Kwame Dawes’ “Sturge Town” named Poetry Book Society Choice for Winter 2023

Sturge Town book cover

September 11, 2023

Kwame Dawes’ forthcoming poetry collection, Sturge Town, has been named the Poetry Book Society Choice for Winter 2023. His work was selected by poets Jo Clement and Roy McFarlane. Dawes’ book is the first to receive a Choice selection for Peepal Tree Press, an international press headquartered in England. Sturge Town was published by Peepal Tree Press in Autumn 2023 and will appear in the U.S. in 2024 with Norton. The Poetry Book Society, founded by TS Eliot in 1953, selects the best new books for awards and recommendations every quarter.

Publisher Peepal Tree Press describes Sturge Town as a stunning collection of poems that connects with the earliest days of Dawes’ work as a poet, from the roots of childhood in Ghana to the reflections of a man turned sixty who is witnessing his children occupying the space he once considered his own. It ranges from poems that make something special of the everyday, to poems of the most astonishing imaginative leaps. There are poems that speak most movingly of moments of acute self-reflection, family crises, and losses through death, and there are the inventive poems of the dramatist drawn to create the stories of a rich variety of characters, many springing from the observation of paintings.

Metrically careful and sonorous, these poems engage in a personal dialogue with the reader, serious, confessional, alarmed, and sometimes teasing. They create highly visualized spaces, observed, remembered, imagined, the scenes of both outward and inner journeys. Organized in five sections, Sturge Town is a collection of finely shaped individual poems with the architecture of a densely interconnected whole, with the soaring grandeur and intimacy of a cathedral.

As the site of the ruined ancestral home of the Daweses, in one of the earliest post-slavery free villages in Jamaica, Sturge Town is not only an actual place, but also a place of myth and a metaphor of the journeying that has taken Dawes from Ghana, through Jamaica, through South Carolina, and now to Nebraska. It parallels a journeying through time—personal, familial, and ancestral—in which a keen sense of mortality makes life all the more precious.