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).
OH HEAVENS, THERE IS'NT A POEM TO READ AT ALL. ANYWAY, LET ME FORGET IT.
This stock is one significant data that brings to bear the tangible importance of OGOV as a medium with an objective and - more rewardingly - an achievement. Much credit to the founders.
Without taking the sectional details of the statistics to task, I will briefly state that each index of percentage reflects the emerging growth of poetry as a skill / tool for our national development. Hence, the record of Ghanaian home poets is more progressive than impressive. The disadvantage of the many ex-pats is undisputable, as it is obvious.
I also believe that the quantity of poets and their experience are relevant assets to poetry as an art. Yet the quality of material presented, by the relatively small fraction of Ghanaian poets, has given hope for (a nationwide-level) advancement in the future. In my optimism, I predict a Wole Soyinka to come out of our poets.
As I take quality into account, we shouldn't be disappointed even if the much experiend poets are not prolific. Their interviews might have told us just a book or two in their profile. Which can be blamed on the lack of publishing opportunities in Ghana.
If I were a book-publisher, I should have learnt by now that taking-up, for instance, the works of Foster or Agyei-Baah, wouldn't be a risk.
Interesting! What about gender?
Thanks for the interesting data. I think we have a problem on our hands. It seems unimportant, parochially speaking (I mean in terms of poetry contributions to OGOV alone), but it tells you quite a lot about developments in Ghana.
Wait a minute, aren't there many poets who are actually not contributing to OGOV? I know quite a few. May be we can start reaching out to such people, and I tell you, the figures will change.
CORRECTION:Pls replace national-level with nationwide-level, in my first commentary. Thanks.
'ARE YOU PROUD OF GHANAIAN POETS?', ASKED A KENYAN FRIEND.
In response to a private question (as quoted above) which a friend sent me last week, I will affirm publicly that the quality of their work on OGOV, within the 2-year period, is one of the million reasons why I am proud of my homeland poets.
My friend, Biliki, had questioned me in reaction to my commentary on Kathy's 'Polygamy'. In case other readers were puzzled, or would in future be puzzled, may I pre-empt that whatever I wrote was a quest for versatility among our poets - while praising Kathy's dynamics.
Depending one's criterion of judgement, when my (own) poems are compared to the poets I criticise, I may not be half as good as the least among them.
Therefore, in that call for versatility, I didn't exclude myself. It was by no means an attempt to underestimate my compatriots. Not even one of them - since my statements were without malice nor condemnation.
WHAT IS GENDER TO ME!
Yep, gender should come to mind. We need more females than we've had previously. May it please God and the gods to call more ladies into our fold. We need some Gwendolyn Brooks and a Carol Ann Duffy (now the British poet laureate-ordained).
Jonas, I beseech thee, please get us some more poets. Reach the holes where they've gone into hiding. And recruit them if you can - once you will.
'In the end, the Africa we create is the Africa we live in' - by Prince Akwasi Mensah.
Popularised by Silverzoro.
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! Was each group equally weighted in terms of nos? I mean did you have say 20 in each group to start with? I was of the impression that the no of Ghanaians living was much smaller, and probably older. In that case that may be where all that experience lies. They may also have access to a wider range of influences than the writers back home. I may be wrong.
Sorry for the double post; do I need a blogger account to enable me remove a post?Was each group equally weighted in terms of nos.? I mean did you have say 20 in each group to start with? I was of the impression that the no. of Ghanaians living abroad was much smaller, and probably older. In that case that may be where all that experience lies. They may also have access to a wider range of influences than writers back home. I may be wrong.
The poets' writing influences seem to be again weighted towards the African/Afro-centric. Again very few women, very few poets outside of West Africa.
This could really be a problem with our various school curricula(e).
L.S., I agree, gender is a good topic for the next survey!
And yes, the sample is smaller for international than for national Ghanaian residents. We can only make so much out of these things - this is no random sampling! Still, I find it interesting to see which of our biases and assumptions pan out when we actually crunch the numbers.
For instance, I (who have read everything we've ever published!) was under the impression that our non-Ghanaian internationals had notably more experience than our Ghanaian poets, which proved not to be true.
A look into the gender split of our poets will be interesting as well - whether surprising or not will depend on each of our initial assumptions...
Oh, and LS, it's my understanding that you need to have a blogger account to delete your own comments - I can delete it for you, if you'd like.
And Darko, have no fears - a new poem is coming this Saturday!
Thanks for your ever considerate spirit of service, Rob.
Thanks Rob, for the offer. I guess I'll have to be more careful next time.
And yes we betray our biases not just in our initial assumptions, but in how we interprete any data at all.
Darko Antwi, I'm rather excited about Carol Ann Duffy's appointment. I'm going through her collection The World's Wife at the moment. She's funny and pleasurable to read, and great for feminists as well. What more can one hope for?
Still, I do like Andrew Motion's work, even if he didn't think very highly of his own laureateship.
Still broodin---love that word--have considered that the repartee and intellectual level of jousting may have caused some ladies--to remain in the shadows--hesitant--and sad if so.Silverzorro.
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