Prince Mensah was born in August 1977 to Dr. Louis and Rose Mensah. He attended Adisadel College, Extra Mural Academy, African-American HIV University(USA) and Mediation Training Institute(USA). He has written an extensive body of work including plays that have been staged at the Arts Center in Accra. "Animal" is from his unpublished anthology, entitled, "Memoirs of A Son of Ghana".
Five Questions with Prince Mensah:
1. How long have you been writing poetry?
I have been writing poetry since the age of seven. In 1984, I started writing about my friends from Sunday School at Calvary Baptist Church, Adabraka.
2. Who are your favorite poets? Which poets have most inspired and informed your work?
My favorite poets are Shakespeare, Wole Soyinka, William Blake, Dennis Brutus, Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. Most people see Shakespeare in much of a dramatic sense, but he was a wonderful poet. Even in his plays, his poetry was so profound with the truths he expounded. Shakespeare has been my inspiration since high school because of his merging of genres whenever he wrote. Poets such as Keats, Yeats, Byron and Shelley have been inspirations for me, as well.
3. What is your opinion about the state of poetry in Ghana today?
Ghanaians are capable of astounding poetry. In the music of Kojo Antwi, the Twi language becomes the tip of a colorful paintbrush. We have Ama Ata Aidoo, Kofi Awoonor and the Sutherland sisters. I must state that we have allowed Nigerians to take center-stage of African literature. This must change for there is a certain pulchritude yet to be expressed in Ghanaian writing. The state of poetry in Ghana is below par. There is a dire need for poetry clubs, open mics and intellectual cafes in our country. An intelligentsia must emerge that uses the sophistry of good education and relates it to the wealth of our own society.
4. Your plays have been performed at the Arts Centre in Accra. Do you believe the Arts Centre, or similar venues, can play a role in promoting Ghanaian poetry? If so, how so?
My plays, The Hunter's Tale, Consequences and Alonzo were acted at the Accra Arts Center circa 1998 – 2000. Other plays, Fate of the Rebels and The Drum of Danger have been in circular in several drama groups.
The arts should be given fora and the Arts Centers are certainly great places to start. Ghanaians are imbued with a great appreciation of the arts. We have to make a structured, lucrative business out of it. We must internationalize our art forms, packaging them into performable products that can be run throughout the world. I think there has been an over-emphasis on dance and slapstick. We need compelling stories to be told, charismatic poetry to be written and a willing audience to be developed at home.
5. How has your time studying abroad changed your perception of your homeland?
Ghana has always evoked thoughts of joy and disappointment. Sometimes, the question is, how can a people so good and smart be so poor and helpless? We have become copycats of the West, gulping down whatever broth their cultures brew. We forget that Ghana was one of the greatest empires ever founded in Africa. We must be able to market our nation with such vivacity and urgency because we have a lot to offer to the world. My perception of Ghana is like a man’s love with good wine. It gets better with time. If the people were open to change, what a great nation we can become in a very short time.