Rob Taylor lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He is a graduate of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. His poetry has appeared in numerous print and online magazines, and he has published a chapbook, entitled splattered earth. He is a co-founder of SFU's High Altitude Poetry.
He lived in Ghana with his partner, Marta, from September 2006 until March 2007. His chapbook manuscript of poems from Ghana, entitled child of saturday, is currently seeking a publisher.
The poem five hours from tamale, back of the bus appeared previously in the January 2007 issue of High Altitude Poetry.
Rob is a co-founder of One Ghana, One Voice.
Five Questions with Rob Taylor:
1. How long have you been writing poetry?
I’ve been writing since 2001 and working to get my poems published since 2004.
2. Who are your favorite poets? Which poets have most inspired you and informed your work?
The two writers who, in high school, first got me interested in poetry were Robert Frost and Paul Simon. Currently, my favorite poets include Al Purdy, Charles Bukowski, Carl Sandburg, Kobena Eyi Acquah, Langston Hughes, Aislinn Hunter, Billy Collins, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Liam Ford, Jenn Ku, and Mariner Janes. Since starting this site that list has expanded to include Julian Adomako-Gyimah, Vida Ayitah, and others. Amongst that list, the poets that have most influenced my own writing style would be Purdy, Sandburg, Collins, Ford and Janes.
3. You are a Canadian, right? So why the strong interest in promoting poetry on Ghana, and Africa, for that matter?
I lived in Accra with my partner, Marta, for seven months (September 2006 to March 2007). During my time in Accra one of the things I wanted to do most was find other writers who could inspire and encourage me, and vice versa. I had great difficulty doing this, however, and found myself very isolated as a writer. This was additionally frustrating to me because when it came to other passions in my life, especially football, there were easily accessible, lively communities that I could get involved with.
As I continued to study Ghanaian literature, I learned just how vibrant a writing community there has been in Ghana in the past. Everyone knows the big names of the 60s and 70s: Kofi Awoonor, Efua Sutherland, etc. But who are the big names now? Where is the next generation of writers? I couldn’t find them anywhere.
With the writer’s community appearing to me to be so weak, I wanted to do something to help, and upon meeting Julian we were spurred to set up this site as one very small contribution to the re-construction of Ghana’s writing community.
4. What impact do you think poetry and poets can have on the socio-cultural setting and politics in Ghana?
One thing I love about Ghanaian poetry is how overtly political it often is. Many of the poems on this site, such as “This Is The Time”, “Portrait” and "Atonement" have tackled political issues head on. This is very rarely, if ever, attempted in North America, especially in Canada. Because of this, I think Ghanaian poetry has a greater potential to influence the minds of the public, and of the decision-makers themselves, than North American poetry.
Ghanaian poets usually seem to be trying to tell their readers something – to communicate an idea or a strong emotion. In North America, it is often hard to tell whether authors are considering their audience at all, which makes their writing far more isolated and unable to influence their society.
That being said, do I think the impact of poetry and poets on Ghanaian society is currently great? Not at all. But I think it has the potential to be great, so long as talented poets keep writing and promoting their work, and keep building and expanding upon a community of interested readers.
5. What is the way forward for Ghanaian and African poets? In other words, how do you see Ghanaian poets within the next few years?
I feel that it’s not my place to suggest a way forward. Granted, I would like to see One Ghana, One Voice play a role in the development of a stronger Ghanaian writing community, but only a peripheral role. Ghanaian organizations such as the Pan-African Writers Association and The Writers Fund of Ghana, along with strong-minded and talented individuals, are the ones who are doing the most important work, and who should take the lead going forward.
Beyond suggesting any particular direction, what I would like to see is more action: more participation and more conversations between writers. Who knows where those conversations will take Ghanaian poetry, but I, for one, look forward to watching it happen.