Five Questions with Martin Elorm Dogbo:
1. From the poems of yours that we've profiled on this site, it seems that a major focus of your writing is on paying tribute to, and reviving, African tradition and legend. Would you say this is accurate, or simply a coincidence between a few poems? If it's accurate, why have you taken this on as one of your primary concerns?
Based on the few poems I have submitted, it is axiomatic for anyone to agree to this observation you have made. My style of poetry covers all issues of life and I try as much as I can to incorporate something African about most pieces I write: it could be about the tradition, culture, legends as well as myths of the African people. This is also true of my love poems. If Africans themselves do not pay tribute to, and revive their rich and beautiful traditions, who will? I would want to be forever remembered for this.
2. You've mentioned in the past that your work has caused you to live in many different regions of Ghana (four, at last count, I believe). How has this affected your image of the country? Your attitudes towards preserving Ghanaian culture?
The regions have shot to five, introducing the Volta Region. Although that is where my father comes from, it’s my first time going there after twenty-five years. Even though the norms, cultures and traditions of one society or ethnic group are not entirely different from others, I have observed there are some infinitesimal differences. My individual goal of preserving Ghanaian culture has not changed that much. Like any Ghanaian, I show hospitality to foreigners without any sense of xenophobia. I do not give preference to race, religion or nationality: I can only speak for myself. Like many well-cultured young people did some time ago, I offer my seat to the elderly and to pregnant women who were not fortunate to get a seat in the bus or train. I greet all neighbours and people I meet on the way, etc. These acts of virtue are dying out, but I believe their flames would revive with time when one person starts exhibiting them again. These are some of the things I do towards preserving Ghanaian culture.
3. Why did you choose to break the lines of this poem in the way you did? For me, it gives a loose, spare feeling to the poem. Was this your intent?
Loose? My intention was to make this poem simple and memorable. I chose every line for a purpose: each line is a continuation of a story that a previous line began. The story is narrated from two different angles in a pair of stanzas. In a bid to introduce some sort of “African-ness” to this poem, the first stanza was aimed at introducing the setting — a traditional Sabbath day chosen by the persona to contemplate. The next stanza was intended to express the persona’s feelings about the way people have ignored those who once made history. The persona laments the apathy in commemorating heroes dead or alive in our society.
4. It's been almost a year and a half since you were last profiled on OGOV. What has changed in your life in that time? In your writing?
Not much has changed. It’s just that my concentration was a bit shifted to writing news reports and articles. That’s my original profession.
5. Speaking of the long gap between poems, it was also almost two years between your first poems being submitted to OGOV and your second batch. Is this a sign of the rate of your creative output, or simply how often we see it? Do you write very few poems? If so, why do you think that is? If not, why are you hiding them away from our devoted readers?
When there is enough time, I write at least one poem a day. Everyone including family, friends and colleagues know that I devote more of my time to poetry than anything I do, though it does not even generate a stipend for me. One daily basis so far, each poem I write could be as short as a quatrain or as long as seventy lines. I, however, like to keep my poems short, simple and memorable, so the average number of lines I write is twenty. I hope with time our devoted readers will get pieces from me more regularly.