Dawes earns PEN America award

Photo Credit: Kwame Dawes
Tue, 03/23/2021 - 12:19

George Holmes Professor Kwame Dawes has been named the prestigious winner of the 2021 PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner, a literary journal published quarterly at the university.

PEN America's award honors a magazine editor whose high literary standards and taste have, throughout their career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication they edit.

"A bold and visionary editor, he has both proved the ongoing validity of the literary journal and taken it to new places," PEN America said. "His publication, Prairie Schooner, constantly demonstrates excellence and innovation. For a decade it has consistently published work that is rigorous, aesthetically diverse, and compelling. Nine years ago, Dawes oversaw an expansion into podcasts, with Air Schooner.

"At a time when we constantly hear laments for the death of reading at the hands of technology, Dawes's work suggests that with enough energy and imagination, the landscape can be rearranged. He is the perfect recipient of the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing—an editor whose commitment and taste have added vital force to American and World Literature."

The 2021 career achievement awards will be celebrated at the 2021 Literary Awards Ceremony, held virtually and open to a global audience on April 8 at 7 p.m. ET. The ceremony celebrates American and global literature, honoring leading writers before an audience of the nation's most distinguished publishers, editors, literary agents, journalists, and philanthropists.

“National editorial prizes are very few and far between; a prize for editorship of a journal is a very unique honor," Dawes said. "You don’t apply for the award and I didn’t know until I was notified of the prize that I had been under consideration for it. It’s gratifying that people recognize the work we’re doing for the Prairie Schooner. The Prairie Schooner has been around for 90 years and journals like ours can be taken for granted.”

PEN America called this year's winners revolutionaries, icons, and trailblazers, masters of their craft and leaders of their students. These writers ask complex questions and refuse simple answers; through language they confront preconceived patterns, ideas, and notions, and challenge the world and its people to be better.

"The PEN America Literary Awards are, together with the National Book Awards and the Pulitzer, the highest literary awards in the US and renown around the globe," Marco Abel, chair and professor in the Department of English, said. "So this is a huge honor for Kwame and a big feather in the Prairie Schooner's old and esteemed cap."