2018 Participants

Kwame Dawes


Born in Ghana, Kwame Dawes spent most of his childhood in Jamaica. After graduating with a BA from the University of the West Indies at Mona, he earned a PhD in English literature at the University of New Brunswick in 1992. Dawes currently serves as the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Dawes is the author of twenty-one books of poetry and numerous books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His most recent collection of poems is City of Bones: A Testament (2017). His other books include Speak from Here to There (2016), a collection of poems co-written with Australian poet John Kinsella, and Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius (2007), which remains the most authoritative study of the lyrics of Bob Marley. Dawes is director of the African Poetry Book Fund and artistic director of the Calabash International Literary Festival

Dawes’s awards include an Emmy and Webby for LiveHopeLove, an interactive website based on his project HOPE: Living and Loving with AIDS in Jamaica. His other honors include the Forward Prize for Poetry for his first book, Progeny of Air (1994), a Pushcart Prize, and a Guggenheim fellowship. In 2004, he received the Musgrave Silver Medal for contribution to the arts in Jamaica. In 2017, Dawes was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

Dana Gioia


A native Californian of Italian and Mexican descent, Dana Gioia earned a BA and an MBA from Stanford University and an MA in comparative literature from Harvard University. He currently serves as the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California, a university-wide appointment. He is the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and has served as the Poet Laureate of California since 2015.

Gioia’s most recent collection of poems is 99 Poems: New & Selected (2016). His other books of poetry include Interrogations at Noon (2001), which won the 2002 American Book Award. An influential literary critic, Gioia is the author of Can Poetry Matter? (1991), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. Gioia has edited a number of literary anthologies, including Twentieth-Century American Poetry, and is an active translator of poetry from Latin, Italian, and German. Also a trained musician, he has written two opera libretti and was the classical music critic at San Francisco magazine for seven years.

Gioia has been the recipient of ten honorary degrees and has won numerous awards, including the 2010 Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame. In 2014, he won the Aiken-Taylor Award for lifetime achievement in American poetry.

Mark Jarman


A native of Kentucky, Mark Jarman earned a BA in English from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1974 and an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1976. He currently serves as Centennial Professor of English at Vanderbilt University, where he has taught since 1983. From 2006 to 2012, he served as director of creative writing.

Jarman’s most recent collection of poems is The Heronry (2017). His other books of poetry include Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (2011), Epistles (2007), Questions for Ecclesiastes (1997), which won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Black Riviera (1990), which won the 1991 Poets’ Prize. He also has published two collections of essays, Body and Soul (2002) and The Secret of Poetry (2001), as well as co-editing with David Mason the anthology Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism (1996).

Jarman’s other honors include a Guggenheim fellowship, three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Joseph Henry Jackson Award from the San Francisco Foundation, and the Balcones Poetry Prize.

Lisa Russ Spaar


Lisa Russ Spaar earned a BA and an MFA from the University of Virginia in 1978 and 1980, respectively. She currently serves as Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. She also has taught at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Seattle Pacific University, and the Vermont Studio Center.

Spaar’s most recent collection of poems is Orexia (2017). Her other books of poetry include Vanitas, Rough (2012), Satin Cash (2008), Blue Venus (2004), and Glass Town (1999). She also is the author of the essay collection The Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry (2013) and is the editor of the anthologies Monticello in Mind: Fifty Contemporary Poems on Jefferson (2016), All that Mighty Heart: London Poems (2008), and Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems (1999).

Spaar is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Award, the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize, an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and the Library of Virginia Award for Poetry. She was short-listed for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Excellence in Reviewing.