UNL’s Kwame Dawes received the Paul Engle Prize earlier this month in Iowa City, Iowa. The award honors those who represent a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing or teaching, and who contribute to the betterment of the world though literary arts.
Dawes, UNL Chancellor Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of the Prairie Schooner, was the second winner of the award. He received the prize Oct. 12 during his stint in Iowa City as the Ida Beam Visiting Writer.
Dawes teaches creative writing, post-colonial literature and theory, African-American literature, and Caribbean literature at UNL. He is the coordinator of the Creative Writing program at UNL and is also the founding series editor of the African Poetry Book Fund and Series.
Dawes said receiving the award was especially gratifying because of his experience being hosted by Engle and his wife, Hualing, in 1986 when he was a fellow at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, which Engle co-founded.
“Winning the Paul Engle Prize has meant a lot to me, especially since it meant my returning to Iowa City, where I spent the better part of four months in the fall of 1986 among some of the most gifted writers in the world,” Dawes said. “Paul and Hualing Engle were generous and enthusiastic champions of writers and of world literature, and they treated us with respect and deep consideration.
“Their generosity and affirmation played no small part in strengthening my resolve to be a writer, and I like to think that their example seeded in me a commitment to serve other writers wherever I could. I have committed my life to this.”
Engle, who died in 1991, is remembered as the longtime director of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He also was an accomplished poet, playwright, essayist, editor and critic.
The award includes a $10,000 stipend and is supported by the City of Coralville, Iowa. The first prize, given by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization, was awarded in 2011 to James Alan McPherson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning short story writer and essayist.
It also recognizes the awardee’s impact on his community and the world.
“Typically, awards do not recognize the quiet labors of advocacy, institution-building and service to writers,” Dawes said. “This one does, and I am grateful to the UNESCO City of Literature Board in Iowa for selecting me for this generous and prestigious award.”