Arts & Culture

Dawes, Hutchinson win writers' prize

Sunday, March 31, 2019

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Two Jamaican writers have been named winners of the Windham-Campbell Prize for poetry, which carries with it a US$165,000 prize purse to support their work

Ishion Hutchinson, who teaches in the creative writing programme at Cornell University in New York, and Kwame Dawes, Professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and co-founder of the local Calabash Literary Festival, were awarded the prize which was established in 2013 by American novelist Donald Windham to honour the memory of his partner Sandy Campbell, and is open to English language writers.

Commenting on being named as one of the Windham-Campbell Prize winner, Hutchinson who is also a contributing editor of The Common and Tongue: A Journal of Writing and Art said, “I'm overcome with joy, sudden joy, and limitless gratitude, to be recognised with the Windham-Campbell Prize. Immense thanks to the selection committee. Above all, I accept it is as a seal of hope and a push towards harder work, to further risk wonder.”

Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, and lives in Ithaca, New York and is the author of two poetry collections, House of Lords and Common from 2016 and Far District from 2010.

The poet has received numerous awards since his début, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (2017), a National Book Critics Circle Award (2016), and a Whiting Award (2013). According to critic Dan Chiasson, Hutchinson's work is “punk-baroque and brat-belletristic”. Hutchinson's inspirations are Martin Heidegger, Peter Tosh, Derek Walcott, and Saint-John Perse, Sir Thomas Browne and Lee “Scratch” Perry. The judges cited Hutchinson's poetry for its “conjuring” of Jamaica and the world within and being full of surprises combined with “formal innovation, musical clarity, and historical depth”.

Dawes is a poet, actor, editor, critic, and musician in addition to being a poet. He is the first University of Nebraska, Lincoln writer to win the annual Windham-Campbell Prize.He noted that awards are a “bonus” and that he receives his validation from the way people react to his work.

“I write. It's what I do, and it's what I love. I don't do it with awards in mind, so this was a bit of a surprise for me, but I am very grateful.”

Fifty-nine writers from 16 countries have received the prize since it was established. Yale University Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library administers the prize. According to prize director Michael Kelleher, the large amount of prize money is meant to provide financial support so writers can concentrate on their writing projects.


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