Author Profile - Nana Yaw Sarpong


Nana Yaw Sarpong was born on November 12th, 1987 at Osu, Accra. He has a degree in English and Linguistics (combined) from the University of Ghana, and trained as a broadcast journalist with Radio Univers. While at Radio Univers, he was an anchor of Open Air Theatre, a literary programme. He is currently a Teaching Assistant at the Department of Linguistics of the University of Ghana.

He has been writing poetry since childhood, and more recently, has begun writing a novel. He hopes to become a linguist and/or a lecturer of literature in the near future.

Five Questions with Nana Yaw Sarpong:

1. How long have you been writing poetry?

I have been writing seriously for six years. I started writing poetry from Senior High School, and that had more to do with my Literature-in-English class than anything else. Of course that changed soon enough.

2. Who are your favourite poets? Which poets have most inspired and informed your work?

Mostly Ghanaian and African writers; but Kofi Anyidoho, John Dryden, Kwesi Brew and Amu Djoleto stand out. I would say a lot of inspiration has come from Anyidoho and Ayi Kwei Armah. Largely, Armah has provided a quasi-framework for most of my work. It still is astonishing to me why I haven’t looked to many major poets from Ghana or elsewhere for inspiration.

3. What do you hope to accomplish with your poetry?

I hope there comes a time when we Africans, as a people, will be ready to confront the Christian and Islamic religions in a better way than how we have done so far. We must see that it has been a drawback for our society because of how we've related to it.

If at a certain point we are able to allow students to read poems which deal with our recent perception of God – like my poem - that would be a huge accomplishment for my poetry and the poetry of others who write similar things.

4. Tell us a bit about your experience with Open Air Theatre on Radio Univers. Do you see radio as a strong venue for poetry?

I have been with Open Air Theatre since 2007 and throughout that period, I have seen young Ghanaian writers come onto the programme and improve over a short period of time. I had a similar experience with my poetry at my initial stages with Open Air Theatre. I’m glad to say that the programme still offers young writers the avenue to meet other writers, and improve in the process.

Radio is a strong platform. Many people would still love to have anthologies on their shelves, but everything is electronic nowadays. What poetry on radio brings to the board is a kind of freshness; the chance to hear the author present his or her own poetry and give insight on what influenced the poetry. Radio has a wider reach and people are more likely to tune in than walk into a bookshop.

5. How do you juggle writing both poetry and fiction? Can you go back and forth easily, or do you need to be in a different state of mind to write each of them?

I only started writing fiction lately. With poetry, there is a discipline and pressure to finish, while with fiction I could leave a story I’m working on and return to it days later. I don’t do that with poetry. The transition between the genres isn’t too difficult. I find that I employ as much metaphor and imagery in fiction as I do with poetry.

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