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Kamau Brathwaite


(Edward) Kamau Brathwaite was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, on May 11, 1930. He attended Harrison College in Barbados and graduated with honors from Pembroke College, Cambridge, England, in 1953. After working as an education officer in Ghana and teaching on the Jamaica campus of the University of the West Indies, he returned to England and received his PhD from the University of Sussex in 1968.

His many books of poetry include The Lazarus Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), Elegguas (Wesleyan University Press, 2010), Born to Slow Horses (Wesleyan University Press, 2005), Ancestors (New Directions, 2001), Words Need Love Too (House of Nehesi, 2000), Black + Blues (New Directions, 1995), Roots (University of Michigan Press, 1993), and Trenchtown Rock (Lost Roads Publisher, 1993), among others. He is also the author of two plays and several collections of essays and literary criticism.

The poet Adrienne Rich has said, “His dazzling, inventive language, his tragic yet unquenchable vision, make Kamau Brathwaite one of the most compelling of late twentieth century poets.”

His poetry traces historical links and events that have contributed to the development of the black population in the Caribbean and is distinguished by its experimental linguistic (and often multilingual) explorations of African identity in the West Indies. Brathwaite has received the Neustadt International Award for Literature, the Casa de Las Americas Prize for poetry and for literary criticism, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. In 2018, he received the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. He was a professor of comparative literature at New York University and divided his time between Barbados and New York. He died on February 4, 2020. 

By This Poet


Guanahani, 11

like the beginnings - o odales o adagios - of islands
from under the clouds where I write the first poem

its brown warmth now that we recognize them
even from this thunder's distance

still w/out sound. so much hope
now around the heart of lightning that I begin to weep

w/such happiness of familiar landscap
such genius of colour. shape of bay. headland

the dark moors of the mountain
ranges. a door opening in the sky

right down into these new blues & sleeping yellows
greens - like a mother's

embrace like a lover's
enclosure. like schools

of fish migrating towards homeland. into the bright
light of xpectation. birth

of these long roads along the edge of Eleuthera,
now sinking into its memory behind us

from Mesongs

for Barbara at Devizes

And suddenly you was talking trees
fall black with birds behind the hill
and green as grass fly off
into the sun o blinding girl
the whole cathedral crash at your back


Not the blue the orthodoxy of the day
But a blue like intuition
The soft of the night into morning
Felt here . remembered
Under the hoofs of the cart