Falling in Awe of Kobena Eyi Acquah.

 “We have crossed the Red Sea
On a dry land
And have since had a trying time
Making the world believe our tale
But if we did not –
If we did not
How did we arrive here”

– Kobena Eyi Acquah; from Meditation: Atɛntɛbɛn Interlude in Movement Three: The Face of Freedom in Music for a Dream Dance, one of his poetry collections.

— from my Facebook post, dated 15th August, 2017.

*

Today, Facebook shows me this ‘memory‘ to ‘look back on’. And I can’t quite deal with it – the memory, the ‘sharing’ of it, the ‘looking back on’ it. All.

Some days and a year ago, my writer and filmmaker  friend, Kingsley Kojo Antwi, lent me an anthology of poems by Kobena Eyi Acquah. I did not wait, could not wait to read the book and share excerpts of it on Facebook. This ‘memory’ was one such excerpt.

Soon, I was eager and greedy to devour the treats and feasts that I knew poem after poem in the anthology would spread before me. How I knew what I knew? I had one or seven reasons. But not too fast.

Sooner, and not at all surprised, I was falling in love all over again with the effortless mastery and wise grace of Kobena’s works – his poetry, in this case.

And all this is not even where this story begins.

kobena_eyi_acquah2

Dr. Kobena Eyi Acquah, Poet and Lawyer – Image credit

I had first found about Kobena Eyi Acquah in a poem – yes, the import and impact of that poem on me was so strong and huge that it distracts/ed me from remembering its title.  (For the purpose of this writing, I went searching for the title. Borrowed Airs it is.) The poem was featured in An Introduction to Language and the Language of Literature, a supplementary textbook for one of my early undergrad courses. The book was jointly written by three lecturers from the Department of English of the University of Ghana, Legon: Kari Dako, Gervase Angsotinge and Aloysius Denkabe.

Before I graduated, I found the anthology from which that poem had been culled at some obscure place at the then University Bookshop.

I was undone!

The price of the book was friendly and easy on my broke student wallet – yes, I do wallets, sometimes pockets, hardly purses. For I usually find purses too rigid in their fancy ways, simply impractical or just not-kind-of-it for me. But maybe that is just me. Or maybe I don’t even know purses enough.

But I digress.

So I rushed to the counter of the bookshop to pay for the book. While the person at the counter was pulling and punching and pushing things, I prayed. In my head.

I prayed that by some crude and cunning twist in fate or similar, I am not told, suddenly, that the book price was wrong, that the price had long been changed and whoever was to write the new, correct, higher! price must have forgotten…decidedly forgotten to do so.

I was afraid.

My fear died early. The book’s price was exactly what I had seen written somewhere on it. The book, it is a poetry anthology by Kobena Eyi Acquah. It was The Man Who Died.

I would cherish this book with a soft and jealous part of my head and heart. And I will croon myself sweetly tired to anyone who cared to listen about the gem of a poet I had discovered in the person and voice called Kobena Eyi Acquah.

I would later share this my love for Kobena with my good friend, Kwabena Agyare Yeboah. And I would find that Kwabena already knew about Kobena, more than I probably did. With Kobena for a meaningful chunk of inspiration, we talked and dreamed things. Kwabena and I.

And by this time, I had long graduated from the University of Ghana, Legon.

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Fore grounds of the The Balme Library, of the University of Ghana, Legon – Image may be protected by copyright.

Later when I found a poetry anthology by another Great, John Aidoo, a contemporary of Kobena, I jumped at it.

Immediately I got out of the bookshop, I called Kwabena. He knew about John Aidoo. Too. Already. I asked myself this one question one time too many, too many that it is quite the cliché for me and for anyone I know who also knows Kwabena.

The question? ‘What doesn’t Kwabena know?!’

But, again, I digress.

This new book I found, it was also at about the same too-cool-to be-true price, and at the same bookshop – only this time the shop had changed names or something of the sort.

And Kwabena and I, we will talk and dream and promise

All over again.

*

Long before both encounters at same bookshop, and during one of my internships during my undergrad years, I met and became friends with a much older man who said for me to simply call him Ataa. (In keeping with some of the truth in what they say about the world being a small place, I will later find out, long after I graduated from university, and years into my being a teacher a CIE-curriculum college in Accra, that Ataa was an uncle to one of my colleague teachers.)

Ataa, like his name meant, could be my father‘s age.  Or older. Ataa quickly became father and a friend at once. Mine. And he was a regular visitor at the place I was interning, Healthworks Stress Management and Ayurvedic Clinic, which used both traditional Psychology and Ayurveda in its therapies for clients. (I was accepted for the internship because I was studying Psychology – besides English and Sociology – at the time.) Up to now, I don’t know what happened to what I’ve always believed is my quiet, unassuming and introvert self whenever I see Ataa, or rather, whenever Ataa and I see each other: we talk! A lot. A whole wholesome lot. Ataa and I.

We talk. About anything and everything. Anything knowledge and worth knowing. Everything including religion, literature, history, psychology, music, art, politics, culture, medicine, philosophy. Anything Life and Earth and beyond and back and all over again. We talked and talked and beautifully and meaningfully distracted each other – me, from my assigned intern duties; him, from the actual, usual people he came to visit, the permanent staff and the practitoner-owner of the clinic.

During one of those our many rich conversations, I mentioned that Kobena Eyi Acquah poem, Borrowed Airs, to Ataa. I was more caught in my love-s for Kobena and his poem than I was in telling Ataa the title and subject of the poem, in as few words as was sensible. Maybe this was — still is — because (I tell myself) I am awful at memorising things — ‘remembering’, certainly; ‘memorising’, I’d rather not.

Ataa got it. The sense of what I was saying. Ataa got me. Like only he could. And Ataa decided that if I loved the poem and its writer that madly, it was more than just very-likely that he too would love the poem and not just…

waakye waakye

Waakye, a popular rice and beans meal eaten with sauce and stew, gari, (salad) leaves, meat and or fish and egg/s – from Ghana – Image Credit

I was restless looking forward to the next time I was to see Ataa. And this was usually a Friday or Saturday, and not without him coming with a feast in usually two bags.

The feast, usually, was big and generous choice fruits. Fruits or wraps and rolls of cooked food, usually waakye, with all the necessary and optional accompaniments.

All demurely wrapped in the usual leaves.

All edible-y hot in more ways than one.

Yes, Ataa was this generous at heart, generous with his material goods, and from what I have come to know of him, also generous in his life and how he leads and shares it. Ataa was generous and was too busy with his being generous, too busy to see and acknowledge and respond to the Thank-you-s that poured and poured fast on his paths.

But forgive me. I digress, again.

So I brought that textbook containing that Kobena Eyi Acquah poem for Ataa to see for himself. Ataa did read the poem, but his seeing of the same took too long for me to bear.  Don’t misunderstand me: Ataa did not take long with his reading: I was the one who was in too much of quite the senseless hurry to get to talk to him about the poem, to get to talk about it already.

And that day, the day I shared Kobena Eyi Acquah’s Borrowed Airs with Ataa added to it all for me! My undone-ness. My love for Kobena and the beautiful, approachable legend that he was, and continues to be. To me.

That day, Ataa walked me through Kobena’s poem, and by the time Ataa was done, the poem took on layers and levels of  meanings and insights. Even inspiration! The poem acquired peculiar textures of grit upon wit that hitherto, I had not realized – besides, despite my being a student (of English language and literature-s in it).

That day, Ataa and I would not talk about anything else. And for many of the following times we met while my internship at the clinic lasted, we continued to talk about that poem. Or it nicely coloured and fleshed many of my conversations with Ataa. That Kobena Eyi Acquah’s poem. Borrowed Airs, that is.

From The Man Who Died, I will find one other poem: Hello Day. I will later feature this other poem in a series of Essays about Love Poems.

*

Hello Day.

Hello Day was what I was afraid would happen the first day I saw Kobena Eyi Acquah in person. He was in a writer-and-writer conversation with phenomenal Ama Ata Aidoo, during Writers Project of Ghana‘s 2017 Pa Gya! Literary Festival. After this conversation, like everyone else who was willing, I could have made my move.

I could have gone right on and walked up to Kobena Eyi Acquah and said what would have been the beginning of many Hello-s. Hello-s which would, could have thawed and flowed into making me become, possibly, to Kobena, the kind of daughter and friend that I am to Ataa and his kind in my life.

I could have…

…but I was afraid that I would act scattered and funny with my love for Kobena (and his work, more). I was afraid that I would end up embarrassing myself and unfairly, unduly dragging him into the shame that I had carefully nurtured into existence – yes, existence, only that it remained in my imagination. I was afraid that it might all end up sounding and looking artificial – a fan of a writer not merely, politely being the die-hard fan: but fussing and gushing and worse.

I was afraid – or so I convinced myself.

Kobena and Ama at PaGya 2017

One of the pictures I took with my phone: Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo and Prof. Kobena Eyi Acquah in conversation at the 2017 Pa Gya! Literary Festival20th October, 2017.

So I decided to take a picture of Kobena Eyi Acquah and phenomenal Ama Ata Aidoo, while the two were still in said conversation, from far off.

So I scratched solace from my secret, covertly giddy love for Kobena and his work.

I realised I was being inattentive and perhaps, clumsy in the chit-chats around where I was standing and negotiating a good angle and coverage for the picture I was taking.

I noticed my clumsiness climb beyond little. I noticed it thicken.

So after managing a few decent shots, I did not forget to clump shut all kinds of “shutters” about me.

And I was sure to drink in all the experience of my having seen Kobena in person, for the first time, almost a decade after first finding Borrowed Airs in that textbook.

But some Love can be like that.

Some Love can cry and work Itself into a kind of death, and yet, and yet when It gets all that It has been longing and dying for, all on platter after forever a platter and with every necessary accessory, what will this Love do?

It will go cold or comatose or worse at the sudden getting and having of all these Its heart-shredding, soul-gorging desires? It will go mute and numb with the wonder of prayers that get answered with such jarring humour and dramatic flourish; with the fear of how It came to deserve this wondrous giving, with stubborn hesitation of how-in-God’s-universe It could have been worthy of such giving, such generous return of a meager love It even barely gave.

And when this Love, some Love does get over Its mute and numb, It plays to shy or too afraid or too careful or too careful and too afraid and too shy to let the first words gather form in Its mind, put on soul in Its heart, roll down Its tongue, slip out of Its mouth…

Is some Love not like that?

So Hello Day it is. And…

Even if it was because of contrary intents and reasons.

Even if the essence and spirit of it all was definitely, positively higher and nobler, Hello Day happened. I mean, I let Hello Day happen to me, happen to Kobena and I, happen on the day I will later, regretfully learn mattered the most.

So my falling in awe of Kobena and our meeting that never really was.

So my falling in awe of Kobena, and all the rich and full-filling people and places and pasts that this fall touched and blessed my life as a writer and a thinker — a Christian too! – and a human and a live-r of this Life on this Earth.

…all these and such. They happened too quickly and too much with a mind of their own.

*

The Facebook post which is a ‘memory’ today happened a year and a few months ago. The literary festival and the writer-and-writer conversation, the meeting that never really was happened few months after the Facebook post which is a ‘memory’ today.

Hello Day remains…

Today, it occurs to me that I enacted Hello Day that day I first saw Kobena at the festival.

And the story is now told – even if not quite fully:

The other day a bird by the wayside whispered about Kobena’s passing

But I told myself not to mention it because I earnestly wished that what I had heard was not true, or would soon cease to be true. I have not heard anything again. Since that day, I have heard nothing new to confirm or deny the content of the bird’s whisper. Since that day, it’s been all silence.

Maybe the passing of Greats in the literary circles came too fast this year, and news of Kobena’s got lost before it even started on its way. Something like what happened after Kojo Laing‘s, earlier? I don’t know, may never know.

But a bird did tell of Kobena’s passing, of Kobena passing his own Red Sea.

And from the little I know of Red Sea-s and what is beyond them, I say…

…I pray that Kobena lives and continues to shine — in his words, in that thick and lush of voice and character that was, is, and will remain uniquely his and his alone.

Rest well, Onukpa Kobena Eyi Acquah.

Rest in perfection, Onipa Kobena Eyi Acquah.

Kobena and Ama at PaGya 2017.jpg - pix by Nii Ayertey Aryeh

A closer view of Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo and Prof. Kobena Eyi Acquah in conversation at the 2017 Pa Gya! Literary Festival. Picture from Nii Ayertey Aryeh.

*

Love,

AishaWrites; AishaRemembers; AishaLoves.

Kalpohine Estates, Tamale, Ghana:

Eve of, to dawn of Wednesday, 15th August, 2018.

*  *

Glossary:

Onipa is Akan for ‘Human Being’,  and in this context – not just in the literal sense of the word, but more importantly – the essence, the true, original capacity of a human (being) to be good and full(y human).

Onukpa is Ga for ‘Elder(y)’,  and in extension, a term of deferment to a person older in more respects age (alone).

*   *   *

P.S.:

Featured Image/ Masthead (mine): A close shot of one of many ingeniously crafted art pieces at and around the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana. Circa: July 2017

– An earlier version of this writing appeared on my Facebook page.

– Find a bio of Kobena Eyi Acquah on Writers Project of Ghana‘s website.

 

 

Ben Okri: Of Incidents, Stories, Stirrings. And a Song.

Over this past weekend, I went through one pile of books which I keeping adding to but never seem to find the time to read. I had to go through the pile because I needed to squeeze up stuff somewhere in my room(s) and I picked up Ben Okri’s Incidents at the Shrine and Bessie Head’s Tales of Tenderness and Power, both of which are collections of shorts stories. I picked these two only because I found that they are the only ones in this pile which I had not yet signature-labeled, like I do for all books which are in my possession and are mine.

There is a mound of books – mostly fiction, among a crowd of other genres as well as drafts and pamphlets and other documents. All these and more are permanently sitting, large and airily, in one armchair in my living room. And the situation on the chair is but one spillover of what had long happened to my bed and any other space which happened to be idle and unlucky enough in any other part of the room. It just has to be too bad for such a space if it happens to be in or on a piece of furniture. It will not be spared.

This is how Head and Okri’s ended up on the waiting-to-be-read mound on that armchair. And this is my first time (having) to read both writers writers – or is it to have pieces of their works? Truth is, I never planned to read any of the two. Not this soon, not yet, at least. Now, I’m on the fourth of the eight short stories in Incidents at the Shrine. Disparities is the title. And no, I’m not reading the stories in the order in which they appear in the collection.

For all the three or four I’ve read so far, I hear the voice of Chuma Nwokolo. Voice in the literal, not literary sense. Voice as in the sound, and maybe the personality – but not necessarily of persona – of it. Nwokolo’s. I am still figuring out why this is so for me, but I’m very certain it has nothing at all to do with both Okri and Nwokolo being Nigerians. Otherwise, it could have as well been the voice of Rotimi or Wole Talabi or Soyinka or Ifeoma Okoye or Achebe or Ene Heneshaw or Adichie or Adewale Maja Pearce or others. Or?

The epynomous story in Mohammed Naseehu Ali’s collection, The Prophet of Zongo, echoes the ending or how the main character ended in Okri’s Converging Cities. A major character, Monica, in Laughter Beneath the Brigde vivdly reminds me of Anowa in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Anowa a play; the setting and much of the themes resemble those of Beast of No Nations, the movie; part(s) of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart makes me appreciate how the Egungun part of Laughter Beneath the Brigde later turned out.

I am well into Disparities, a little over half-way through it. Even though the setting and strain of the themes may be distant from those of Ayi Kwei Armah’s Fragments (a novel), there is a lot I see of in both characterization and voice. And this time, voice as in both persona and personality. Still in this story, I find that there remains more truth, sadness and loneliness than one may be willing to tolerate, especially if one has imbibed too much of the sleek lies, divine vanities and well…the exalted follies of (what) this side of eternity (has turned and is growing into).

This also means that, I see a lot of Armah’s Baako (main character in Fragments) in Okri’s I-don’t-know-his/her-name-yet in Disparities – so far in my reading, this other character in Disparities has still not been named by Okri. Maybe this character in Disparities will also go (deliberately) not-named, like The Man, a similar character in another Armah novel, The Beautyful Ones are not Yet Born.

Again, I’m on my fourth story and I can say Okri’s writing tastes like parables.

They touch on the human and the mundane but not without giving that needed, albeit eccentric glimpse – and sometimes, or a little more – of the (sur)real world(s) and or forces that inform and or define this popular side of the known and absolutes. They are as innocent and wild as they come, but with neither apology nor any claim to perfection. They are as easy as they come, but only apparently. The stories exude truths that one may think are simple and familiar, and sometimes even funny, until one finds that they are also sly and slippery and sticky, so that given even the smallest shred of thought, these stories weigh on the mind and refuse to let go…

There is Okri’s story endings, which I find natural but not exactly predictable; conclusive and yet, may as well be cyclical; and then, full and no more. No spillover of any kind, and yet lead somewhere and everywhere and nowhere, all at the same time. The endings.

I can say similar things about Okri writing in the first person voice. It drips with something so far away, beyond mere craftsmanship and empathy for its own sake.

There also is his mastery for language: it is poetic and lyrical, it is lean but generous with layers and dimensions of meaning, it is precision and prudence. Images are apt. The images jump… It is almost as if language finds Okri, rather than he arriving at it. The grit and tune do not wear. The wit and humour are so fluid, so subtle, so married that they startle and saturate at once.

One more thing I find striking…I’m wondering – thinking and learning – what it is with Okri and his use of lizards in the stories. The lizards. They appear and disappear like all lizards do in real time. However, the lizards in the stories are special in that, they hold or are tied to the structure and (some of) the themes in (some of the) stories.

At one time, the lizard motif is innocent but dramatic, and at other times, curiously funny and armed with every power to tear a character’s sanity and or dignity beyond some kind of rest or redemption. They drip with the un-nameable, the un-normal, or maybe the para-normal, bordering of the spiritual. Yes, lizards. Like in Crooked Prayer and Laughter Beneath the Bridge and Converging City. In Disparities, one may see the lizard motif (morph) in(to) something queerer. Dogshit.

Even besides the lizard-y thing-y, the spiritual and the mysterious are rife in Okri’s stories. And where love and madness – or anything in between, and in any degree or status – they never ask for one’s permission (to happen) nor for forgiveness (after happening). And they never need nor even wish for one’s pity or praise. Most of the time. Most of them. Whether as events or as characters. The love or madness or whatever is raw and real and righteous in its own right, and without any restraint whatsoever.

I can’t say I’ve discovered my love for Okri’s writing because it has been there long before I actually read him, for I’ve long been famished with his The Famished Road. This has always been more because of an inexplicable pull, a bottomless yearning for The Famished Road than because it won the Man Booker Prize in 1991. I nearly got to read The Famished Road: a friend would have lent it to me, if not that the friend, at that time, was sweetly, slowly savouring the novel and among other things, was learning something about how Okri crafted dialogue. Even though I never got to read it by borrowing and have not found a copy of The amished Road to buy for myself, I couldn’t and still won’t begrudge my friend the delight and treasures…

When it comes to reading, I am unforgivably erratic – but not reckless – and willful, yet unpredictable. Or so I think. Once, I read Nii Ayikwei Parkes‘  Tail of the Blue Bird in one day; Armah’s Fragments in more than five weeks; Mawuli Adzei’s Taboo in about two days; and I’ve read bits and chunks of several others in such and several other duration-s. So even though I know it is good to set reading  goals, I end up doing with reading goals what I usually do with ‘rules’. Because I find ‘rules’ painfully incompatible, and even antagonistic, to the way I like to think my brain works, I abhor ‘rules’ and relish in ‘breaking them’ for the simple fact that they exist or that someone decided to breathe them into being.

So?

So maybe I will know better as I grow. But right now, I know better than to go setting reading ‘rules’ for the self that is me. So I will try waa diɜŋtsɜ, but I cannot promise myself to finish reading all eight short stories in Incidents at the Shrine, despite all my longing and taste of Okri’s writing.

And I cannot promise myself I will read Tales of Tenderness and Power after Incidents at the Shrine. Yes, even though I expect to come to adore Bessie Head for just about any of her writing like I do Mariama Bâ for her So Long a Letter. Somewhere in the mound on that chair and elsewhere, there are borrowed books and personal and academic and every other reading thing for me to start or finish or start and finish.

Then there and the set texts for the IGCSE and AS and A Level Literature classes that I teach. Somewhere in the set texts are a CIE-selected collection of tonnes of poetry form different places and times and peoples; a hefty collection of hefty short stories including Thomas Hardy‘s A Son’s Veto, (Hector Hugh Munro); Saki‘s Sredni Vashtar; Sylvia Townsend Warner‘s The Phoenix and Rohinton Mistry‘s Of White Hairs and Crickets. Novels include Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Adichie’s Americanah. For drama, besides Shakespeare and others’, there are Ama Ata Aidoo’s plays, The Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa. Thankfully, I’ve already read Adichie’s, some of the Shakespeares, Aidoo’s two, a decent number of the collected poems and a good number of the short stories and others.

At the moment though, and somewhere soft and cozy inside of my being, I feel like I can and will write (more) short stories again. Soon. This has long been coming but I think having read Okri has heaved it all into a sensible motion and dare I say, direction. I feel a re-baptism and a confirmation of that song-full, soul-ish day last year when I knew and said (a) Story is calling out to me, starting and stirring and warming and whirling up…

So I sing of the song of the river and of that some-one’s-only daughter.

So I sing in the tongue that speaks and speaks true, in folds and in stretches, whenever I speak or sing or hear It or Its essence in utterance or in song. Ga.

Mawie Ga. Mala Ga.

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya e-e-e-i

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ  miiya

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya e-e-e-i

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ  miiya

 

Mɔko biyoo kome too

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya

Mɔko biyoo kome too

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya

*     *    *   *

The river is taking her away e-e-e-i

The river is taking her away

The river is taking her away e-e-e-i

The river is taking her away

 

Someone’s only one daughter

The river is taking her away

Someone’s only one daughter

The river is taking her away

 

Love,

AishaWrites

 

Sunday, January 10, 2015.

Fifteen Pieces of Literature: Fifteen Shades of What They Call LO.V.E. (2)

Because of the savour of thy good ointments

thy name is as ointment poured forth,

therefore do the virgins love thee.

Songs of Solomon chapter 1, verse 3 (KJV)

For this reason, the very very few times I have written anything which could easily pass for the ‘love poem’ label, I have gone on to live questioning my own and sincerity – both as a wannabe-writer and more. Long after writing such poems, I like to console myself that I never set out to write a ‘love poem’ from the very onset. With a mind and will of its own, such poems simply insisted on turning out the way they did. As ‘love poems’.

poetryy[1]Photo Credit

These are poems borne of some state and or feeling that transcends mere mind and matter; someThing real, strong and raw. I speak of a reality of a self, an-other and or the world – a reality which is tangible, even if it is yet to get a name, and no matter how momentary or monumental it turns out to be. This someThing can be anything far from love. It may be Love itself. Just as it can be something that is not exactly Love; something that may be barely short of Love. Or this someThing might have started off as Love. This someThing might have as well simply morphed or long moved on…well, from (being or even vaguely having the semblance of) Love.

These are poems which will later on, receive very little or no re-vision or re-write. This is what must happen. Otherwise, I dis-miss – but not, discard – these my ‘love poems’ altogether. Almost always, I dismiss these poems, not without giving myself the ‘What were you thinking?’ laugh and shake of head. Yes, I laugh at my own self for my feeble attempts at – that is if I even ever set out to writeLove poems.

A and B

One day when I grow older in this Thing they call Love, and when I grow as a person and as a writer too, I may change my mind about all these dogmas I have about Love and what is usually called a ‘Love Poem’.

Until that day, I believe in something. That there is something sacred, shifty and so infinite about Love, something which makes pinning Love down on paper, and with words – in poetry, to be specific – an apology of what Love really, truly, fully, is, can be and can mean. One can always try with the pinning down with words thing, but that does not make the whole process any less than an apology, unpretentious and unqualified.

(In the immediate previous blog, the first in this series, I already implied that there ARE, and there will be poems that capture all or almost all that Love can possibly mean and consist of. These are exceptions. And together with their writers, I respect and celebrate these poems.)

Keke 1

Keklevi Ansah

Having said this, whenever I am reading anything that seeks or attempts to deify, demystify or so much as even suggest a description of Love, I find myself too much on the guard to look out for how forced or vain, inadequate or exaggerated, blasphemous or even hypocritical the whole attempt of writing about Love is. Again, in poetry, to be specific.

Of course, there are ‘love poems’ which even on my first time encountering them, I knew right before I ended the first line that this poem is like no other ‘love poem’. Truth is, I did not even know the names of the writers of some of these poems, or that they (the poems, that is) have anything to do with love. And this is not to even mention how I can be very bad I am at remembering names of writers and the titles of their work(s). This chronic forgetfulness happens more times than I can even forgive myself for, irrespective of how I much I was filled and or affected by the said poem – or any piece for that matter – and whether or not the piece was about or had anything to do with love. This will not be my first time saying this, and also citing the two Elizabeth B-s as examples.

I may never be quick to call these other writers and or their works (my) favourites, but I do know that I will always go back to read and re-read many of them over and over and far too many a time. I will read them and enjoy reading them more than I will my own self. This, I know.

For now, and in keeping with the title of this blog series, I have gathered fifteen Love Poems/ Pieces of different peoples and genres, from places and times. In this blog, I present the first set, five pieces. Especially in this first set, more of the writers are from Ghana. Based more on format/ structure than on essence, the third piece of each set is a non-poetry piece. Apart from these, and alternating the pieces based on the gender of their writers, the pieces presented in the whole of this series are in no particular order.

sushiPhoto Credit

For some of the writers – Kofi Anyidoho and William Shakespeare are examples – I deliberately chose their less known ‘Love’ Pieces. This was to present a broader picture and richer texture of their literary works in the context of, and together with those of other writers. And apart from the writer of the very first piece, Keklevi Ansah, I have provided one source, an internet link, for readers to find more about each writer. (Keklevi tells me she is not on any online social network. I know this has everything to do with a personal decision – hers – than it is a matter of access or any other means. I respect Keklevi – her decision and all.) Instead of such a source, I have provided pictures of Keklevi, and she is the only writer I have done this for.

Keklevi Ansah is one of my students in eighth grade and about going to ninth grade. She is also one of the handful of students who beyond my being their Teacher and friend, I am super proud to mentor in anything Creative Writing. In a recent Talent Competition organized by the senior-most class in the college where, currently, I teach English Language and Literature, Keklevi performed a longer version of her poem, When Father Comes Home from the War.

Keke 1

Keklevi Ansah

I am yet to recover from the magic, the…the…well, the Love that is called Keklevi – both on page and on stage. Truth is, I do not even want to.
Recover.
Remember It comes in different forms. And that they call It L.O.V.E.
Enjoy!

 

1. When Father Comes Home from the War  by Keklevi Ansah

I never wanted father to go for that war
He could be hurt
He could be shot
Or he could even die
But when he comes back
I know he will
He will for me

When father comes home from the war
He will bring me daisies
and candies
and all those stories
Yes, he will tell me
When he comes back
I know he will
Just for me

When father comes home from the war
I will tell him never to go again
Or else I will never see him off to the train
All this grief and pain
Like an un-washable stain
He will have to stay

When father comes home from the war
This is what I will tell him
What I want from him
What I need from him
When,
When,
When father comes home from the war

 2. Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

  1. Extract from Changes a novel, a love story, by Ama Ata Aidoo

‘Not many women are this lucky…’ Esi could hear her grandmother’s voice. ‘And who told you that feeling grateful to a man is not enough reason to marry him? My lady, the world would die of surprise if every woman openly confessed the true reasons why she married a certain man. These days, young people don’t seem to know why they marry or should marry.’

‘What are some of the reasons, Nana?’

Ah, so you want to know? Esi, we know we all marry to have children…’

‘But Nana, that is such an old and worn-out idea! Children can be born to people who are not married.’

‘Sure. Sure, but to help them grow up well, children need homes with walls, a roof, fire, pots.’

‘Oh Nana. But one person can provide all these things these days for a growing child!’

‘Maybe…yes…Yes, my lady. We also marry to increase the number of people with whom we can share our joys and the pains of life.’

‘Nana, how about love?’

‘Love? … Love? … Love is not safe, my lady Silk, love is dangerous. It is deceitfully sweet like the wine from a fresh palm tree at dawn. Love is fine for singing about and love songs are good to listen to, sometimes to even dance to. But when we need to count pennies for food for our stomachs and clothes for our backs, love is nothing. Ah my lady, the last man any woman should think of marrying is the man she loves.’

  1. Territoriality by Mawuli Adzei

Let not the crab in his psychedelic gait
Stray into my virgin field at night
Nor the tortoise for want of pace
Tarry a minute longer on my hallowed portion
Nor the cockroach encroach
Upon my holy-of-holies

The animal in us is obsessive-possessive
We mark our jurisdictions in style
Some with urine
Some with shit
Some with body scent
Some with barbed wire
And the redlines glow
With the white heat
Of the cremator’s pyre

In the law of dominions
There are no ghosts
No vacuums
No oblivions
Everything is etched in concrete
Pictures hang permanently
On walls of the mind
Smiles illuminate the darkness
Tears empty into the sea
But leave their paths of flow behind
And the heart in all seasons desires
And claims all for a heirloom

The animal in us is obsessive-possessive
We mark our jurisdictions in style
Within the bounds of this microcosm
I call my own
Carved from a million geographies
I bind you in the Gordian knot
Of the spider’s flimsy-tenuous spokes

And I’ll be PREDATOR
WARRIOR-BEE and EPIC-HERO
Defending to the hilt my TERRITORY
Spilling BLOOD
Poised to DIE
Just to hold on to YOU

5. Wine by Nana Nyarko Boateng 

Days
when your heart wakes
without you
and goes to find trouble
hurts itself
and comes back
hides in your stomach
and coils around itself like a snake
pushes against your chest just like a storm
and beats, no end
till you cry
and beat, no end
when you stop
to breath hard
like nothing is enough
to let you be
one heart
without another
attached involved loved
pumping not for its own sake but
for her
for him
for them

Days
when your heart stops
and beats you hear
is only from your memory
how it used to
be, eat, fear
love, love, love
whole
gone.

Keke 3

Keklevi Ansah