Born in Ghana, Prince Mensah has twenty-five stage plays to his credit. Some of them have been acted at the Accra Arts Center and at several locations in Accra. His articles and stories have been published in the STEP magazine, P & P, Ghanadot.com and The Free Press.
Prince Mensah has published seventeen books of poetry. They are Memoirs of A Native Son, I Shall, I Will, I Can (Poetry Inspired by Barack Obama), Afrocentric, ecclesiastes, State of An Abstract Mind, The Griot Metropolitan, The Land of Broken Mirrors, Coronation, Enough is Enough, World War-Free, in praise of the calabash, Prophylaxis, Via Dolorosa, Tabula Rasa, Eclectic, Situational Hazard and Chronology.
His poetry was featured on UNESCO’s Other Voices Poetry Project last year. His essay, ‘An African’s Epistle to the Mosquito’ will be featured in Dike Okoro’s Anthology of Emerging Writers in Africa 2009.
Prince is a Consultant in Workplace Mediation, an HIV/AID Treatment Advocate and an Eligible Translator/Interpreter in Twi & Fante for the Judicial Consortium of 40 American States. He lives in the United States with his wife, Charisse.
Prince is the head of North American promotions for One Ghana, One Voice.
Five questions with Prince Mensah:
1. You have chosen a very active rhyme scheme for this poem. Which came first, the idea of the poem and its subject, or your attraction to the rhyme scheme? Did the theme of football inspire the frequent rhyming?
This poem was written in response to OGOV’s call for poetry on soccer. I realized during this poem’s creation that I could not capture the back-and-forth motion of the ball without using rhyme to illustrate action. Also, there was the need to capture symmetry, which is an essential part of soccer: long passes, dribbles, corner kicks and free kicks. There are also the taunts and playful innuendoes of the fans of both teams. These actions occur concurrently and do create a rhyming sound effect on the field. In effect, one team’s effort to win is echoed in the other team’s will not to suffer defeat. The beautiful thing about the rhyming action between two teams is that it is not redundant. It is reactive (offense), proactive (defense) and active (mid-field and wings) at the same time.
I felt that in this poem, it would be disconcerting to use abstract techniques. It had to be precise and poignant. The poem was created from a fictional football match in which Ghana scored three goals. There was an attempt to capture both the colloquialism and camaraderie found during soccer games. I wrote "Euphoria" while remembering the vocal dexterity of the legendary commentator, Joe Lartey, as he described many a soccer match on my father’s radio player in the 1980s.
2. This poem emphasizes the important relationship between football, music and dance. It seems that this connection is stronger in regards to football than with other sports. Likewise, it seems more important in African football than in football on the other continents. Why do you think this is?
Football, music and dance are the triumvir activities of the quintessential Ghana lifestyle. On the soccer field, these three forces merge into one electric force that takes on a life of its own. Not among the players but among their fans and spectators. As a Ghanaian, the inculcation of music art forms such as jama into the fabric of the soccer experience has made our soccer identity extremely different from that of other nations. Soccer in Ghana has a cult following. Some people place their love of soccer above their own safety. It is an intense experience which is properly ventilated through song and dance. Like golf, cricket and American football, soccer is another potent portal for networking, identity building and brand marketing. This satisfies both the business and individual needs of the average Ghanaian. It is also important to note that soccer is a healing tool for our fragmented nations.
3. Do you think the love of soccer is a patriotic duty for all Ghanaians, or is it an acquired taste?
It is a patriotic duty. See, Ghanaians are peaceful and yet, extremely passionate people. When we love something or someone, we go all out. The names of the members of our Black Stars are household names all over the country and it sure does affect the national psyche when our team suffers defeat. There are a lot of similarities between soccer and other facets of Ghanaian life.
4. Do you think poetry can learn any tricks from football about how to become a major force in African life?
Soccer is communal and can be played by anyone. So should poetry. I think African writers should try to express themselves in their native languages. The poetry has to be relatable. It cannot be an imposition of a foreign style. It must come from within the culture it is addressing. Like soccer, poetry must entertain. The play of words on the ears, the weaving of riddles and wit into common speech and the ability to connect to the average reader/listener is crucial. For poetry to become as potent as soccer is in Ghana, it has to descend from the ivory tower and be synchronized with the mud huts. It has to step onto the green fields of ethno-cultural expression and play hard till it scores with the general public. Poetry in Ghana should be merged with dramatic essence until it can stand on its own feet to build enough wings to fly.
By example, I have a soon-to-be-published book of poetry, entitled, "My Book of Asante Poetry Volume I," in which I have poems written in Twi and translated into English.
5. On a light note, how good are your soccer skills in comparison to your fine poetry?
My soccer skills used to be very good until I run into a merciless defender who came straight for my knees. This happened a decade ago. Since coming to the States, I have not played a soccer game to my satisfaction. Of course, I am still an arm-chair coach, which most Ghanaians are, and I enjoy the games from the safety of my sofa.
However, the better poetry I wrote the less artful in soccer I became. In effect, I traded soccer for poetry. But guess what, I can still dribble with words, free-kick themes, corner-kick concepts and score a good poem. So that is a fair exchange.