Erica Dawson

ERICA DAWSON is the author of two previous collections of poetry: The Small Blades Hurt (Measure Press, 2014), winner of the 2016 Poets’ Prize, and Big-Eyed Afraid (Waywiser Press, 2007), winner of the 2006 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Barrow Street; Bennington Review; three editions of Best American Poetry; Crazyhorse; Harvard Review; Life: 50 Poems Now; the Pushcart Prize XLII: Best of the Small Presses; Rebellion; Resistance; Virginia Quarterly Review; and numerous other journals and anthologies. She lives in Tampa, Florida, and is an associate professor at University of Tampa, where she also directs the low-residency MFA program.


  • When Rap Spoke Straight to God is utterly transporting. In language both elevated and slangy, saucy and tender, Dawson lovingly weaves the reader around her finger.”

    —Jennifer Egan

  • “Erica Dawson has expanded the possibilities of what we think poetry can do. The lusciously long poems in When Rap Spoke Straight to God are sensual and openly political and so well-crafted in epic blank verse that we begin to see how the contemporary moment has yet to fully correct far too many historical moments. And it does this with a lyric intensity that I dare say can only be achieved by a poet fully aware of her place in time and its potential . . . or as Dawson herself says, this is ‘the story of a woman. How the skies/came out of her wherever. Spacious skies./Dark skies. Grown woman skies.'”

    —Jericho Brown

  • “Erica Dawson delivers a short collection of long poems that take our current time and dissect it into beautiful and evocative pieces. Harsh but never hard, unflinching but never violent, she speaks to the experiences of black women, celebrating the best of black culture and lamenting its struggles. Wrapped in and elevated by exquisite religious allusions, Dawson’s poetry shines.”

    World Literature Today

  • “Witty, wise, hilarious, enchanting . . . Read this book and you’ll want Dawson to sing of everything.”

    The Millions