Lessons from Essay Lessons.

When the bell ends school’s
petty prisons – rules, reasons –
Love and Life runs out to play…

– Aisha Nelson

The sun finds it fun to generously pour its radiance, through the window, onto a page of my exercise book. Perching at the top corners of the page are the constant Date and Exercise Number. Apart from these, this new page is blank. And I know better than to expect that only these constant-s, without writing the exercise proper, will fetch me a decent grade, any grade. I take much time and care to write the topic of the new exercise. Topic too, I know, still counts for nothing, no grade.

Riza, my friend, has long finished and submitted her work, one of those essays.

I’m forever far from finishing mine. I can’t even bring myself to begin writing. The thought of it:

How I spent my Christmas Holidays”!

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Picture mine: Eclipse, a painting by Kobina Bucknor, at the Ghana Museum of Science and Technology; December 9, 2019

How I wish the sun fills my near-blank page rather – the whole of my exercise book, actually – with Words. With beautiful Words. Beautiful but truthful Words. Words more truthful than they are beautiful. Many such words. Only such words. For I always tell myself not to lie. All my essays, including this one, which I am yet to even write, really need to be short.

This is because all there is to think and write about my recent Christmas holidays can be done in as much as a single lean paragraph. Any addition will be unnecessary, superfluous – a smudge, even, on my integrity. Anything short of or more than the plain truth will be a grave lie. To lie is something I am not to do, to not lie especially because of something as trivial as a grade, a better grade. So I believe.

Meanwhile, the street outside the classroom is bursting with so many stories outshouting each other for attention, shouting to be told, to be written, by anyone who cares to.

Ms *Enam Doe will not be able to mark all the stories if I and every other pupil are to care enough to write a lot less than half of those stories. Yet, she complains my essays are too short. On the previous page of my exercise book is one such exercise. Her red ink’s frozen scream under that last essay eternally reads,

 “This essay is too short, Enam. This must be the last of this kind!”

The last is long past. My turning over a new leaf is not only to write a new essay, but more importantly, to write one of appreciable length – at least, as deemed by my Grade Six Teacher.

“No offending Ms Enam Doe this time”, I mutter to myself.

So I set my **Bic on the first line of the page.

Slowly, I start. I finished my first sentence. But not without the expected drag. Little by teeny little, I write. And write on. One thoughtful word after the other, I filled the page with crisp, warm and fond pictures, moments and memories of my recent Christmas holidays. I was thankful to finally finish.

I shut my eyes for a few seconds. I let myself dream of seeing my new page – my whole book, and even my desk – spilling with the many words I very recently poured…

My essay is set. It sits still, clean and lean on the page. It sits still and still several lines shy and short of half the new page.

And even before Ms Enam Doe’s red ink will add its voice, the blank larger half of the page screams the wretchedness of my mere scratch and funny toil of an essay. The scream rumbles and doubles. The scream fires and crackles sparks and thunders on my poor page. Methinks I even feel my desk quake with all the turmoil.

I watch on, helplessly, as the rumblings scatter my poor essay. The tongues of fires, they hungrily lick my already-lean and now-scattered essay away. Then the rumblings, now full and fat from eating my essay, sport a sly smile, give a guttural belch, wail one long yawn. Stretching its tiny limbs and making to take a nap on my page, the bloated ball of rumblings burst…

The mess from the burst splashes on my sad long face, spills over and into the rest of my book, hangs thick above my desk.  My face falls. My head remains bowed in shame, a shame I can’t readily account for.

Save my face I must. I sit. Upright. Still.

But I don’t write. I can’t bring myself to write. Not anymore. Not yet. Not again. Not for this essay.

I look outside from my desk by the classroom window. That side of the world is bubbling with vast numbers and weights of life-s and promises. The stories on the street are now leaping off everyone and everything. The stories are wandering frantic, peeping here and there, wearing fragile half smiles, prancing down and up everywhere. The stories are tugging along and bumping into everyone and everything and themselves, begging and hoping, insisting and waiting. To be written. Or to be told.

To just put on the temporal…

*

Eager traffic lights and drowsy street lights
blink dawn off their metal-gilded brows.

Towering bill boards and
patches of dew-studded grass glance
beneath and beyond them. With glee.

Low drones of engines from all ends
embrace distant hums of some church organ.

keen conductors
tucked in windows of moving vehicles. 
keener hawkers. 
Outshout, outrun each other.

Breeze heaves past, weaving
through throbbing background and noise.

Wind whistles through
kites tattered and tangled and caught up
tall on soulless poles.

Colour-filled smells of breakfasts linger and vanish
in between the thick and trickle of people and other…

Warm human
bodies and bottles of
chilled water and drinks and such
sweat with heat and cold and both.

LoveCokctail 6

Picture mine: Angles and Gazes and Heights. – A picture of me, somewhere in Accra, Ghana; September 30, 2018.

Time ticks. Time fidgets under blankets of
humid air. Humid air hangs at every end of the street.

A quick push there. A shove.
A crisp pull here.
A crash. And then, a thud.

Skyscrapers stand scattered,
grinning their morning greetings to high clear skies.

Spells of rain showers
soothe and refresh and smooth
aches and wilts and frays.

Groceries
sprout on tables under sheds.

A
shuffle hardens into a walk. A
jog eases into a walk. A
jog grinds into a saunter. A
stop springs into a saunter. A
stop revs into a run. A
shuffle breaks into a run…

Souvenirs
shine anew on shelves in shops.

Honks and horns
screech each
other to hoarse stops.

Sun peeps from behind
billowy clouds sporting white toothless smile.

The street is a pool of people, street is dotted
with soft whirls. The street is awash with
happy hues, street sways to its own music.

Last glimmers of neon lights
fade past early shimmers of glass doors.

*

Good old Life glides past. Everywhere I look, stories abound.

And here I still am, sitting and thinking, labouring and wasting myself away, behind an essay which refuses to be written. I think harder by the seconds.  I search and turn my memory times and over, trying to find if there still is one tiny detail about my Christmas holidays which I may have forgotten.

Then, I can blow up this my new detail with words from that Word Class we learnt in the last Grammar Class: Adjectives, they call it.

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Featured Image: Picture mine: Fishermen at work; a canoe called ‘Good Name‘. somewhere at the seaside between James Town and Ussher For, both Ga Mashi, Accra, Ghana; July 26, 2019.

But then, there is my face to save and my teacher to make happy – and my-self too to make happy, since my teacher and I share a Name. Enam.

And this is how I also will outdo one of my Grande-Mother’s many sayings: I will ‘‘kill three – not just two birds with one stone.’’

Two years later, I’m in a new class in a new school, with a new teacher, having the same lesson – Essay Writing. It is a debate, this time.

I begin with an introduction, as Ms Boakye has taught me, and as I best know how. I begin with an introduction which excellently expressed my side of the motion and fully justified it. I combine truth and length well enough – or so I insisted on believing. That introduction should please any teacher, who should in turn, reward this my rare – if not unique – feat, ever since I began writing essays in school.

But I was to be surprised: I’ve outdone myself and the normal.

My introductory paragraph alone is two lines short of one page. I scan it. I read it. I skim it. I re-read it. I revise it. I proofread it. I review it. And I end up with the same essay and introduction, with same words and word count. For I find every word in there worth choosing, very much worth the inclusion.

And by so doing, I displease another teacher for the opposite of a previous offence: too short essays.

*         

It’s been many years since. If only I had understood those Essays as Compositions, I would not have thought of too many words as Lie-s.

And Oh! How I wish I had realized much earlier that too many words could as well be truth, beautiful truth.

Whether about the use of Adjectives or some other writer-ly style, one thing emerged from this whole experience: Modesty – not of the raw and rigid kind. I prefer to call it, Giftedness, or simply, Gift.

This Giftedness, It has never needed to save its owner’s face. Rather, It feeds her imagination and fills the pouring of her creations, It sharpens her outlook and adds life-colour to the fountain of her imagination.

This Giftedness effortlessly is. It intimately knows.

Through words, this Giftedness unfurls and flares out worlds beyond the mere now, worlds populated with personality, worlds loosened from locale, worlds forever far from the mundane. It is at once an exclusive sanctuary for all things too wondrous for the eloquence of words. It is a universe of possibilities upon infinities.

This Giftedness has a unique gift for everyone who encounters It.

This Giftedness does not kill one, two, three or more birds with one stone. Rather, like birds, It is free to soar the endless realms of the worlds of Words, soar and explore without the fear of room or restraint, without any fear of any kind.

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Flying despite the fear, into the face of the fear, past the fear: A picture of me taken by my nephew, Kofi – at the Ghana Museum of Science and Technology; December 20, 2019.

So I now soar and explore, I write my life-world away.

And while at it, I am all too glad to watch the sun generously pour itself into my bliss…

 

*   *   *

Love,

AishaWrites.

– Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Dansoman, Accra, Ghana.

***

Glossary:

*Enam is an Ewe name that means ‘Gift’ or specifically, ‘God/He gave It to me’.

** Bic is the trademark of a very popular brand of pen in Ghana.

An earlier version of this story was the second  of my and Phillis Wheatley‘s annual Chicken Soup publication.  

 

Ghost Town – Student Writing (Part 5)

This is the fourth and final composition piece in the Student Writing Series.

See the Introduction to the series, and the first, second and third composition pieces.

*

It was nearing midnight in the town of Afien.

Mr Firsch, my guardian had just finished shaving his bristle moustache and was happily under his bed covers, drifting into Lalaland. Everyone else was asleep.

Except Me.

I was not going to sleep tonight.

I was high up on the local hill, taking more than just a peep at the legendary Ghost Town.

Ghost Town was, till now, a myth told us by our grandparents and those before them. The story went that every night, hours after we were all coiled and asleep in our beds, our ancestors rose from death and grave and relived moments full of life and zest underneath the hill, in the bottomless abyss of nothingness. I thought of all this as fickle – that our grandparents took too many swigs of beer before they came to fib to us. I thought…

Until Now.

From the top of the hill I could see Ghost Town. It had this light blue colour and everything there was an eerie shade of this light blue.

The buildings were different, each from the other – from mighty skyscrapers to meek thatched serf huts made of light blue mud and straw. Then there were a gigantic marble church, a magnificent gothic museum, a soccer pitch which almost looked perfect for me to flaunt my supreme sports skills, and no, not a school in sight.

Ghost Town looked everything like the dream place everyone wanted to be but did not know. Yet.

I could see all those who had gone before me: the millionaire who died in an aircraft crash, perched at the top of his mansion; my grandparents walking on the pavement, bobbing their heads to the jazz band playing in a massive amphitheatre close by; my lively dead dog, Fifi, running furiously from street to street and back; Mrs Firsch, the lovely lady who used to treat us kids to baked goodies; and Clifton, the madman who used to ramble on and forever about the existence of this place when he was alive and was part of the day and earthly side of Afien.

He looked quite sane now. Clifton.

Ghost Town really had it all.

CloudYOU! Dusk.

Photo mine. Circa 2014. Dusk. Somewhere not far from Lapaz, in Accra, Ghana.

I was so enthralled by the city’s awesomeness that I nearly did not hear the bell chime for 5 o’clock.

Soon, the sun began its steady climb up the sky and Ghost Town began to disappear, in bits and splits. All the ghosts rose into the air and flew towards the nearby cemetery. The blue buildings – virtually everything – sublimed into the clay chasm.

Everyone, everything was soon gone.

Except Me.

Pondering.

“Was it necessary to go back to Afien, really necessary to go through constant troubles, to be confused and consumed by all the evils of the world, to be soured and pained by men – humankind, in general?

Were all these pains and troubles necessary when paradise was just a mere death away?”

Anyway.

…so the next time you see me – probably with a crooked neck, or a broken back, or wobbly legs or whatever I sacrificed to get here – I will probably be sprinting laps with Fifi, or swimming in the town pool or lying on the ghost blue grass wearing a big smile and looking at you, telling you I am in a better place…

*

Bio:

Keli

Photo mine. A picture of Keli.

Keli Dey loves what many of his peers loathe: Jazz, Football, Comic Strips. The list never ends.

He loves to read too, and to seek and come to love new book genres.

He is an undying, unapologetic fan of 8’o clock business shows and premier league interviews – he thoroughly enjoys crushing his amateurish classmates on any FIFA game.

Like your typical gawky 14 year old, Keli doesn’t often express his thoughts in the open, unless he is coerced, many times, for far too long…

But give him a piece of paper. And a decent pen.

*

Love,

AishaTeaches.

AishaWrites. Too.

— Dansoman, Accra, Ghana; Friday, 29th March, 2019.

Waiting – Student Writing (Part 4)

This is the third composition piece in the Student Writing Series. See the Introduction to the series, and the first and second composition pieces.

*

Have you ever felt your heart beat so loud that you thought there was a little green elf – shaped like an alphabet and with tiny green shoes – clanging onto a huge Taipei gong in your heart? Well, that was me yesterday.

It was 5 hours to Christmas.

And there I was. A cute seven year old boy from Greenland, a boy so tiny a sesame seed could be a thousand and three times bigger. There I was. With straight-blonde hair snipped to the level of my bent over shoulders, with eyes as bright and glamorous as an Asian model’s make up set. Altogether so glittery!

Again, there I was. With short, pointed nose and flaccid eyebrows and a little pink mouth. A tiny boy I was indeed, but I could swear my heart was way bigger than Jupiter. So naive and innocent I was – and perhaps, still is – and filled with so much anguish and too much curiosity.

I was waiting for Santa to come down my old, brick-red, dusty chimney. To the fireplace.

I was anxious and some.

An hour went by. Then 2. Three. And then 4.

I struggled all night to fight the sleep that came to tame my eyes and undo all the wake I had been keeping. Thankfully, victory was mine and it was just 30 minutes before midnight.

I could feel my heart pumping and pounding at least six times per second. I kept glaring at the Old Bulgarian plastic clock that sat comfortably on top of the seven-foot polished, Brazilian wooden shelf, the shelf that I have always believed has been in this house long before my dad was in diapers.

15 minutes to midnight, and it almost felt as if a group of 100 meter track runners were sprinting up and down my belly. I had butterflies and even more butterflies and maybe birds too…

I could not believe I was actually going to see him. The mysterious man sporting that long, white, fluffy, cotton-candy-like beard. And I was prepared for all of it!

I was in my newest pyjamas, the one mum had bought for me a few days ago. My pyjamas boasted of a neon green colour, had Christmas trees on them, and its soft cotton-material made my skin feel warm, made me feel calm. Well, at least, it was meant to, but the curiosity and anxiety of my wait will not let me be truly still. Goosebumps dotted and marched all over my body, leaving my arms looking like the skin of an uncooked chicken wing.

The minutes slithered past with painful leisure. But soon, it was left with very few more minutes before…

LoveCokctail 8

Picture mine: At a beach to reflect, write and such – around Labadi, Accra.Ghana; Sunday, December 2, 2018.

It was time! One minute to midnight. And I could not really really keep calm.

I began to dream and imagine what Santa would look like – how he would react when he saw me, how I would react when I too saw him. All these ideas and expectations made my head a tad hot, and my stomach, sick from all the butterflies and birds flapping…

But I was not going to be stopped. Nor was I going to be robbed of this so-soon-to-come crown of my victory. Not today!

30 seconds to midnight and that was when my little, prickly and sticky fingers began to jiggle and tingle like a naughty fish now out of water. My toes went numb and my feet, cold.

15 seconds to midnight and my petite thighs began to tremble like no known volcano, and my blood felt like a quadrillion volts of electricity was being pumped into it.

11 seconds.

Ten, 9, eight, 7, six, 5, four…

3 seconds left to see the man of my many many dreams, and I went “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!”

I slept.

How?!

Just How?!!

*

Bio:

Papa - pcture

A picture of Papa Ekow.

Papa Ekow Archine is a bubbly and lovable 15 year old boy with an awesome, magnetic personality.

He is currently a student at Alpha Beta Christian College, Accra.

Ekow loves British accents but definitely not as much as he loves and lives for basketball – he devotes much of his time to playing and learning about the sport.

Once in a long while, when he allows melancholia to swallow him, he waxes all creative and beautifully so.

Ekow is all these and more but also, always, simply Ekow!

*

Love,

AishaTeaches.

AishaWrites. Too.

— Dansoman, Accra, Ghana; Thursday, 28th March, 2019.

Makola and Her Market – Student Writing (Part 3)

This is the second composition piece in the Student Writing Series. See the Introduction to the series and the first piece.

*

Today, I was at Makola Market.

There were people shouting whispers.

A small, sharp-eyed kayayo girl held my things. She wore an all-black ensemble. No, ‘ensemble’ suggests it was a choice. She was dressed toe to head and back in black – maybe to mourn her life. She seemed new to it all. The work and jerk of city life. The rowdiness and shabbiness of the people. The pain and disdain it all assured.

I stepped in dog dung.

A man yelled an insult at a woman. It was deadly. But it was lovingly so. The insult.

The people were an orchestra of madness, sanity shining through their eyes. Almost escaping.

I saw a young boy. He was sweating a desperation. Flicking his fingers in some despair. Yelling a cry.

I moved a step. I walked over to the little boy.

I asked him “Little boy, what’s wrong?”

Nothing. The boy said. Nothing.

**

Yesterday, I was at Makola Market. I was agitated.

The place was noisy like my life. Everyone bargained. It all sounded like a song that adored its own cacophony, enthralled by it. I smelled a bulimia-inducing aroma of rotten fish.

A little dark-eyed kayayo girl was carrying my basket. She clutched it like it was her very life. She looked depressed. But it should be no crime to be depressed. Or?

My heart was beating really fast because I knew something significant was going to happen. I thought, maybe, I was going to have a heart attack.

So when a man tried to bully me into purchasing a tomato, I said something crude about his mother. It was funny. The insult.

The man yelled a different insult at me. Something lethal. Yet affectionately so. (I took it like a man but, wait… I am a woman.)

Accra London Market

Photo mine. A scene at the London Market, around the Korle Lagoon, Bukom and James Town, all of Ga Mashi or British Accra.                            Circa May 2017.

Everyone, everything at the market at Makola was the masterpiece of a morbidly deranged soul. I could see calm in everyone’s eyes. The calm shone in the derange-, was trapped in something sinister. Not by it.

Then I saw a little boy. In a fit of urgency. Wagging his hands, like he had touched something hot, like something was going to hurt him. Screaming with a pitch, some bright pitch.

So I moved, my left foot going in front of the right, then the right in front of the left, and again. And again.

I ran into a little boy.

I asked him, “Little boy, what’s the matter?”

The boy said, “Woman, you’ve already asked me this”.

I returned, “Me? When?”

“You asked me this tomorrow,” said the little boy.

Soon, it was dark.

**

Tomorrow, I will be at Makola Market.

I will be frustrated because I will not be able to find some proper woman to sell me the right fabric for that wedding I will be going.

All the homo-sapiens will have become monkeys. Back to origins. All of them will be behaving in a manner that terrifies.

I will beg my headache to run. Threaten it with my words and words alone, even. But there will be nothing to show for my feisty begging.

The eclectic slow-fast of the market will haunt me, will continue to.

There will be a petite, intense-eyed kayayo girl struggling with my endless baggage. A baggage filled with useless things that have hauntingly beckoned me. The girl will not be happy whatsoever.

My heart will leave my chest.

A man will use very much force to get me to buy his temptingly juicy tomato but, I will say something vulgar to him. Something about me will excuse my arrogance. Barely.

This man will yell something else offensive at me. Something fatal. But romantically so.

The whole of Makola’s market will be soaked in the ripened instability that a devilish kind of disorder will adore.

At this point, I will look across where I stand and I will see a child-boy.

This boy will be crossing that intricate line that mediates madness and sanity. This same boy will be doing something sorrowful with his fingers.

So I will walk, get close to him, ask him, “Little boy, are you okay?”

With what seems a sour lump in his throat, the boy will reply:

“No, I am not!”

The boy will not wait for me to ask him why with my eyes, my whole face, before he will declare:

“There’s this woman who keeps asking me questions. Everyday.”

“For how long?” I will get the chance to ask.

“I-”

“How long?!”

“You already know. You are that woman.”

Calm will come.

Everything blue will turn red – from the sky to the tulips that may never afford the space and peace to live and be. Here.

The clouds will be like scars and I will weep softly on that loud street – the one in the middle of Makola, a street in the middle of a market at Makola.

 

*

Bio:

IMG_5707

A picture of Kojo.

Kojo Obeng-Andoh lives in Accra, Ghana. Currently.

He likes to think he is more of a creative than your typical teenager. He lives on Art, Literature and Lorde’s music. In no particular order, and not to say this list is exhaustive.He likes to also live in the worlds of his writing, drawing, painting and music.

He likes to think about the most absurd of ideas and let them put on reality. He likes to take his time – something most people will rather call laziness.

He likes his work to be described as “dark and sweetly dizzying”.

And this is only one of several ICONIC reasons he likes to thinkinsists on believing, actually – that he is Miss Nelson’s favourite student.

And he likes to think you will see more from him soon…

*

Glossary:

Kayayoo – a head porter, usually females, at open markets.

Makola (Market) – the vast open market and central business district Accra, Ghana’s capital city.

 

*

Love,

AishaTeaches.

AishaWrites. Too.

— Dansoman, Accra, Ghana; Wednesday, 27th March 2019.

Coolest Kid in Africa – Student Writing (Part 2)

This is the first composition piece in the Student Writing Series. See the Introduction to the series. 

* * *

My worst nightmare as a journalist was waiting for Nasty C at the airport, waiting to interview him. Celebrities are difficult to get interviews with and getting to interview one of the biggest singers in Africa was my best and scariest experience yet.

His scheduled arrival time was nine thirty-seven pm and I got there at nine. I had to wait for thirty-seven long minutes. In those thirty and seven long minutes, I experienced more things than my introverted self could contain in years.

I carried all sorts of snacks – Doritos, Lays, Sour Patches, Haribos, Tree Top, Hot Cheetos, Onion Rings and Sprite – in my bag. Because I know myself. When I have to meet someone for the first time, I eat a lot, I need to eat a lot – a whole lot.

I opened a bag of Cheetos and Sour Patches and munched loudly, so loud that about five people too waiting for whoever they came to fetch glared at me with the deadliest of looks. I couldn’t blame them. I chew loudly – and not at all pretty loudly at at that.

I put the Cheetos and Sour Patches away and started a conversation with a girl of about seven standing next to me. I asked her the normal questions, in the beginning – like her name and why she was alone at a crowded place like this.

Conversation was going well and smooth.

nasty c 2.jpg

Image may be protected by copyright. A painting-picture of Nasty C, a popular South African rapper, song writer and music producer.

Then I switched to asking questions I didn’t mean to ask – like does she know how her parents made her and if her parents have sexual intercourse in her presence. The little girl just walked away from me and I got eyed by the incredibly tall woman behind me. She seemed to have heard my questions. She did not look happy.

After my encounter with the little girl, I decided not to talk anymore to anyone, and to just look around. And that was how I saw couples kissing, as they had been away from each other for so long. Then there were the people on their phones, busily texting away, not paying attention to their young ones.

The second best thing I saw that night was a boy who looked between seventeen and twenty running towards a girl of about the same age range. This boy. He carried the girl and lip locked the girl. My eyes got watery. And oh no, I was not, I am not a bad person – only misunderstood. Very misunderstood.

I got tired of looking around and opened a bag of Lays Original. I munched less aggressively – or loudly, perhaps – this time, and no one gave me any death stares.

From the corner of my left eye, I saw someone come stand next to me and I glanced at the person. This person looked friendly, so I started a conversation with him. I started off nice with him, nice things like the news. I was determined not to let my recent experience with the little girl get repeated.

But.

Soon, the spirit of wild talk stirred within me, again, and I asked him if he had ever eaten a huge fly garnished with crushed worms and termites. He gave me the Sorry-but-are-you-okay-in-the-head-? look and did something I never expected: he yelled –

“Sorry, I have a girlfriend so I can’t date you!”

E.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. looked at me, some with disgust, others with sympathy and the rest with the oh-she’s-a-whore look. I was so embarrassed I looked down at my shoes, my cheeks, my whole face flushed of life.

Even my shoes. They looked like they were judging me.

 

feet and heart shape twig

Picture mineA heart-tied stick I chanced on, while on a trip to selected locations in the Eastern Region of Ghana. The specific location here is a footpath to one newly discovered waterfall – Akaa Falls – which is still being developed as a tourist site. –– Thursday, 14th June, 2018.

When the megaphone announced the arrival of the nine-thirty-seven plane, I couldn’t stand still, I got all fidgety. I played with my hair and my many bracelets. I twitched my lips and let my tongue dance around my teeth. I pretended I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone, because I was so scared of the looks they would give me. While I was playing and sorts, my head hung down.

Then I heard whispers, muffled noises around me.

I raised my head, only to see Nasty C coming out…

I blurred everyone out as the best feeling ever rushed through me. The presence of Nasty C blessed my nightmare of an evening. I forgot all about what had happened while I was waiting for him. I remembered I should have pulled out the little placard with his name on, so that he could notice me and when I raised the card, he started walking towards me.

I pictured myself running away with a speed greater than light’s because of all the worries I had. What if he is rude? What if he doesn’t like me? Is my hair fine?

Before I could finish thinking through all my worries, I was tapped by someone, and suddenly wrapped in same person’s arms. I looked up. I saw Coolest Kid in Africa written all over the person who had tapped and trapped me, the person who had me all wrapped up. Nasty C.

*

 

FullSizeRender

Picture hers. A picture of Akosua. 

Bio:

Akosua Kumbol is also Ri.

She is the role model of your typical crazy girl.

She knows the rules to break them.

She is her own girl and person and boss.

She loves to read, and she hates to write but when she does, magic happens.

 

*

Love,

AishaTeaches.

AishaWrites. Too.

— Dansoman, Accra, Ghana; Saturday, 23rd March 2019. 

Poetry Pours. In Class.

There has been countless times in my life as a Teacher of Literature in English when I have needed a poem – or a story or an anecdote, anything – more than the one(s) my students and I readily have in hand, in order for us to grasp a concept or to see a pattern unfurl. In order to watch the outcome of tweaking or overhauling what is seen as the typical, the rule (read, literary convention).  Or in order to explore just about anything about the boundless ways that Poetry works.

I have explained, once and again, how I will (forever) be  wary to call myself a Writer. I am even more careful to go saying who ought to call him/herself Writer and who, in the common, supreme interest of humanity’s sanctity, unity and all, should denounce pen or pencil and paper or anything(s) which so much as suggests anything (creative) writing. In fact, I do not consider it my place to say any such thing. At least, not now, and maybe not until forever too is past.

For this reason, I would rather talk about a particular piece, taking great care to not let my perception – or even ‘prejudice’ – of its writer get in my way of encountering and making meaning of the said piece. I may go on to make great fuss about why I so much respect and adore the piece. And too many times than I can forgive myself for, I may as soon, also, go on to forget the name of the said piece’s writer, before I even know it!

But for this great fuss, I would rather be silent altogether, I would not judge a writer or any piece of writing for that matter. Because if not for anything at all, writing means so many things and serves some of the most obscure reasons and purposes for those who ply in the craft, whether or not they (choose to) describe themselves with that demure word. Writer. Because there will always be those people for whom writing – no matter what the rest of the world chooses to call or describe or make of theirs – remains the one, or one of the few reasons or things which keeps them sane and breathing…

Having said this, it has also never been that a certain poem or piece of literary work which my students and I had in hand had not been good (enough), in and of its own self, for what needed to be taught and understood. Rather, it has almost always been more of a need for a further, an-other example.  And it is at such times when Poetry – or Story or other of the genres – pays my class an awesome visit. It is moments like this that Poetry pours into a class I happen to be teaching.

It might have been many days or only an hour ago when I last wrote anything new – even if it is something that may never come full circle and rounded. Whatever be the case, Poetry (and or Story) has always found its way into my lessons, sometimes, when poetry is not even the topic, but only that I HAVE to mention something about it, even if in passing, because this something has a link with some other thing which my Literature class is studying about say, a short story. Something like Writer’s Use of Language – including, but not limited to Diction and Imagery – it may as well be Tone or some other Trope or even Syntax! – to achieve a particular effect on reader.

Two poems posted in an earlier blog titled Verse-sions of Love. Some., specifically the first verse of Tears in the Rain and one of the early drafts of Brown, are other of my poems which poured when Writer-in-me met or came to the rescue of ‘wanting’ Literature-Teacher me.

How I get my poured poems back after the lesson is ended? I ask one of my students for his/her note book. Then I copy my poem. Sometimes, I am lucky to have a thoughtful student write it on a separate, very decent sheet of paper and bring it to me after class – all without my having asked. A student like Keklevi Ansah, the writer of When Father Comes Home From the War, one of the poems featured in my Fifteen Pieces of Literature: Fifteen Shades of What They Call Love series.

for blog - Potry Pours.

I will later cut parts out, patch or pad up others and do some tinkering and chiseling here and there, until I arrive at something, a poem more polished like Yours,, Blue and Source, as shown here.

Perhaps, I must add that it is not every poem that have poured while I was teaching that I have gone on to glean something out of.

 

Yours, poured when I needed something short and simple to explain how:

  • generally, the term Verse refers to any poem, whether a straight one-stanza piece or each of the major ‘chunks’ of lines (minor ones, usually optional, would be what is often called ‘refrain’ or ‘chorus’, same line/s repeated after every major ‘chunk’) in a piece of poem. In Lyrical Poems, which are known for their strong rhyme and or rhythm patterns, it is typical for a verse – in both sense of it – to contain one or more marked, full unit of thought. Examples of Lyrical Poems include sonnets, ballads (may double as Narrative Poems), villanelles and limericks. 
  • It is not always the case that a verse, especially as a major set of lines in a poem, has a full unit of thought. For Open Forms like Free Verse and Concrete Poems, a verse or stanza or portion of a poem can consist of 1 or 26 lines, any of which may also consist of a word, even the article ‘a’ or ‘the’, or  who knows? even a punctuation mark! Thus, it is not quite accurate or even safe to define a verse in terms of chunk(s) of complete (unit/s of) thought/s. This is because, a poem may contain one or more such units, any or all of which may ‘spill’ into a next line or set of lines, which is clearly set off from the rest of a poem with a line space i.e. a stanza or verse. This ‘spillage’ of one piece of thought from one line or verse/stanza of a poem to another line or verse/ stanza is what is called Run-on-lines or Enjambment.
  • Hence, Yours, can be said to have 1 unit of thought unevenly spread in 5 verses/ stanzas. Source has 2 parallel units of thought neatly structured in 2 stanzas – no ‘spillage/s’, no Run-on-lines or Enjambment across verses/ stanzas – but across lines in the same verse/stanza, definitely!  Depending on how one reads Blue, there are several, more than 8 units of thoughts cast in 3 tricky stanzas. 


Blue
poured in answer to a further example of a Colour Poem. With six to eight lines, a Colour Poem can loosely be described as a poem about the feelings/ emotions and images evoked when one thinks of a particular colour. Usually, the name of the colour does not appear anywhere in the poem, but may be used as the poem’s title. Unlike Blue here however, Colour Poems, typically come compact, in one stanza.

Source is one of the pieces which poured with quick, excited, earnest eagerness. And it proved far too generous with what I needed if for:

  • to show how repetition of not only words, but also, sounds, structure and form can be exploited for a beautiful and meaningful effect on the reader, rather than the repetition coming across as boring and plain lazy; or irritating or jarring at worst.
  • to illustrate how incremental repetition works: adding layers of extended layers of meaning on and to that which has been previously said, irrespective and in spite of the fact that each new repetition (and or line/s) brings the poem nearer and closer to its end – on page, at least.
  • to hint at how the ‘shape’ of a poem (especially a Concrete Poem) on a page can contribute to or magnify its meaning. For example, note how the rough arrow-head shape of Source‘s stanzas – together with its title, and (how the last line ends) – contributes to the (possible) meaning/s of the poem…

And now, three of many Poured Poetry:

1. Yours,
dancing in the rain
on
a

moonless, starry weeknight
is
(a

way) to
find mind
when you

mess up – sorry, pack up – after
you’ve lost guard – no, lost heart – and broken it

too.

17-May-2016

 

2. Blue
cloudless, high skies nudge edge of watery
goodness. splashes tail dives, stillness stirs.
coolness, clean and crisp melt into yawning
calmness. ripples trace waves, silence purrs.

Life is fluid, giddy with measured warmth.
Life is full,  tipsy with myriads of smudged,
swaying pictures. Happiness happens.

Happiness has a name. Happiness
has a thick, indulgent white hue


circa 23-October-2012

 

3. Source
Between my
ear and my eye
are worlds, worlds far
too vast for my shoulders to
bear in a month
a minute, a
lifetime

Between my
tongue and my teeth
reside words, words ready
to create, and call and cast into
being shapes and forms
and lives, as I am
given…

18-January-2016

 

Love,
AishaWrites
AishaTeaches. Too.

Dansoman, Accra.
Thursday, 19-May-2016.

 

P.S.:

The FEATURED IMAGE of this post is a picture of one of many submitted Poetry Portfolios I received as individual student end-of-term project, an initiative I undertook when I used to teach Grades 7 to 9 Literature in English, towards the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) curriculum.

From their understanding and exploring of all that is taught and learnt about Poetry – the peculiarities of the genre; its types and forms; its styles and ways of communicating both surface and implicit meanings; and exceptions to all these and more others etc. – throughout the term, students are required to produce a given number/collection of original poems in a printed, comb-bound copy.

I share and agree on all the details and instructions for the project at the very onset of the term with my students, including the fact that the project forms a major part of their academic grade for the term in question.

Like any real thesis, I supervise and guide students, individuallythroughout the term, and outside normal class hours: how to generate ideas for their poems; how to work their drafts/writing into effective, thoughtful and exceptional pieces; how to break conventions and or make these ‘rules’ work for them, or add to the intended message/s or overall effect of their pieces et al. 

In as much as I make my lessons fun and accessible to all my students, those students who discover that they (can) love Poetry after all!…and so they even want to continue writing more – and not only Poetry – I am all too glad to encourage and mentor them.

The projects are usually Poetry for First Term, Prose for Second Term and Drama for Third Term.

The project in Drama, unlike those for Poetry and Prose, is a group project for which not only a play script is submitted for grading, but there is also a day set aside – usually close to the end of the term – for the performance of all original plays written and staged by both Grades 7 and 8. Because each grouped is supposed to have met several times during the term to rehearse and make all other necessary preparations for their final performance, each member of each group is expected to act on stage and when not in a particular scene, co-ordinate or help with costuming, stage set-up and transitions, effects like sound, backstage management et al.

The audience for such collection of stage plays consists of members of two said classes and as many other students and staff who are available and want to watch. I let one or two of my colleague teachers help out as judge/s for the staged plays.

And it is always altogether fun, a live-ly learning experience and all joy for my students and I and everyone else!