How long have we been writing poetry?

As regular readers will know, one of the routine questions we ask new poets on this site is “How long have you been writing poetry?”. As we’ve done in the past with poets’ places of origin and residence, and their writing influences, we’ve decided to take a moment to look at how “experienced” our writers are. Hopefully this exercise will reveal something about the state of OGOV and possibly of Ghanaian poetry – we’ll see!

We’ve looked at the answers that fifty-three poets have given to the question “How long have you been writing poetry?” to compile the following statistics:

Writing experience of poets on OGOV:

Less than 1 year: 4%
1 – 2 years: 11%
3 – 5 years: 13%
5 – 10 years: 28%
10 - 20 years: 28%
20+ years: 15%

Five years or less: 28%
Ten years or less: 56%
More than ten years: 44%

The numbers don't show how active poets have been over the years - whether they have written consistently or have taken breaks from time to time. Nor do they show the depth of study undertaken by the poets. All that considered, there is still a good deal of experience out there - more than one might expect for a site that features so many young poets. If we break the numbers down a bit we learn a bit more:

Ghanaian born poets:

Less than 1 year: 6%
1 – 2 years: 12%
3 – 5 years: 15%
5 – 10 years: 29%
10 - 20 years: 26%
20+ years: 12%

Five years or less: 33%
Ten years or less: 62%
More than ten years: 38%

Non-Ghanaian born poets:

Less than 1 year: 5%
1 – 2 years: 0%
3 – 5 years: 11%
5 – 10 years: 37%
10 - 20 years: 37%
20+ years: 11%

Five years or less: 16%
Ten years or less: 52%
More than ten years: 48%

Surpising? Non-Ghanaian poets have more experience, but only somewhat. In fact, the only sub-group with notably different results was the following:

Ghanaian born poets, now residing internationally:

Less than 1 year: 0%
1 – 2 years: 0%
3 – 5 years: 22%
5 – 10 years: 11%
10 - 20 years: 56%
20+ years: 11%

Five years or less: 22%
Ten years or less: 33%
More than ten years: 67%

Ah, this is where our real experience lies: the ex-pat Ghanaian! If these numbers reflect the reality in the Ghanaian poetry community, then it suggests an interesting problem, one faced by so many sectors of the economy: if the most experienced Ghanaians have left the country, how can we ensure that their experience still gets passed on to up-and-coming writers? A question to mull over for the week!

In answering the initial question of "How long have you been writing poetry?", some poets replied with the age they wrote their first poem, while others replied with the age they started “seriously” writing poetry. For consistency, we looked only at post-secondary school experience (i.e. a poet who has written since they were five, and is now 24, would be considered to have 6-7 years experience, not 19).
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