From a 2011 interview in Guernica ( The Harmonizer ):
Kwame Dawes: My quest has been about trying to understand the genius of this musical phenomenon that has somehow effectively taken the world by storm—a music created in the tiny island of Jamaica. This is powerful and I have sought to understand and to allow the principles I have seen in the music to help shape my aesthetic as a writer.
Guernica: An entire worldview.
Kwame Dawes: In reggae I have a model of artistic excellence and possibility that is challenging and inspiring. The poem remains a demanding thing—an object to be understood and shaped into my own sense of self, the same is true of the play, the novel, the short story. Yet, for some reason, I approach these existing genres with the kind of confidence that the reggae artist approaches any song floating around out there. By reggae-fying those songs, they demonstrate that there is such a thing as a reggae ethos. This is extremely exciting to me. Understanding the reggae aesthetic is essential to successfully enjoy and appreciate my work....
Guernica: You’ve defined the “reggae aesthetic” as engaging the spiritual, political, sensual, historical, and lyrical all at the same time.
Kwame Dawes: Yes. This has granted me a certain kind of poetic permission to write work that is all of these things and yet that is grounded in a sense of place and a time. For me, reggae music and its aesthetic are touchstones in both simple and complex ways. Reggae’s capacity to be a folk music that is created in a wholly modern context of the recording studio (and sometimes that is the sole performance space) is riddled with the kinds of contradictory impulses that we have come to expect from the post-modern. I revel in this, for it gives me, shall I say, permission.