Benjamin Nardolilli is a twenty-two year old writer currently attending New York University, where he studies creative writing, history, and philosophy. He has had poetry published in the Houston Literary Review, Perigee Magazine, Canopic Jar, Lachryma: Modern Songs of Lament, and the Delmarva Review.
Five Questions with Benjamin Nardolilli:
1. How long have you been writing poetry?
I have been writing poetry for about three years now. I started during my first year of college but it took a while for me to write anything worth showing anyone else and even longer to write anything publishable.
2. Who are your favorite poets? Which poets have most inspired and informed your work?
My favorite poets are Eliot, Whitman, Pound, Paul Celan, Allen Ginsberg, The Greek Tragedians, and bits and pieces of Shakespeare. I would say that my poetry is mostly informed by them, "Osagyefo" was probably inspired by a mix of Eliot and Pound, but also as much from the way many rock musicians such as Bob Dylan have referenced historical and current events in their work.
3. When did your awareness of Nkrumah, and understanding of his role in Ghanaian and World history, first emerge?
I was pretty much ill-informed about Nkrumah until my junior year (3rd year) of college when I took a course on Ghana at New York University. I knew Ghana had lead the way in African decolonization, but why it had been Ghana and how, I did not know. But during that class I learned how Nkrumah became a leader for Ghana, and then Africa, and eventually for the non-aligned/"third" world. The final grade involved writing a paper comparing Nkrumah and Nyerere's versions of African socialism, which brought me into contact with his thought and not just his political life. As part of my research, I was able to use an original pamphlet from the 1960s that my professor Richard Hull had brought over from Ghana when he was studying there at the time.
4. What inspired you to write about Nkrumah? What about Nkrumah makes him an interesting subject for poetic study?
I feel what makes him an interesting subject for poetic study is the tragedy of his life. He was a smart, ambitious, and dedicated person, who applied his strengths to win independence for his people from Britain. He had a vision that was beyond his time and was already studying neo-colonialism before colonialism was officially done. Nkrumah sought an independent path to prosperity and freedom. However despite his grand dreams and his work as a liberator, he fell victim to paranoia and became deaf to problems at home as he tried to become a world leader. He died, not in his own country, or even his continent, much maligned by the Ghanaian people who probably felt betrayed by a man they had put such high hopes in.
5. How do you think Nkrumah has been, and will be, remembered by history? How do you think he should be remembered?
He will always be remembered as the father of Ghana's independence. That much is certain. And as Africa moves gradually to increasing interdependence, he will be celebrated too, for his Pan-Africanism. His context in the Cold War may not be publicly celebrated. His reputation has certainly improved since his death and the problems of his rule will most likely be seen in the context of their times, especially since there were far worse leaders in other countries.