Darko Antwi was born in Kumasi in May 1976. After his secondary education at Bekwai Seventh Day Adventist, he taught in local kindergarten and primary schools from 1997 - 2002. He served as a columnist for African Echo newspaper from 2007 until 2009.
During the Emancipation Day 2006 at Cape Coast, Antwi’s epic, Nkrabea, was adapted for recitation. Also, it has a regular reading feature at Black History Month - Britain. Two of Antwi's poems have recently been published at Phillis Wheatley Chapter.
Five Questions with Darko Antwi:
1. You have embedded in this poem a brief cultural history of Ghana, as told from a flat in West London. I wonder then, if you think of this poem as speaking out to outsiders (telling the story to Londoners) or a calling back to your homeland that you have not forgotten (reminiscing with Enyonam), or both?
Every part of the conversation, including the cultural history you’ve pointed out, is a random subject of interest under discussion. As they are voiced through a casual traffic from passage to passage, I intend to summon or reminisce the spirit of my homeland – with regards to the brief cultural history embedded.
In another sense, the geographic outsiders (Londoners etc) are the target audience – yet they have to use interpretative means to break into the codes of the far-fetched references (of symbols, events and personalities) found in the subtexts and microscopic phrases of the poem. Unless the references are understood, the conversation would be irrelevant to any listener I want to reach. Quite aside to your question, may I imply that we don’t normally get to understand all subjects of conversation that we happen to partake in real dialogues, let alone those to whom it’s replayed – without the advantage of body language. Playwrights will do well to convey every act. Poets may fail.
If it can be argued that this poem bears an allusion to the biblical event where a group of worshippers were said to be speaking in tongues, then it could be effective to say that every poet speaks in an unknown tongue if his readers find it hard to understand any symbol in his language.
2. Humour seems to be weaving its way more and more into your poems, as in Enyonam's returning to the men with "broad, hairy chests". Why do you turn to moments of humour in your poetry? What effect do you hope for these moments to have on the reader's broader experience of the whole poem?
Em… just to make a reader smile, if I could. With that in mind I wanted to portray Enyonam as a typical modern African young woman whose freedom of choice makes her enthusiastic, and perhaps unreserved to discuss sexuality, her ‘ideal man’ and matrimonial goose bumps. Despite her fascination, I can’t rightly picture her as any other – apart from being a sincere and persistent party to the rapport, who finally manages to break ‘a deal’. A deal I have left to the imagination of readers.
3. Every discussion with you leads back, at one point or another, to form. Here you are writing in couplets, and enjambing your lines to create almost equal line-lengths throughout the poem. That said, you've also clearly attempted to break your lines in intelligent places, not leaving weaker words like "the" or "of" dangling at the end of a line. When deciding where to enjamb your lines, what takes precedence: the visual appearance of the poem, or the meaning/strength of the words? Perhaps something else entirely?
In this particular poem, visual appearance takes precedence. I remember going back to the first two stanzas (originally drafted in three lines) to enjamb them after the rest of the stanzas, which were shaping up in couplets. What is habitual of me is that I tend to mind the visual appearance of any title that descends down to the foot of the page. Well noticed! I avoid the dangling of weaker words. I do so, in most cases, just to hold subject-verb-object in symmetry to sustain the meaning of tenses. Guilty me, I sometimes do that to redeem visual appearance.
4. We're almost at the end of 2010. As a regular OGOV reader and commenter, what have been your OGOV highlights for 2010?
I enjoyed your interview with Martin Egblewogbe. The aftermath of Prince Anin-Agyei's poem is memorable. I will applaud every commentary I’ve read this year. None is less important, none is more important than others – all are encouraging. But betwixt the gap of our selective and vacated commentary, Dela Bobobee filled a vacuum of our critical indebtedness with several resourceful commentaries. His illustrious article on Mariska’s poem comes quickly to mind as a highlight.
5. Continuing on the last question, what one book that you read in 2010 would you recommend to our readers?
Traces of a Life, by Abena P.A Busia, stands out as recommendable. I picked these quotations from her poetry:
Death is our final necessity
But alive we resist it with every living breath [Page 21]
All hearts pump blood,
But not all hearts are good, and brave and kind [Page 39]
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