As part of the 2020 Dear Poet project, students around the country and the world wrote letters to Kwame Dawes in response to a video of him reading his poem "Trickster III” aloud. Kwame Dawes wrote letters back to nine of these students; their letters and his replies are included below.
Kwame Dawes also wrote a response to all of the participants of this year's Dear Poet project.
A NOTE TO READERS
The more I hear from readers about this poem "Trickster III" the more I appreciate that there is something accessible about the ideas and feelings being expressed, because in an important way, the last 100 years have introduced the ubiquitousness of music into our daily and very private lives in ways that continue to affect how we see the world and think of the world. For me, that music was Reggae music during my teenage years in Jamaica, and it has come to shape my poetic aesthetic, my understanding of art and of the world in quite important ways. It is enjoyable to see how readers explore the implications of metaphors in trying to do something quite difficult—namely to use words to describe or "define" music. Poetry may fail at this, but what a glorious and generative failure it is.
I hope readers will continue to value their encounter with art and artistry in things they listen to and that they enjoy and and that moves them in a personal way. This is a doorway to art and artistry and to the feeling related to art. And this is quite important because I believe we know a great deal more about art and poetry than we think.
Finally, I will be a crusader for reggae music and encourage readers to study that music a bit by listening to it, and by going to the source—the place where it was invented and where it has grown and evolved. Because of how my experience as a person growing up during the emergence of reggae music has shaped me, I do think that there is value in exploring the world through an exploration of the world's music.
In the end, "Trickster III" is a poem. It is a celebration, not of music, but of poetry. It is a celebration of how poetry can capture so much in life. I hope readers will see that, and continue to enjoy poetry for what it can do for the reader.