Nana Yaw Sarpong is the producer of Writers Project on Citi FM, a Sunday weekly literary show on Citi 97.3 FM. He is currently the Blog Team Lead of the social media and elections project, Ghana Decides.
1. Is "Keeping Your Sight" the recounting of a single evening that really happened, or is it a composite of real and/or imagined events? Do you find you generally write poems based on the actual activities of your life, or are they more often imagined?
“Keeping Your Sight” started as a poem for someone I knew personally. The scope shifted from the “person” of that individual to a more general scope. The only description taken from real life is where I talk about the spring in her step. Everything else was imaginary. I often write about what I’ve seen, then turn the entire material into a new life of its own. This is probably why the first three lines I wrote now are in the twelfth to the fifteenth line of the poem.
2. What inspired you to construct "Keeping Your Sight" in this way, with single-word lines and so many stanza breaks? Had you seen it in other poems and wanted to give it a try, or did it come to you naturally during composition, or?
I love playing with structure and meaning. I think that there is a way things work at the deeper level. In Linguistics, for example, it is theorised that the words you finally utter are just surface representation of a deeper structure. In this poem, I wrote it as someone formulates the thought. Hence the many breaks. But it all is supposed to work together with the meanings in the poem.
3. I've noticed religion and romance to be two recurring themes in your writing. Would you say this is true? If not, what would you say your dominant themes are, if any?
I pick religion and love (love could even be just emotion) as subjects because people pay attention to those. They are contentious. In between them, I insert the issues I’d like to address: oppression, foreign domination, race, class systems, politics and so on.
4. When we last spoke two years ago, you mentioned that you believe radio is a strong medium for poetry. Have you seen growth in regards to poetry on the radio in Ghana? Do you have any visions of how to grow poetic content on the radio going forward?
Today, individual poets of varying degrees have mobilised and formed groups that meet on specified dates. They now organise poetry events, gatherings and slams without sponsorship. Social events, even business seminars, are becoming incomplete without a poetry recital to kick-start the event or as an interlude. All these have happened so quickly in four years. What radio does is that it serves as the rallying point for poets in Ghana. In Winneba, a show has started. Commercial radio has its challenges like sponsorship and for now poetry on radio is fettered on goodwill. But there is hope for growth. More poets are recording their poems. I see a new dimension to publishing here.
5. More generally,how has your life been going since we last spoke? Your writing? Any new projects?
I have been busy this year. Writers Project as an organisation is enough to choke anyone. But I am currently working with Ghana Decides on a project that seeks to bring a social media dimension to elections in Ghana. It is the first time any such thing is happening and we are working to get the voice of Ghanaians with no internet access online. The youth engagements and working groups we organise across the country are changing the discourse. With barely three months to the elections, on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, everyone is talking Ghana Decides. I am glad to be part of this project.