Favourite Poems of 2008

Readers' Picks:

Dry Season in Eremon by Edith Faalong (Issue 2.39, September 27th - October 3rd, 2008)
Comments on Dry Season in Eremon:

"First it makes me miss Ghana. It also brings to mind a poem by Kwesi Brew titled The Dry Season. Most important, it evokes the Harmattan, my favourite season. Despite the hardships, dry seasons evoke cycles and returns, and everyone is assured that something better is on the way." - L.S. Mensah

"It brings back fond memories of my visit to extended family members at James Town."
- Giles Kangberee

"Beautiful and touching." - Reggie Kyere

A Flake of Rain by L.S. Mensah (Issue 2.46, November 15th - 21st, 2008)
Comments on A Flake of Rain:

"I love the poem. The use of repetitive words is very effective. It has a sacred mood that immediately demands contemplation of who and where we are as Africans. I must add, however, that it contains a universality that is emphereal. Congrats, L.S Mensah." - Prince Mensah

"The use of metaphor and imagery is well done. It produces a direct and intended affect. It is as crafted as the wooden masks the poet speaks of." - Benjamin Nardolilli

Anansesem by Emma Akuffo (Issue 2.42, October 18th - 24th, 2008)
Comment on Anansesem:

"There are so many wonderful poems that have been published this year on One Ghana, One Voice. But since I have to choose one, it has to be Emma Akuffo's "Anansesem." Her first two lines are some of the best I've ever read. I so want to have lived in this time when a spider ruled the world."
- Laban Hill

Staff Picks:

Without Roots by Edith Faalong
(Issue 2.1, January 5th - 11th, 2008)
Comment on Without Roots:

"My favourite poem for 2008 is Without Roots by Edith Faalong. My goodness, what a splendid way to have begun the year. Edith is so original that I can only ask why she is waiting on her writing career. The tone and themes of this poem captivated me from the first line: 'through the journey i rode behind the jolting bus and reminisced.' The nostalgic essence of Edith's poem is applicable to everyone who misses the land of their birth. I miss Ghana very much and Edith's poem is a time machine for my imagination. Her concluding line:'where does a girl without roots go?' summarizes the sense of loss when you try to reconnect to memories of people and places that no longer exist." - Prince Mensah

Ananse's Grave by Kae Sun (Issue 2.41, October 11th - 17th, 2008)
Comment on Ananse's Grave:

"Kae Sun is an incredibly talented writer and performer, and this is the finest of his poems that I have encountered to date. His efficiency with words and his effective use of rhyme, especially slant rhyme, are truly admirable. The poem rises off the page like a song, but a more adult and sophisticated song than the songs of youth. Add on top of that a powerful message, emphasised so strongly in the closing line, and you have one of the most compelling poems we've published to date." - Rob Taylor

Mother's Touch by Mariska Taylor-Darko (Issue 2.31, August 2nd - 8th, 2008)
Comment on Mother's Touch:

"Mother's Touch deals with a very "touchy" Ghanaian issue: witchcraft and women. It goes to the root cause of our society's readiness to blame whatever is wrong with us upon those who care the most about us. Our lack of commitment to our own goals, together with our willingness to give up, cannot be foisted on our mothers in the name of witchcraft. Mariska's ultimate challenge is for people to own up to their own mistakes. A splendid use of prose poetry!" - Prince Mensah

My Mother's Heart by Reggie Kyere (Issue 2.19, May 10th - 16th, 2008)
Comment on My Mother's Heart:

"A 21 year old writer with little training, Reggie's work shows a formidable amount of intelligence and skill. Reggie knows how to make a poem - how to build his readers up and then send them to the floor, astonished. "Some women love once," he says, then leaves us hanging at the enjambment before landing the closing line "they confess." Wow. Everyone at OGOV is excited to see what will come from him in the future." - Rob Taylor


edithfaalong said...

u honour me ,
humble me.
and my gratitude is boundless

Anonymous said...

It gives a very warm feeling inside to know that words that flowed outside of me were enjoyed and appreciated by you. I am also humbled and challenged to do better things to come.Medawuase, akpe,thank you, gratias, mange tak, merci,

mutombo said...

A very nice website,I like most of the poems.but i have some problems.Don't intend to be mean or rude or anything but this is what i noticed.Most of the poems i read are so bare,they lack the qualities of what a poem is suppose to entail.Poets are suppose to be creative and very deep but most poems here lack qualities like metaphors,rhymes,similes and all that.I will read such poems just once and will never read it again but with deep poems,i get a new hidden understanding anytime i read it!Let try to be more creative.I will start posting some of my poems here very soon.Mutombo da Poet

edithfaalong said...

If this is the mutombo i know, then we welcome u. i have always loved ur style and energy.
Your observations are good and very true. Now i ask us all, what is poetry without poetic techniques and devices? We have great poems here. but sometimes i wonder...where are the metaphors ,rhymes, similes,...? where is the parody,satire,irony...? But we learn to grow so we are on track. Its all good.

edithfaalong said...

Thanks Prince. But poetry is to me a hobby unparalleled. If i make it too much of a profession, what will i do for a hobby? lol!
but at the end of the day, all that matters to me is that my work is appreciated by knowledgeable minds. Thanks again. Love this site

Anonymous said...

Poetry has evolved from metaphors, similes and rhyme...... Some of the best poems on earth do not respect the rules........ It's time to think outside the box as a creative person, my friend......

mutombo said...

I know very well that poetry has evolved from all of those principles one must follow.But if you read or listen to such poems carefully,you will realize that the same principles are used but not clearly visible.Take note.'bare' poems to me are just some forms of essays.Take a poem like, 'The Lesson' by Maya Angelou.Which to me is a very simple poem but i get something new anytime i read it.Let's be artistic with our poems and it will pay off.I like some of the poems here though and Edith,it's me,the Mutombo you still know!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the recognition.i believe ti will spur me on to write better poems even still learning.i know i have a long way to go but this recognision is a boost.

Anonymous said...

mutombo,i know you on NTI POETRY.you are a good performance poet.i have heared your poem "jesus is a blackman".i don't know if it is that deep and contains all the qualities you claim are suppose to be in a good poem.there is one question i want us to answer as poets.What makes good poetry and who decides?can't wait for your poems mutombo.

Rob Taylor said...

Good questions, Reggie, to be sure. An upcoming round table discussion, perhaps?

Unlike most of the poets on this site, Mutombo comes from a spoken word background - so its not surprising that he emphasises certain elements of poetry over others, most notably rhyme (which has fallen out of favour in most "page poetry" circles).

Hopefully, OGOV can serve all of Ghana's poets, regardless of their aesthetic preferences - page and performance poets side-by-side in mutual admiration.

Mutombo and Reggie's challenge for all of us is an important one: What makes good poetry? How can we strengthen are poems? How can we better utilize formal elements of poetry (not just rhyme, metaphor and simile, but also enjambment, alliteration, assonance, synecdoche, etc. etc. etc.)?

Looking forward to your submission, Mutombo - and to more strong submissions from everyone in 2009!

Anonymous said...

Motombo, i read Maya Angelou's The Lesson...did you realize it had no regard for syllables, rhymes and metaphors?....it was based on how the words made sense...but i would love to hear what you've got....this is a place we can can agree to disagree, right?....Long live Mother Ghana.

Emmanuel Sigauke said...

Welcome to OGOV, Mutombo.
I like the reponses your comment has generated, and the follow-up you have made to responses. After writing and teaching poetry, I am once again committing myself to revising and learning the basic conventions of poetry, the ones we break, as Anonymous pointed out. The problem with some writers who advocate the breaking of convention is that sometimes they do so before they learn what it is they are trying to break. Think of music and what musicians have to learn: there has got to be that basic note upon which you can develop an individual style, otherwise there will be problems of acceptance.

Rob, Edith (whose poetry is rich with imagery, tropes, etc), Mariska and others (Reggie!), I would love to see this dialogue grow; I think as poets we owe to ourselves and our readers, as Mutombo suggests, to learn our skills well.

Mary Kinze, experienced teacher of poetry and practising poet, as described poetry as always provisional and temporal, that you are never done writing that poem, even the ones that have been published here on OGOV. Even Yeats would consider rewriting most of his poems. She goes on to say that poetry, even "after it has hardened into print", continues to "to represent a risk, a chance, a surmise, or hypothesis about itself."

The tool that we work with as poets, language, is too risky; it often fails to capture the meaning we seek, if we know it, hence our escape to imagery, and other gimmickry (and as Edith said, "It's all good". To some extent). So as we revise our works, let's put the medium (language, words) to use, work it until it delivers...

For those seeking to use the Writer's Service, this would be the best time to work with a very critical me, because I have committed my brief winter break to understand what poetry wants....

mutombo said...

reggiekyere,it's true,I have been on NT1 Poetry on a couple of occasions.I organize and perform on the show.Even though most of my poems on that show are several years old,they contained all he qualities you want to know for your info.I'm not saying all those qualities are necessary in every poem one writes.It simply acts as a 'spice',if you understand me!it makes its sound better and nicer and for me,such a poem will get me to listen or read again because i definitely know i will get a new meaning to a line i read before.hope you understand me.

Now to Rob Taylor,it might surprise you,but before i started spoken word!I was writing 'original poetry' and some of my poems have been appreciated by some well-known poets in the States.I dont know why i took this turn but i just wanted to feel free and make my thoughts toss over the oceans when i write,hence the branch to spoken words.

All i am trying to put across is simple!!Let's take time to write,we shouldn't rush to finish a poem.One shouldn't be basic but very creative,following some principles of poetry is also necessary.I'm writing a poem now titled 'Ghanaian Heaven',i started on the 26th of December and i'm still writing because of some reasons i know most of you know.i love to see beautiful people like you who 'cruelly' want to share my 1st love with me....Lol

Rob Taylor said...

A good time for a reminder about the Writer's Service, to be sure, Emmanuel. I too encourage everyone to learn more by clicking on the "Writer's Service" link in the sidebar. What Emmanuel is offering is a great gift to the African writing community, and hopefully it will be well used.

It does seem the interest is there for a discussion group on this going forward - I'll keep that in mind for future planning. Who needs a formal discussion group, of course, when we can have an impromptu one here?

Mutombo, hoping to see "Ghanaian Heaven" soon - though not too soon, of course!

mutombo said...

Rob...Ghanaian heaven wont be posted here.I'm doing some special poems for this website.dont want to drift away from the lot..have to stay with my 'family!!lol

Anonymous said...

It is gratifying to read the interesting back-and-forth on this great website . Motombo raised a lot of legitimate concerns, so did Anonymous. Reggie's opinion was superb, in that poetry, being both subjective and objective at the same time, was at the mercy of intepretation. Emmanuel is right. We must learn before we can improvise.

Personally, I take the writing of poetry as a creative project. It is up to the reader to take it or leave it. I make no apologies for what and how I write. Poetry is like a Van Gogh painting: you either like it or you don't. I write poetry not to pander to expections but to press on to new grounds, to something unheard of, something unique. You should be able to write without the fear of being rejected. The greatest writers were not understood by the societies they lived in. As a poet, we ought to see beyond the horizon. We have to feel what is coming. We are prophets of the word and if our message is ignored, so be it. The fulfillment of any tru poet is in the completion of the poem.

As my favorite rapper, Nas, said, 'People fear what they do not understand/Hate what they can't conquer... Are we going to write as expected of us? Or are we going to write based on some original structure, formulated from the depths of our individuality.

I think what we as writers, especially African writers, must use our creativity to challenge the status quo, to establish something new, something original, carved out of the kaleidoscope of our varying experiences.

Yes, we all grew up reading Keats, Wordsworth et al, but we are Africans. We have our own kind of poetry and it is in the power of words to stun, search and simplify great truths. I know this is a debatable issue but before we speak, let us remember who we are as poets and what we are trying to achieve with our poetry. Rob, this is the chance for poets to bare their souls about their art. I am truly honored to be part of this.

Anonymous said...

well spoken prince!i write poetry everyday and ask myself,is it good enough,are they going to like it,does it have metaphors,similies and other literary devices?doesn't it just have to express a feeling,evoke emotions(just have to be beautiful)?.as a person beginning to learn and write poems,it gets very frustrating not knowing every poetry device.and we should also not forget that as poets hoping to get published we always write with our critics in mind.

Emmanuel Sigauke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emmanuel Sigauke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emmanuel Sigauke said...

I deleted the original version of this comment for revision purposes. Below is the proofread version:

Prince said: Yes, we all grew up reading Keats, Wordsworth et al, but we are Africans. We have our own kind of poetry and it is in the power of words to stun, search and simplify great truths.

I like your reference to the African worldview and the need for African poets to remember who they are.

While it is true that as Africans we have our own kind of poetry, I'm certain that some African poets writing today have no idea what that "kind of poetry is".

Is it poetry informed by traditional praise poetry? Is it informed by grio chants? Is it from the beauty and rhythm of traditional African conversational games, e.g. as in traditional riverside courtship encounters? Or is it poetry only concerned with content over form?

Is this truly African poetry written in African languages? Is it something that can be taught or is it something inherent in all Africa poets? What skills do you have to learn from the African masters to produce that poetry? Or is each poet the original master of this poetry? What sets if apart from, say, Indian poetry? The experiences? The way we render the experiences in words?

Or is it really important for a beginning African poet to attempt to answer even half of the above questions?

Anonymous said...

Emmanuel, you have a valid point about some poets writing with no sense of direction or zero knowledge about their art. What I was talking about concerns the soul of an artist who is coerced by circumstances (societal perceptions, opinions and myths) to write a certain way. I want freedom of expression in the writing of every poet, experienced or not, for that is a better way of starting the journey of writing. You can have a person who knows all that needs to be learned about poetry, yet his/her poetry sounds like everybody else's. On the other hand, you can have a person with no knowledge about literary devices but with an acute sense of his surroundings. Which of the two will be a better student? Yes, it will always be the first example. Which of the two will be able produce original work? The second example because of the in-built ability to notice the unseen in the most visible of experiences. Whereas I fully agree to pedagogy in the arts, I think talent has to be given its own space to flutter its wings.

An Ashanti proverb goes, 'Obi nkyere akwala Nyame.' - 'Nobody can point a child to the pathway to God.' As an African poet, I shall alway vouch for experimentalism. There is so much to be done with this gift of writing that one must be encouraged to do one what one feels is the best expression they can garner on some issue. Inspiration is a one-on-one experience and it is important to nurture originality, in any form, whether it conforms to established norms or not.

I really appreciate this debate because it is bringing our challenges as African poets to the fore. Thank you, Mutombo and Reggie. Thank you for igniting a deliberation that will go a long way to help us all as poets.

Anonymous said...

As to 'our kind of poetry', it is the responsibility of each individual poet to begin a journey to find what kind of structure best suits his/her ideas. I am passionate about this because of the global hunger for African literature. Since this website is a birthing place for great poets and writers of African descent, I will argue for undiluted expressions of the African experience. In as much as I love Western poetry, I do not want to regurgitate everything it tells me.

I hope my advocacy for originality is not misconstrued as an advocacy for ignorance. For indeed, real poets educate themselves so well that they become masters of the subjects they write about.

L S Mensah said...

Hi all, and thanks for nominating my work. I come to this thread rather late. I agree with the first part of Mutombo's criticism about some of the poems being bare. I take issue though with his point about rhymes and such because I believe it's rather old hat.

The debate about whether to rhyme or not has raged for over 400 years, from the mid 16th century. Probably most of Shakespeare's plays have no end rhyme. Besides, rhymes, similes, metaphors do not in themselves make or break a poem. One has to consider the poem's own internal dynamics as well as its comment on or about the world.

Emmanuel, your point about escape into imagery is similar to one raised by Chinweizu. I think we should all read that essay/article, as it is considered the starting point of modern African criticism.

At the end of the day, it is up to the poet to decide how to engage with the subject, and trust that your reader is mature enough to make sense of it.

One can still write African poetry without being too Negritudinist. Remember, Negritude was discredited long ago.

Anonymous said...

negritude is, i think, talking about your culture through the eyes of another.......i agree with L S Mensah.....we want the real thing.....good discussion...everyone is passionate....no one way is the best way....find your way....thank you!

Anonymous said...

i'm loving the discussion.what makes a poem african?i really want to know.

Anonymous said...

Wow, 24 comments already! I love this! With regards to L S Mensah's comment, I am very pleased that she mentioned negritude. I think Anonymous also mentioned something to that effect, as well. Negritude has been discredited for its fawning mimicry of western patterns. But what has taken its place? A new face on the same, supposedly discredited, concept. Obviously, we do not call it negritude now: we call it something else, something nice to cover the lack of orginality.

This brings me to the premise of what I have been writing about since yesterday. Negritude made us copycats. Knowing who and what you are makes you original, which comes out in everything you do, including writing poetry. Now I am not saying everyone should write from one motivation. Not at all. Sometimes, I write poetry as a man. Sometimes, as an African man. Sometimes, as a black man. I do not stick to one motivation. For we are more than citizens of one country, we are citizens of the world, as Socrates advised his students to become. But in as much as one discovers the world, one cannot disconnect with the preliminary essence of his/her identity.

I see myself as an African poet with the task of intepreting my experiences on God's green earth from windows of my heritage. Another poet might choose to represent themselves in a totally different way, which is great. Bottom line, we are entrusted, as poets and writers, to provide whoever reads our works with beautiful mosaics of the human experience.

I love Chinweizu. He is a true artist, passionate about his work enough to challenge the intellectual powers at a time it was unheard of for an African to do so. This is the kind of poet I was talking about in my previous posts: firm, focused and founded on faith in who he was. Chinweizu, being a true Pan-Africanist, vouched for the injection of Pan-African themes into our literature, instead of dwelling on parochial themes. I respect that. However, Wole Soyinka, who Chinweizu criticized for being elitist, pays attention to sensitivities of the tribe and the individual. Soyinka positions thoses sentiments in relation to history, politics and economics. I am not here to argue on behalf of both men. They have done enough in their lives, to speak for themselves through their writings.

So we have two schools of thought on the identity of the African poet: Pan-Africanist and parochial. Both serve noble purposes. One is grand; the other is local. An African poet or writer must be able to choose how he or she wants to express him/herself without being accused of this or that. As Anonymous said, 'no one way is the best way'. The best way is what a poet or writer is absolutely comfortable with.

I read Reggie's comments and I realized his state of confusion because everyone is trying to chip in on his work. He has to seek guidance, if he wants it. But he must be left to find out truths for himself as poet. Is he going to write in rhyme? That's his choice. Is he going to use syllables and homonyms? That is his choice. If Reggie needs help, he is free to contact pros like Rob and Emmanuel, which is a service, I think, must be used by everyone who take their art seriously. But the real education shall only come through Reggie's hunger for more knowledge.

So as we go back and forth with our ideas, it is important for us not to tell people how to create. We can only suggest fine tuning and offer feedback. The final product is the prerogative of the poet.

Anonymous said...

Hello there!

I am from the Philippines and I am enjoying the poems here. Being in this website reminds me of a very, very thoughtful friend from Ghana, Selasi ;)

Congratulations to the poets here. Happy new year!


Emmanuel Sigauke said...

That poetry you already write, Reggie, that's African poetry. Just believe in it and remember that "writing poetry is like trying to catch a black cat in a dark room" (as fellow poet Robert Greacen said). While we are eager to express our individuality, which is a good thing, we should also read other poets. Read another poet daily--good poetry, bad poetry. Listen to the poetry in our music, listen to the spoken word, listen to the poetry in the dialogue of the market women & men.

Anonymous said...

I hope I'm not telling people how/what to write. I made the point about negritude because it has become the default thing to do. I write negritude myself, but the important thing is to move away. I don't believe all the poets of the past wrote negritude. Okigbo, Awoonor and others have proved that point again and again.

I guess one has to start from what one's familiar with and then go on with it, Awoonor and Anyidoho have made the Ewe dirge their own. If you take a cursory look at any collection of african poetry, e.g. Poets of Black Africa ed. by Soyinka, the selection runs the gamut: from incantations, through praise poetry to songs of abuse, libation etc.

It is also important to look at critical writings relating to the individual writers we like. One always learns more.

Sometimes even the best critics may not be the best writers, and Chinweizu is a case in point. He may one of the best critics, but his own poetry leaves much to be desired.

A look at the poetry logs on this site makes one thing clear: that our choices of the poets we like/read are rather narrow (you guys can crucify me for that), but everyone including myself, probably likes Awoonor, Brew, Anyidoho, etc. Our choices are also ltd by region: West Africans read west African poetry, Southern africans read Southern African poets. There are others out there too, and I think broadening these would in turn, help in broadening our own writing. sBut enough of my lecturing.

P S for those interested, I have a digital version of a very good creative writing book with exercises, but you'll have to contact me personally. For copyright reasons, I can't post it anywhere on this site.

mutombo said...

Been gone for too long..Sorry guys,I travelled a little bit to Benin and Togo.I am now back and look out for my poem this week.Hope you all like it when you read.

daniela elza said...

What an interesting discussion. Thank you. I want to congratulate the participants for being able to not only speak passionately but also respectfully. Which points to a thirst to find out more than to impose an opinion. These are for me the discussions worth pursuing.

Now to add my two cents to it. I sympathize with pretty much everything said here because it points to the many sides of this debate, and the multifaceted nature of poetry. I definitely sense everyone's commitment to poetry, which fills my heart with joy, because i believe the poetic experience is a transformative experience (and I mean both reading and writing poetry). As philosopher Gaston Bachelard says in his book The Poetics of Reverie (very poetic book by the way): "Poetry forms the dreamer and his world at the same time." So how we make meaning transforms us and the world we live in. I especially resonate with Prince K. Mensah regarding form and content.
he said:
"I think what we as writers, especially African writers,must use our creativity to challenge the status quo, to establish something new, something original, carved out of the kaleidoscope of our varying experiences."

I struggled for about 20 years with the way I was taught poetry: before I could feel poetry, i was told what it is, or should look like, or sound like. And then for a while i completely rejected form because I felt it stifled and limited what i wanted to say.

And eventually, while working with a mentor who guided me through this turmoil I realized what I wanted to do. He could see me trying to break out and he encouraged it. for which I am very grateful.

So as teachers and critics we have a huge responsibility not to kill the innovative when we see it.
I also have to add that when that happened I recognized my form. It is like seeing something you have never seen before, and yet recognizing it. Funny concept, isn't it. It is an amazing feeling. It is like coming home. :-)
I am also trying to bridge two fields that are marginalized: namely poetry and philosophy. I love the conciseness of poetry and the depth of philosophy. I know there could be criticism there as well, but i also strongly believe that poetry should be philosophical, as philosophy should be more poetic. Philosophy has become so abstract that not many people are willing to read the tomes and unravel the dense language which eventually stops to mean anything. Like money, it is not worth much unless it is in circulation. Hence its name: currency (suggesting flowing). And poetry as is mentioned in this discussion has also become "bare." I would use the word shallow. So many poems do not invite us to go back a second time.

And I am also sure things will change as I change and evolve as a poet.

So yes, let us read poetry, let us study with mentors and teachers, because they are all pointing the way to what is and has been possible so far. But at the same time, I would encourage you all to trust yourself and what you are witnessing arising within you. That is your unique thumbprint, how your experience is refracted through your unique being in the world. And listen to that as well, and see what kind of magic arises. Trusting yourself and your path is very important. Supporting each other is crucial. Partly because it is seeing yourself through the eyes and sensibilities of others who love to do what you are doing.

I will leave you with a quote from the introduction to a book by philosopher Felix Guattari called The three Ecologies.
"Life is a work in progress, with no goal in sight, only the tireless endeavour to explore new possibilities, to respond the the chance event—the singular point—that takes us off in a new direction. As Bacon once remarked, 'I always think of myself not so much as a painter but as a medium for accident and chance.' So Guattari has extended his definition of ecology beyond merely environmental concerns to include human subjectivity itself."

I think this is important in the world today when we worry about our environment and ecology, to understand that not only the earth is endangered by our actions on it, but also our singular and unique selves. Which I think poetry is a beautiful place to share, especially when we are committed to exploring the tradition along side the innovative.

Thanks for all your thoughts and
sorry this ended up so long. Maybe I should have just written a poem to capture it. :-)