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From the Academy Audio ArchiveRecorded Oct. 6, 1994New School University

About this poet

(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 Ph.D. from the University of Sussex in 1968.

His many books of poetry include Elegguas (Wesleyan University Press, 2010), Born to Slow Horses (2005), Ancestors (New Directions, 2001), Words Need Love Too (2000), Black + Blues (1995), Roots (1993), and Trenchtown Rock (1993), among others.

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. He is also the author of two plays and several collections of essays and literary criticism.

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. He is a professor of comparative literature at New York University and divides his time between Barbados and New York.

The Rwanda Poems [excerpt] (audio only)


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Kamau Brathwaite

Kamau Brathwaite

(Edward) Kamau Brathwaite was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, on May 11, 1930.

by this poet


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


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