Caribbean Writers – E. Kamau Brathwaite – Barbados
“Helpless like this
Less like this,
We met you: lover,
Coming through the flies
Of the forest
To soft soil
Wet met in the soiled tunnel of leaves.”
From the poem New World A Comin’, The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy – Rights of Passage, Masks and Islands by Kamau Brathwaite, 1973.
Birth Name: Lawson Edward Brathwaite
Place of Birth: Bridgetown, Barbados.
Born: 11 May 1930
Kamau Brathwaite is a prolific Barbadian poet, playwright and academic, widely considered one of the major voices in the Caribbean literature.
Braithwaite attended Harrison College in Bridgetown in 1945. In 1949, he won the Barbados Island Scholarship to attend Cambridge University, where he studied English and History. In 1968, Brathwaite completed a PhD at the University of Sussex. From 1955 to 1962, he was employed as an officer in the Ministry of Education of Ghana.
Later in 1963, Brathwaite returned to Caribbean and taught the University of the West Indies (UWI) in St. Lucia and Jamaica. Three years later, in 1966, he co-founded the organisation of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) from London. CAM focused on the works being produced by Caribbean writers, visual artists, poets, dramatists, film makers, actors and musicians.
Brathwaite’s first three poetry collections published from 1967 to 1969 established him as a critical success and major talent in the literary scene. This autobiographical poetry trilogy was later collected and republished as The Arrivants in 1973.
In 1971, he launched Savacou, a journal of CAM, at UWI, Mona. In 1992, Brathwaite was appointed Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University. And a decade later, in 2002, he was given an honorary doctorate from the the University of Sussex. Furthermore, in 2006, he was awarded a Musgrave Gold Medal by the Institute of Jamaica.
Brathwaite is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at New York University and currently resides in Cow Pastor, Barbados.
- The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy: Rights of Passage-Masks-Islands, Oxford University Press, 1973
- Other Exiles, Oxford University Press, 1975
- Sun Poems, Oxford University Press, 1982
- X/Self Oxford University Press, 1987
- Middle Passages Bloodaxe Books, 1992
- Trenchtown Rock, Lost Roads Publishers, 1993
- Words Need Love Too, Salt Publishing, 2000
- Ancestors, New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2001
- Slow Horses, Wesleyan University Press, 2005
- Elegguas, Wesleyan University Press, 2010
- Odale’s Choice, 1967
- Folk Culture of the Slaves in Jamaica, New Beacon Books Ltd, 1970
- The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica 1770–1820, Oxford University Press, 1971
- Contradictory Omens: Cultural Diversity and Integration in the Caribbean, Savacou Publications, 1974
- Our Ancestral Heritage: A Bibliography of the Roots of Culture in the English-speaking Caribbean, Savacou Publications, 1976
- Barbados Poetry: A Checklist: Slavery to the Present, Savacou Publications, 1979
- Jamaica Poetry: A Checklist: Slavery to the Present, Jamaica Library Service, 1979
- History of the Voice: The Development of Nation Language in Anglophone and Caribbean Poetry, New Beacon Books Ltd, 1984
Accolades and Awards
1970: Cholmondeley Award
1983: Guggenheim Fellowship
1983: Fulbright Fellowship
1987: Companion of Honour of Barbados (CHB)
1994: Neustadt International Prize for Literature
1999: Charity Randall Citation for Performance and Written Poetry from International Poetry Forum
2002: Honorary doctorate, University of Sussex
2006: Griffin Poetry Prize, International Winner
2006: Gold Musgrave Medal for Literature from the Institute of Jamaica
2010: W. E. B. Du Bois Award
2011: Casa de las Americas Premio
2015: Robert Frost Medal from Poetry Society of America
Sources: New York University, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Jamaica Observer, Jamaica Information Service, NGC Bocas Lit Fest