lives of UHV students and the larger community.

The UHV/ABR Reading Series is proud to welcome Kwame Dawes for an afternoon of poetry and stories. I can think of no one better to help us celebrate this auspicious day.

Kwame Dawes will give a free public reading at noon Thursday in the Alcorn Auditorium inside UHV University West.

Jeffrey Sartain is an assistant professor of literature at UHV and the managing editor of American Book Review.


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