I did not start out as someone who loved reading. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t enjoy it terribly. I would always want to go outdoors and play with the neighbourhood children. Then I hit age 12 and my mum said I should bring the children and the play to my house. Now, the children from the neighbourhood were years younger than I was; basically, I was the neighbourhood babysitter. How would I play with about 7 children who were under age 10 after bathing, clothing, and feeding them? I read with and to them, and we would role-play the characters in the book and that was so much fun! Of course, I was always ‘Mama’ and the rest would be the children in the story; I would also play the narrator sometimes and I was always in stitches when we role-played Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs – where anyone who wanted to be the dwarf had to squat to walk…ridiculous!
Poetra Asantewa portrait by Duque for FestivalAfricana
I would go on to high school and settle for Arts as my course of study. All the years of reading at primary school level had shaped my interests and what would be my career in years to come. I chose Literature as one of my Arts subjects, but didn’t know how key it was going to be to my everyday life; I should have taken a hint from how our curriculum back then made Literature a compulsory subject for three years for all students.
Poetry was initially a bit much for me to get; the hidden messages, the short lines, the seemingly incomplete sentences…it was all mind-boggling for me. I was used to reading full sentences in novels; this business of sonnets, free-verses or haikus was doing my head in until my high school teacher made it all make sense to us, and from there I fell in love with poetry.
Have you paid any attention to poetry? Or you think because you’re not an Arts-inclined person poetry isn’t your cup of tea? Poetry is in our everyday life…think about it. Your favourite song is poetry, as is your favourite advert. Your favourite TV show employs scriptwriters, yes, they employ poetry skills. Speech writers for Presidents, CEOs and co, yep – their foundation in poetry is what has given them their career. You get the idea then; poetry is way more than just another subject we learn in school just because we were asked to.
Following my love for poetry, I love to attend any local events I hear of. There are many Ghanaian poets you should check out; Apiorkor (The Matriarch), Nana Asaase, Chief Moomen and Poetra are all Ghanaians with a mastery of their poetry. I actually met Poetra first and nothing prepared me for her; to begin with, her name intrigued me; Poetra. How cleverly done! – I thought.
Poetra combines her spoken words with pleasant and melodious compositions which are original soundtracks while addressing very pertinent and usually social issues that we don’t think much of. She says of her style and works: “I aim to use my writing to analyse things from different perspectives, to view things in slow motion, to question things more, to appreciate things more, to observe things closely, to explore and to create an atmosphere, to look at things more critically”.
Poetra’s works always get me thinking…if I have done better or how I can do better. Love Yourself, Ama Nkrumah and the one I found recently, Hungry. Guess what Hungry dwells on? It’s a spoken word “centered on the relationship between African youth and their respective countries or systems. It was born out of an observation of a lot of the youth migrating to other parts of the world – because of a lack of sustainability and growth at home,” she said in an interview with afrowomen.net
I am hungry for a love my country cannot afford.
I want a love
that will buffer my mistakes even before I commit them
A love that has mapped out the possibilities of my existence
and made room for each one of them
A love that doesn’t need me to clamour to identify as black too
just so I can swim in the opportunity pool
A love that doesn’t need me to be well versed in articulating
how high I am on the needy Olympics scale to be deserving of support
A love that doesn’t even need me to have an archive of pain
to be worthy of inclusion….
It’s World Poetry Day next Monday and we must celebrate all Ghanaian poets, young and old.