Van G. Garrett is the author of Songs in Blue Negritude, a collection of poetry (Xavier Review Press, 2008). He was awarded a Dr. Kwame Nkrumah International Study Scholarship, an Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker Foundation Scholarship to attend a Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship, a Hurston/Wright Fellowship for poetry, and two Callaloo Creative Writing Fellowships for poetry. He received the Danny Lee Lawrence prize for poetry, and his poetry has been anthologized and published in journals based in Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, and London. His poems have appeared or will appear in Obsidian III, The Amistad, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, ChickenBones, Life Imitating Art, Swirl, Drumvoices Revue, Curbside Review, Urban Beat, and elsewhere. His reviews have appeared in Rolling Stone.com, African American Review, Moria,and ChickenBones.
Van earned his MAIS from the University of Houston-Victoria and his B.A. from Houston Baptist University. He is the first student to receive a graduate certificate in African American Studies from the University of Houston.
Read Van's first "football kwansaba" here.
Five Questions with Van G. Garrett/Fui Koshi:
1. The moves in game of soccer, in your poem, are likened to the motions of the sea. Was this description born out of a personal experience?
Yes. I love being near the sea. Also, I would like to think that I can find the common threads of fluid motion in sports. I really appreciate the fluid motion in boxing; however, it is certainly found in soccer as well.
2. As an American, how did you relate to a sport not extremely popular in your own country in order to give it the precise nativity in your poem?
I enjoy sports that require mental toughness. Soccer is a sport that I have not played, but I have played American football. As a matter of fact, I will be coaching a football team at an international school this season. In my poetry I seek to find the very "basic" things that pull at me and draw from / upon those key elements.
3. Your use of spaces is remarkable in the poem. It captures the marriage of individual strength and team work in order to achieve a good game in soccer. Can you describe how it feels to be a spectator in a soccer game by a beach or in a stadium in Ghana?
I got a chance to see some "local" games on beaches and on the plains of Ghana. Also, I saw the stadium where the Black Stars play, however I did not get to see any "professional" games. When I write, I, like many writers try to (re)create place, space, and time. You are correct, I made a deliberate decision to capture the tone of a game on the page -making it seem real, not staged.
4. On a light note, how good are your soccer skills in comparison to your fine poetry?
Wow. Thank you for the compliment. I should hope that I am a much better poet. I can kick and stop a ball. I think that I can do an "okay" job on defense, but I think I am a better poet. If I tried really hard I might be able to be okay, but I am getting a little older and I can't move as fast as I use to - I can still write a decent poem with the quickness of a thunder's strike.
5. Do you think the game of soccer is synonymous with the way Ghanaians live? If so, can you give us an insight into the society as you see it?
This is an astute observation. I find Ghanaians (generally speaking) to be very laid-back; exhibiting a strong sense of pride. To me these characteristics mirror soccer. You have to be flexible, but you also have to be willing to play hard with a lot of heart.