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. "Beach" is from his unpublished anthology, entitled, "Memoirs of A Son of Ghana".
Five Questions with Prince Mensah:
1. "Beach" portrays a common scene that can be found on much of the West African coast, and does so with great detail and accuracy. Was it inspired by a particular place? Did you write it while experiencing the scene, or did you produce it from memory?
I wrote ‘Beach’ from the many memories I had when I was a high school kid at Adisadel. I used to hang out at the beach at the Cape Coast Castle. Some of the memories are from Labadi Pleasure Beach as well. I believe the sea has the combination of the powers of creation. The elements find their voices in the sea and its poetic value is simply phenomenal. As a poet, my responsibility is to observe and obtain every level of meaning that a scene, like the sea, offers. Life, being multi-layered, gives one the premise to write about what is seen and experienced.
2. You seem to present the fishermen in "Beach" as both luck and unlucky - risking their lives and yet somehow achieving a freedom because of it. How does this compare with Ghanaians who travel abroad for education or work, such as yourself?
Fishermen are one of the most daring groups of people on earth. They also are the most superstitious. Bravery is a gift and a curse. If not controlled well, it becomes bravado. The same with anyone who travels outside his/her sphere of comfort. Ghanaians outside miss the relaxed atmosphere of their country, where weekends are used for family interaction. They, however, love the opportunities that they get when they travel. The haunting truth is that we wish our motherland was the relaxing place where we had wonderful opportunities. The corresponding truth is that it is not so. This applies to a fisherman who decides to leave the security of the land to the uncertainties of the ocean because the sea rewards him instantly for his hard work.
3. The new "fishermen" soon to be plying Ghana's coast will be oilmen in tankers. How do you feel about this? In your last profile you said of Ghanaians "If the people were open to change, what a great nation we can become in a very short time." Do you feel that time is now, that Ghanaians are ready for this financial windfall?
Oil. Oil. Oil. Are we going to become a new Nigeria or Saudi Arabia? Is the schism between the rich and poor going to be even bigger than it is now? Is corruption going to subside so that each and every Ghanaian can now have a piece of the national cake? Ghanaians are optimists. Great personalities but we tend to be distracted by the glitz of the short term and in doing so, sacrifice the seismic impact of the long term. We have the chance at last to become like the rest of the world. Are we prepared to overhaul the socio-economic dynamics to meet the demands of a fast-growing economy? Or are we going to be dwarfed by our opportunities that strangers will have to come in and show us the way to run affairs? Personally, I am thrilled because if we handle this blessing well, there will be less reason for brain drain.
4. In your last profile you discussed different ways Ghanaians could gather to produce and promote their writing. On a personal level, are there other writers you speak or meet with on a regular basis? What kind of support do you have for your own writing?
Collaboration is essential to recognition. Most African writers like to work alone. With an under-educated populace, it is very crucial to relate to the people through the use of local dialects to convey poetic thought. We cannot be using English all the time because it makes us lose the original dynamics that our dialects offer. I have a circle of friends who critique my work. They are actors, engineers, financial analysts, et cetera. I like it that way because they offer really interesting perspectives and my knowledge base becomes eclectic, as a result. My website is my primary kiosk to the world. I am now a member of the Academy of American Poets and do hope to meet people who give priority to African literature.
5. "Animal", your last profiled poem, is one of the most popular poems on our site. What do you think makes it so attractive to readers?
I wrote "Animal" because it is about the realities of being a sojourner in a foreign land and the reality that awaits you when you return to your own land of birth. You are nostalgic of your homeland and that becomes an inspiration for you. It becomes a slap in your face when you return to realize a different set of circumstances that is akin to what you had experienced on foreign soil. People tend to relate to that kind of existential disillusionment. Things change even as we change and that is what great poetry should be about.
Prince's Past Profiles:
Issue 1.18, July 21st - 28th, 2007