The Mirror, and two of his poems were recently published in the anthology Look Where You Have Gone To Sit, edited by Martin Egblewogbe and Laban Hill.
Five Questions with Novisi Dzitrie:
1. How long have you been writing poetry?
I started writing poetry by some "accident" in 1999. So that makes about 13 years now.
2. Who are your favourite poets? Which poets have most informed and inspired your work?
I must confess I didn't read much poetry before I found myself writing it. So I’m yet really in the process of discovering the works of other poets. However, I generally tend to like works from Nigeria for the force behind their words and for their palpable frankness. Niyi Osundare, Ogaga Ifowodo, J P Clark, Christopher Okigbo, and Wole Soyinka readily come to mind. Elsewhere, I like works by Eavan Boland, someone I consider, if you want, a man of a woman in her writing. And closer home in Ghana, I have developed some connections with works by Kofi Anyidoho and Martin Egblewogbe. These are poets whose works I have been informed and inspired by in many ways than I can consciously mark out.
3. What do you hope to accomplish with your poetry?
I write to express myself; to free my head from being flooded with thoughts and keep me from going mad. I like to brood over issues and search for logical threads but I don’t like to memorize points. I think there is enough storage media in the world for that. Yet I don’t think there are enough words, breath or punctuation to hold the places in the expression of ideas by any one individual, and that is where poetry comes in handy for me. Poetry can say a lot in a few words.
So I’d say I want simply to contribute my thoughts to the body of ideas that already exist in society so I don’t need to be around in person before anyone can access these. That for me is critical because I hold the firm position that human beings have come very far and so should have enough to learn from so that we can minimize the mistakes we make.
4. Your poems are punctuation-rich (lots of exclamation marks and ellipses and colons and question marks). What drove you to adopt this style?
I just don’t seem to have enough words to capture the moments between speech and thought, the moments between high and low pitches of sound, the moments between choking on something and the welling up of tears in the eyes and so on. Such moments, for me, are rich and need somehow to be communicated, however inadequately, even with the form of text on paper, so that one needs not be told these moments explicitly. That is how I find life to be. Genuine tears, for example, are not announced, they just happen by the kick of some emotions. So I don’t know if I should call it a style really, but I try to employ punctuations to capture those moments when thought processes are not complete or when sentences need not be completed before communication is effected and so on.
5. Do you believe that poetry can affect the politics of Ghana? If so, how? Are there particular types of poetry that are better suited to accomplishing this than others?
I’d say yes, poetry can affect the politics of Ghana and I think it already does in varying ways that may not be readily obvious. It depends on the quality of the discourse. If the discourse is about triviality then I’d not expect positive impacts. So to answer the question of how, I’d say the debates must be high on sustainable philosophical and theoretical postulations or affirmations. And poetry is one tool for capturing theories succinctly in as much as they help in dissecting issues.
I’d not say some particular types of poetry are better suited. I’d rather say, like any other political tool, it must just be appealing no matter how it’s crafted, and then people’s attention can be captured for the intended message. Even for mere aesthetics, which poetry provides in abundance, we can observe that Obama in America, for example, won an election by delivering awe inspiring prose-poems on his campaign. The phrase "Yes We Can" speaks volumes. Nkrumah did a similar thing in his speeches for Ghana’s Independence and for African unity, and the poet holds the unique place in society for establishing such influences in the political discourse with his/her craft. Indeed I actually hold the position that a poet has no option than to speak to political choices, either directly or indirectly, because a poets art is affected by the political forces.