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. His poetry has been published in the Munyori Journal, UNESCO's Other Voices International Project, The Muse Literary Magazine and the Dublin Writer's Workshop.
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.
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. We all have a few entries in our own "kakalika diaries". Do you have any encounters with cockroaches that are particularly memorable to you?
Most people on earth have had encounters with cockroaches. I have not met a person yet who has a cockroach as a pet. They are pests. We hate them They are slimy, creepy and unwelcome in any decent home. As a child, what really freaked me out was the spectacle of flying cockroaches; that was always unpleasant. There is no particular incident that stands out; however, there were pieces of memory, here and there, that helped me in the construction of this poem.
2. This poem seems more interested in internal rhyme than your previous work. You state this clearly with the opening two words "cockroaches encroach" and carry on through the rest of the poem. Is this the style of your new poems, or something adopted for only this poem?
'Kakalika Diaries' was written, one evening, after I browsed through my personal experiences and decided to write about the unpleasant ones. The main objective was to realize order and meaning in things (or insects) we really do not want to think about. The other motive was to unearth human emotions, such as anger and humor, in our dealings with pests, such as the cockroach. Whether we like it or not, we have to share this world with these creatures. I guess the feeling is mutual, as animals don't seem to like us that much.
The internal rhyme was included to capture the sneakiness of the cockroach. You never find them in the open. They hate light. They love darkness but amidst the darkness, there is a method to their madness. This was a particular intent of this poem. As to style, I am nomadic. I love to explore and experiment.
3. In addition to your interest in using Ga and Twi words in your work, you also use technical terms and other pieces of "obscure" English (i.e. "blattaria"). What motivates you to do this? Are you aiming to expand the vocabulary of your readers? If so, are you concerned that readers might just stop reading instead of trying to figure out what the words mean?
The use of technical and obscure English is intentional, for three reasons. The first is to create a better level of understanding about this common insect. The second is to prompt the reader to research the words in order to reach a deeper meaning of the poem. The third is to explore language, not just to challenge the reader, but to do justice to the poem. Poetry is a genre where we try to make a lot of meaning out of few words; it makes it imperative to use 'loaded' words so that the reader can go back and do his/her research on what he/she just read. I think poetry should not only be for the right sounding sounds; it should be a place where people discover the uncommon in common things. In writing poetry, such as 'Kakalika Diaries', my intention is not to burden the reader - it is to engage him/her to read the poem over and over again until he/she reaches his/her own conclusions, based on his/her own realities. I am not really concerned about readers who might stop reading, because a reader of any kind of literature must possess, first of all, an inquiring attitude and a restless intellect. For our poetry to contend on the global scene, it must be unapologetic, authentic and thought-provoking. I come from that school of thought; that is why I mix languages because they are all spoken by one creature - man. There is a great truth in poetry being accessible, yet after being assessible, it has to be assertive in its own way.
4. It's been a while since we saw one of your poems accompanied by a YouTube video. Have you gone away from this practice? If so, why?
I have not done poetry video for a while because of several developments in my career, which have led me away from my beloved movie creating software. I promise my readers to get back into the mode very soon, because visualization is one of the communicative powers in our age. I think poetry, to sustain interest, must employ that medium.
EDITORIAL UPDATE: As you can see, Prince created a video for "Kakalika Diaries" after answering this question!
5. Can you give us an update on the status of Mensa Press?
Mensa Press' hands are really full this year: five outstanding anthologies, Foster Toppars's book of poetry and several collaborative projects. This will be a working summer because our editors are salivating over poems submitted by a host of splendid poets (many of whom have been featured on One Ghana, One Voice magazine) I can promise our loyal readers that what they are about to read in the following months would blow their minds. We all have One Ghana, One Voice magazine to thank for galvanizing us to take our literary destiny into our hands. The battle is not over but, rest assured, that the soldiers will not rest until victory is attained.