The Speech That Didn’t Happen. The Win!

Reader Dear,

I thought you might have learnt somewhere, but might still want me too to tell you about the 2018 Professor Kofi Awoonor Literary Prize and how it was won by a certain Sheilla Nelson. Or an Aisha Nelson.

I am the same, the said Nelson – whether Sheilla or Aisha, whether Aishetu or Aisha. (One day I will talk about my name(s) properly, fully.)

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Picture mine: A copy of the unpublished anthology I submitted for the prize.

Bits and bigger about the biennial prize are known: from the earlier official announcement in 2018, from related social media posts  by various people including my Facebook post days after the awards ceremony, and from a blog post by James Murua.

In a later Facebook post related to a stage adaptation of Osiris Rising, I will mention how the novel’s writer, Onukpa Ayi Kwei Armah, inspired – and more – the titular short story of  my unpublished anthology, Lens and Other Stories

This is the work I submitted for the prize – a soft-bound book. A manuscript.

Perhaps, the only new thing about the 2018 (Fiction) edition of the Prize was that its awards ceremony was grafted into the Academic Directorate of the University of Ghana’s second day of what has come to be called “Vice Chancellor’s Ceremony in Honour of Academic Award Winners” – for the 2017/2018 Academic Year. This awards ceremony is done on two consecutive days, usually a Thursday and Friday, for the Sciences and Humanities respectively. I received the prize on the second day, it being administered by the Department of English, which is a part of the Faculty of Humanities.

All of this arrangement, it was unlike the maiden/2016 (Poetry) edition of the prize, which was held as a separate and full event at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra. This edition was won by one Sarpong Kumankoma (Agyei Sarpong Amos).

The rest of the details of the edition for which I was adjudged winner? Nothing so new. Everything quite personal:

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Picture mine: The brochure for day 1 (Sciences) and day 2 (Humanities) of the awards ceremony.

1.   Like how I had been at The Balme Library and other places on the University of Ghana campus quite more than a few times to put finishing touches on and to print the manuscript – per the submission requirements – and finally, to submit the package at said Department of English.

And how months later, the next year, I got a WhatsApp message one afternoon (when I was still not fully peeled from the hold of a nap) to come pick up a letter and sign my acceptance of the prize and of attending the awards ceremony at the Great Hall of same university.

Dates include July 4 and 17, 2018; and February 22 and March 1, 2019.

2.   How I was joined by my long time and academic friend Agnes Quansah, my friend and writer friend Agnes Gyening, and my past-student-turned-friend Vanessa Aduama, for the awards night.

3.   The surprise but understandable story about how Sheilla Nelson came to be the name on the award certificate, even though I had submitted for the prize as Aisha Nelson.

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Picture mine: The prize certificate given me.

(I have already said to tell the story about my name(s) later, remember?)

4.   How earlier versions of more than half of the 10 short stories in Lens and Other Stories have been variously and previously published and sometimes, re-published here at Nu kɛ Hulu (Water and Sun) .

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Picture mine: The outfit I nearly wore for the awards night.

5.   The funny little story about how I came to decide what to wear for the awards night and the later funnier story about how I put away that beautiful red dress (something decidedly unconventional, stylishly formal, and girlishly diva) and settled on what I ended up wearing (something shyly conventional and formal, something accidentally mature and chic).

How in the end, it all turned out to be a hearty, event-full and love-filled evening which could neither be undone nor even touched by the rains that poured, and by the fact that my three friends were meeting each other for the first time, me being the mutual one…

6.   The speech I had written a day before the awards night, in ready, in case I am asked to give any. Because that should be expected. The poem, I had added to the speech, in case I am asked to do a reading of (some or any of) my writing. Also.

Choosing a poem and not anything prose – prose, which would have been in perfect keeping with the genre of that year’s edition of the prize. Choosing, again, a poem because of its typical brevity, its more organic, self-contained qualities. And choosing the particular poem I chose because I had it written, already, years earlier, in honour of the man in whose honour the prize is.

7.   Both speech and poem.

Because I had no way of knowing the awards ceremony was not going to be what I had it imagined to be, a gathering of people involved in, with interest in the prize – writers and academics and people in the circles of these, the prize runners-up and other participants, the friends and perhaps families and others of all these. Until I arrived. Because I wanted to not have to be under the gaze of lights and eyes twice. And for long. Because I did not want to be taken unawares, unprepared for a speech and such during the fun and buzz and such of the ceremony. A ceremony I had no idea changes had been made to…

8.   Now, said speech:

*    *    *

Speech for Awards Ceremony of the 2018 Professor Kofi Awoonor Literary Prize (Fiction) – by Aisha Nelson.

I am highly honoured, quietly but very excited to have won this second and fiction edition of the Professor Kofi Awoonor Literary Prize.

Somewhere and sometime in the past, I have told the story of how I never remember setting out as a writer. But here I am now. Again. Much of that story was not about me.  Much of that story is not about me.

And from today, much of that story will not be about only me. I have mentioned with great gratitude and fondness, the late Ms. Wobson, my senior high school English teacher who first saw and said I am a writer one time in class; Madam Star Nyaniba Hammond, who also went too early and sadly.

I have written more than a story and a song about and for the gift of fathers and teachers and friends and believers including Dr. Mawuli Adjei, Professor Kofi Anyidoho, Dr. Martin Egblewogbe, Kwabena Agyare Yeboah, Jonathan Bill Doe, Agnes Quansah, Agnes Gyening. And Kojo – because he insisted I mention his name too.

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Picture by Vanessa Aduama: My (other) friends and meAgnes Quansah and her son on the left, and Agnes Gyening on the right.

I can talk forever about the Giver of all good and beauty-full Gifts, Ataa Naa Nyɔŋmɔ.

I can talk long about my late Grandmother, Mary Ansaba Botchway; Mother, Naa Amanuah Ankrah; my late Father, Ali Nelson. And my nephew, Kofi Poku Odum – who nearly joined me here.

 And right now, I want to share a poem, a poem I was to contribute – a few years ago – to an anthology in honour of the man in whose name and legacy we are gathered here, Professor Kofi Awoonor. Onukpa Kofi (Nyidevu) Awoonor.

 

No Praise – for Onukpa Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor.

I

Grand-e-mother said someone’s one can be more
than another’s ten. One Child.
So here, take corn, salt, take
Pepper. Take that which sates and has character.

Where I come from, they say one can be the killer
of cow for feeding the whole town. (Wo)Man.
Oh smile. laugh. even in death (read SLEEP).
Shine. live and sing. now and on. and again.

Where I come from, they say he does
not age (together) with his claws. The Old Leopard.
So here, take dew, wine, take
Water. Take that which fills and extends…

 

II

fate got it
Wrong. And it’s not fate’s first time. It bit. It
chewed. And it will forever be left
With the swallowing, the eating proper.

fate forgot
One time too many that even in death (read SLEEP), some
Leopards, with one stone of a leap, kill that two-bird of
a death, of a cow, with one leap of
A life, of a life that shames both age and grave.

 

III

praise is
ugly in mouths still munching the pay to praise. praise is
sickly when the one it is poured on needs to look askance,
to look behind to see if it is not for another the praise is…

Praise
will not be forced, will not be poured, not be willed.
Praise is comely on Its own self. So here, take no praise.

Be. Take. You.—-Praise. Are. You…

 

Thank you.

*     *    *

Love,

AishaWrites, 
AishaWinsToo.

Tuesday, 11th June 2019;
Dansoman, Accra, Ghana.

 

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.

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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.

 

 

Fifteen Pieces of Literature: Fifteen Shades of What They Call LO.V.E. (4)

And now abideth faith, hope, charity [charity is often translated as love],
these three;
but the greatest of these is charity.

1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 13 (KJV)

love related words

L.O.V.E. is what they call It Love. And It comes in different forms.

from simple liking and raw affection
through
fondness and fanaticism
to
sheer blindness, madness -even

from everything that makes
admiration and adoration, idol-atry
and idealization, reverence and deference
alike and yet, different

Psychologists are yet to agree on one, ultimate definition for Love. Liking and Altruism seem to easily lend themselves to definition and probity, more than Love does. Yet, Love sits in the middle of these two, acting shy, playing hard-to-get, smiling knowingly, and yet exuding defiance.

love smiley

from
willingly serving another
through
dire sacrifice
to
slavery itself

At what point does plain self-love become selfishness, a non-Love. How does an innocent love for something degenerate into an addiction, a dis-order a dys-function, a dis-ease? Where in the world do humans not understand a crush – crush as in the beginning and or potential for Love, and crush as in a break, a heartbreak? And what too with the thin line they say there is between Love and anti-Love, hate? What informs a teenager’s idea of love and that of photographers and writers for their craft, their calling? Why would the mad dog go digging its teeth into everyone but the playing, giggling toddler’s flesh?

ilove note on scrap

the
presence or lack of it,
goings and comings of it,
sweet pains and pinching joys of it

for
doing, neighbours, rats, seasons, reading,
dreams, post-stamps, roses, work, spaces,

 

in
the not-exactly simple pat on a shoulder
to
an ardent, urgent kiss

a wink
a smile
a shrug a silence which is laden with so much more than words and deeds can convey, and fully and effectively so

Agape. Phileo. Storge. Eros. Kinds of Love, they say. According to the Greeks. There are more different ways to classify different kinds of Love. The question remains if it is that simple, that simple to draw sharp and discreet lines between these different different kinds of Love.

love bougainv

from
random show of uncomplicated thoughtfulness
to
laying down one’s life for another,

At exactly what time do friends become lovers? How is it possible to listen to, or be loyal to another, and not necessarily love too? Where, in the grand scheme of things, may a mother’s love fail, and another Love, a higher Love, begin? What changes do the love between say, a father and a daughter, undergo, while they both grow in more ways than one? Why do Christians believe that the one essential, ultimate nature and personality of God can be summed up in one Word: Love? Agape Love, they say.

love in maple leaves

from
the weirdest, the plain silly
to
the wondrous, the sheer vanity

from
a mother or a great-grandson or a stranger,
to a doll or an-other stranger or a shell

from
being ordinary to an-other
through
becoming the very centre of that other’s life, being – and if not universe, then world
Oh World! And what they say about what makes it go round!

love drop

Enough said about Poetry and Love and People and all.

Here, the final set of the fifteen Love Pieces. The last is one of of my few poems which insisted on – I explained – turning out as a (kind of) Love Poem.

Sit. Spread. Savour. It. They call It L.O.V.E.

love candy on plank

11. How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrette Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

 

love in melon

12. her II by Kwabena Agyare Yeboah
love is what is lost when translating a poem
and the days of relapse

darling,
i have pinned you on my memory

it’s dark out here
your hand is cold
and your hair is strangely reciting nursery rhymes

love is a letter i write everyday
and post on facebook, hoping your pictures match my letters

i can learn to love you
like how a mockingbird sings other songs

pardon my manners. there is something on your brow; i love you

love is prose, and i will put my name to it one day
i will be a bestseller because you will be my novel
of the gentleman

 

love note pegged

13. Extract from Edufa, a play which is an African/Ghanaian adaptation of Euripides’ Alcestis by Efua Theodora Sutherland
[………………..]

SAM: [To an imaginary crowd towards the gate] Thank you. Thank you. [Gloatingly] They didn’t get me. [Speaking to no one in particular] An idiot’s life isn’t so bad. There are always people to stop children from throwing stones at us. They only do that for idiots, I find. [To the cage] Let us tell my master that.

[Paying tender attention to what is inside the cage, he walks up a step, crosses to left and puts the cage and the box down.]

SEGUWA: [Entering from the kitchen] You’re back.

SAM: Are you pleased to see me? [Lifting up the cage] Look, he is my bird.

SEGUWA: [Horrified] Don’t bring it near me. It’s an owl.

SAM: [Blithely] Of course. An owl is a bird.

SEGUWA: What’s it doing here?

SAM: It came with me. It was an owl before, but now it’s with me, it’s no longer itself. It’s the owl of an idiot. What we get, we possess. I caught it in a tree.

SEGUWA: Take it outside. [………………..]

[………………..]

EDUFA: [Coaxingly] Sam, are you back?

SEGUWA: I don’t know what he is doing with that thing. Let him take it away.

EDUFA: What is it, Sam?

SEGUWA: An owl.

EDUFA: [Terrified] Take it out. [SAM sulks.] We would do well not to disturb him before we’ve heard what he has to say. He can get very stubborn. [Sweetly] Sam, come here. [SAM doesn’t budge.] You may keep your bird. [SAM turns to him grinning broadly.]

SAM: [Pointing to the owl] My owl and I had a nice thought for you on the way. When you are born again, master, why don’t you come back as an idiot? There are always people to stop children throwing stones at us. They only do that for idiots, I find.

EDUFA: [Smiling in spite of himself] All right. Now tell me quickly what I want to hear. [Anxiously] Did you find the place?

SAM: It’s an awful place. What do you send me to places like that for? Not the village itself. That is beautiful, floating in the blue air on the mountain top, with a climb-way in the mountain’s belly going zig-zag-zig, like a game. [He thoroughly enjoys his description.]

SEGUWA: [Impatiently] He’s so tiresome with his rambling.

EDUFA: [Trying to be patient] Good, you found the village. And the man?

SAM: He is a nice man, tall as a god. And he fed me well. You don’t give me chicken to eat, but he did. [Thinks a bit] What does such a nice man live in an awful house like that for? That’s the awful part.

EDUFA: [Very anxiously] Never mind. What did he say?

SAM: Ah! [Secretively] Let me fetch my box of goods.

[He fetches the tin box and sets it down before EDUFA]

[………………..]

SAM: I won’t go that awful house again.

EDUFA: No. Get something to eat. And rest. You are tired.

[SAM picks up the box and walks eagerly to the bird cage.]

But …Sam. You must let that bird go.

SAM: [Aggrieved] My owl? Oh, master, he is my friend. He’s a bird of an idiot. He likes us. He and I had a nice thought for you on our way…

EDUFA: [Threatingly] Take it out of here. Out.

SAM: Oh… [He picks up bird cage and goes out of the gate muttering sulkily] We’ll stay outside…If they won’t have us in we won’t eat…We will starve ourselves…we…

[………………..]

love isaland

 

14. Hello Day – Worldwide (November 21, 1999) by Kobina Eyi Acquah
In their town
Where good morning
Is offensive
And the very audacity
To offer it unsolicited
Provocative,
Maybe they need
A hello day,
A gesture, a token
Of what could have been.

Here in our village
A man must show cause
Why he passed his neighbour
And did not greet
And ask how he is
And how is home.
In our village too
We need to be reconciled
From strain and friction
But we require more than a day:
The grief-joy mixture
Of knowing and being know
Takes a lifetime to drink.

So if a day must be declared
Then let it be
The beginning of a
Lifetime commitment
To the unbarring
Of windows and gates,
The demolition of fences and walls,
The abolition
Of border ports
And entry permits
Or maybe
All they really want
Is a hello day, no more;
So they can say hello,
Contrapted
Like a toothpaste smile,
Limp
Like their cold fingers-shake.
Maybe all they want
Is the momentary flash, the quick open-lock
Of the shutters
Of the soul.

That way no light comes in
That will wake
Their conscience
Disturb their greed.

And we
We follow in their train

love wod to plasyic toy

 

15.*Consummation by Aisha Nelson
the barrier
falls flat
still and stale

the wall
grinds into clots
of grit and water
just by a drizzle
not rain

the bud
flaunts its secrets
of spikes and flesh
due to a tickle
of dew

blood-frothed throbs of passion
scent-strung beads of sweat

And behold
you are not ashamed
not impregnable

But stand naked
vulnerable
in love

*This poem was first published at Munyori Journal.

love wall, use

Love,

AishaWrites

Fifteen Pieces of Literature: Fifteen Shades of What They Call LO.V.E. (3)

A bundle of myrrh is well-beloved unto me;

he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.

Songs of Songs chapter 1, verse 13 (KJV)

So I have issues – serious and personal – with what gets called as a ‘LOVE Poems’. I explained. Yet I can find, and have found myself falling in love with some Love Poems. This too I explained.

So what? What I think makes some ‘Love Poems’ so special, the real deal?

Out of some kind of reverence for Love Itself, and for Poetry managing to defy Its own odds in order to give a thorough, solid and (con)densed treatment of the Love subject, the real, true love poems, I would say, would rather not parade themselves as ‘Love Poems’.No. Rather than glory in balling up the nobility and boundlessness of both Poetry and Love in one piece, such poems seem to give deference – if not reverence – to the two for allowing themselves to first agree to, and then, let themselves gel and congeal in a way that only the two of them can.

imagesVHF3AU72

In such ‘love poems’, I usually find a rare, impossible mixture of something bordering on both the down-to-earth and divinity.This quality is almost to a fault, a fault which is so striking in its essence and depth and sweep that, one forgives the ‘fault’ in a way that is a quite shy – not short – of awe and yet, too generous for one to even help it. Simply, such poems have character like no other: humility – almighty and enthralling yet, approachable and filling…

Like I said somewhere of KwabenaAgyareYeboah‘s writing, there is someThing about such poems that definitely transcends art and makes an easy cliché of talent – and sometimes, even of what genius means. And it almost does not matter if that piece of poetry was informed and or inspired by some rooted, riveting personal experience or encounter of any kind. Poems of this nature, obviously, are either rare or are not found in every pile, on every day. Or I do not even know what a love poem (really) is.

talent genuis

Much of the – for lack of a better wordmagic of such poems lies in saying the taken-for-granted and the mundane in ways that are much better than just new; in ways that language is capable of and at the time, is bereft of. More of the – again, for lack of a nobler word – success of such ‘love poems’, just like most other poetry, lies in letting every syllable and pause or break of any kind, every capitalization and punctuation –if any at all – and the whole poem says more than its individual parts, and much more than its entirety.

The use of original, apt imagery is one way of a poem can pull of this magic. Imagery is word-based. Other stylistic devices like structure, syntax and versification can also be explored and of course, used to complement the use of imagery. Whichever way a poem achieves this magic, it expands and or creates (new) meanings and (shared) experiences where they never existed, or where these worlds of were even thought to be possible – as far as the medium of language is concerned.

nature ethereal

And the beauty-full-est of all these is that, these magic-s (poems) are so effortless and light and fluid that one wonders whether one is not reading so much into so little. Also, one wonders whether it is ever possible for the profound and the unbounded to really happen; one is forced to wonder whether that really did happen – in such a demure poem of all others. Their brows are not weighed down with mere mechanics. Neither are they, anywhere and in any way – forced into shape and being, and then propped up, with anything that amounts to trying too hard to please – or trying to please or even, wanting to please.

And it is this very lack of want to please – and most times, even indifference to please, too – that makes the reader, the supposed giver of the ‘success’ label, wonder when in the reading of the poem that s/he was shortchanged into giving out the label, quickly and too eagerly, all the while, without remembering any real ‘work’ done by the poem.

succes

Oh, one actually ends up being pulled into and served, literally, the import and the world of the poem. So much so that one forgets all the ready-in-hand, rather artificial criteria for what a poem should look like, should be and should do. Such poems are on no prowl to score such points. In being themselves, they become many things to the many people who encounter them. And much more often than not, they are well able to afford to be the exact someThing that each of the many, many different readers are or will be, were or long to be.

Without so much as even choosing or meaning to, such poems are unassuming, at a glance, or at the start, at least. And this unassuming-ness is as well the (strong)hold of the poem. And to a large extent, this nature is also the magic’s (read, poem’s) success. Such poems. They do not intend, not to even talk of trying, to succeed. Whatever success even means. Such poems, like Love that is true and real and has come to stay, do exist, but again, are not in every pile, and not found every day. Not yet, at least. I think.

olivander-dice[1]

More often than not, and like I once said of Ayikwei Armah’s writing (prose, to be specific) too, such poems get to choose their readers – read, LOVErs. Strangely, this their proud, choosy nature, perfectly fits and gives hold and character to their unassuming, too-humble-to-be-truenature(s).

And this probably explains why every time I forget the title of such poems and or the names of their authors, I know too well that I have not lost anything at all: I may be one lucky, chosen LOVEr of such poems so I can always know that they will draw me unto themselves, with or without much effort in my seeking them out…one time too many. Always, actually. And what more, they will never fail to give me a fresh draught…a new peek…an-other spark…some simple pebble of a wisdom or a twig of thought for keeps – just one more reason of any kind, just someThing to keep me coming back to them.

stair

Such Poetry.

Such Love.

I speak of such Love Poems.

And I present the second set, five of the fifteen Love Pieces, five more shades of the magic that is called L.O.V.E.

 

6. Two Poems by Kofi Anyidoho
Murmuring
I met a tall broadchest
strolling down deepnight
with my fiancée in his arms
She passed me off for a third cousin
On her mama’s side of a dried-up family tree

I nodded and walked away
Murmuring unnameable things to myself

                                                 Bloomington, 9 September 1978

And so

And so
I could go down in crouching posters
I could gather your woes your griefs
I could reach all out for that last
calabash of fresh palm-wine
and
go to sleep to sleep and sleep
sprawled upon the floor amid your tears…
But I would wake up before the squirrel’s
search for a morning meal

                                                Bloomington, 22 November 1978

7. One Art by Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

8. Two Psalms of/by Biblical David ben Jesse.
Psalm 23 (A Psalm of David)

1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
.

Psalm 133 (A Song of Degrees of David)

1 Behold, how good and how pleasant
it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head,
that ran down upon the beard,even Aaron’s beard:
that went down to the skirts of his garments;

3 As the dew of Hermon,
and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion:
or there the LORD commanded the blessing,
even life for evermore.

9.The Prologue (a sonnet) to Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy by William Shakespeare
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

10. I’m Really Very Fond of You by Alice Walker
I’m really very fond of you,
he said.

I don’t like fond.
It sounds like something
you would tell a dog.

Give me love,
or nothing.

Throw your fond in a pond,
I said.

But what I felt for him
was also warm, frisky,
moist-mouthed,
eager,
and could swim away

if forced to do so.