Born a Leo in Accra, Ghana, Prince Mensah attended school at Adisadel College, Extra Mural Academy, African-American HIV University and Mediation Training Institute. He is a poet and playwright who emphasizes on the authenticity of the African experience as a parallel of Western civilization. His inspirations are Jesus Christ, Wole Soyinka, William Shakepeare, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. Prince is a Consultant in Workplace Mediation and is presently working as a Life & Health Insurance Producer. He is married to Charisse and the couple lives in Maryland, USA. Two of his books, Seven Steps to Amazing Love and Memoirs of A Native Son are slated to be in bookstores worldwide by the end of October 2008.
Prince is the head of North American promotions for One Ghana, One Voice.
Five questions with Prince Mensah:
1. What role have Ananse stories played in your life? How have they shaped your writing?
Ananse stories were all that I heard from my parents, uncles and aunts. It was their way of advising and admonishing me. There is a saying in Asante that goes, ‘Oba nyansafuo ye bu nu be, yenkano asem’ which means, 'You speak to a wise child with proverbs, not with speeches.' This has shaped my writing in a manner that I want my readers to reach their own conclusions. I do not want my subject matter to be overtly obvious. There has to be a healthy level of mystique to it.
2. What has the subject of "Ananse stories" allowed you to explore in your writing that you otherwise could not?
I used to write a lot of folklore before I moved to the USA. This project gave me a chance to revitalize that part of my writing. Ananse stories are part and parcel of Akan oral tradition. It is a pity that our children read fairytales in nursery and kindergarten when we can introduce them to Ananse stories or any other folklore unique to our specific cultures.
3. This poem has some really great lines which the tongue just rolls along with, such as "Ananse dwelt and dealt with". This seems to fit well with the subject of the smooth-talking Ananse. How conscious are you of the alignment of the rhythm of your poem with the rhythm of its subject? Does this just come naturally to you?
I did not realize that until you brought it up. I was in the moment of retelling a story and I am excited that I conveyed a sense of Ananse’s character. I try to emphatize with whatever subject I am writing about. I want to see the world from their eyes. As a poet, attention has to be paid to word sounds and sentence flow. I try to do that every time.
4. As demonstrated in your last poem on this site, you have begun setting your poems to images and releasing them as videos on Youtube. How has this experience been for you? What do you think the videos add to the poems for your readers/viewers?
Technology is the sign of the times. As poets, we must take advantage of the internet as the main medium of reaching our readers. You will be able to turn your readers into listeners, which is a step further in the poet-reader relationship. I have used YouTube and Sound Lantern to resounding success. I think because my audience is not sitting right in front of me, the video puts them in the mood and perspective of the poem. Although it is impossible to inject a cinematic aura into a poem of three minutes, it helps the audience talk about the subject after the poem ends.
5. Are you working on any new poems or projects that you think our readers might be interested in?
Two books of mine are going to be in print by the end of October 2008. Seven Steps to Amazing Love by Xulon Press and Memoirs of a Native Son by Publish America. Go get them from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I am preparing some poems for the Yaa Asantewaa and Zimbabwe series. I am working with the Wine Glass Court Poets in Columbia, Maryland to read poetry in parks this fall. I am hoping that we can arrange for a Conference on Black Poetry in North America next year.