Ghanaian Poetry's Inspirations - An Introduction

What do Ghanaian poets read?

Where, and to whom, do we turn for inspiration?

Do they care about my country? My country's great poets?

In the six-and-a-half years I've been running One Ghana, One Voice, I've received questions like these many times, in many different iterations. What fuels and interests Ghanaian poets seems to be an issue of curiosity for both Ghanaian poets and scholars, and for international observers. Heck, Frank O'Hara even mentioned a similar curiosity directly in a poem.

As the oldest (and therefore longest running) online magazine of Ghanaian poetry, I feel we are well (if far from perfectly) positioned to attempt to answer these questions. As regular readers of OGOV will know, every time we welcome a new poet to the site we ask them the same three (well, four) questions, by way of introduction:

How long have you been writing poetry?
Who are your favorite poets? Which poets have most influenced and informed your work?
What do you hope to accomplish with your poetry?

You can read a recent example of the Q+A here.

Back in 2008, when OGOV was only a year old and the volume of data was much more manageable, I produced a post listing the artists most commonly named in answer to the questions "Who are your favorite poets? Which poets have most influenced and informed your work?". That post can be read here.

The sample size for that post, though, was rather small. So now, five years later, I've decided to both update and expand on that post. These new results come from interviews with 93 poets (the vast majority Ghanaian, plus some non-Ghanaians who write on Ghana) dating from April 2007 until September 2013. Together, those 93 poets listed 298 different artists as influential to their writing a total of 559 times (an average of six "influences" or "votes" per poet).

We've decided to present our date in the form of answers to popular questions we have received over the years. The questions can be read at the bottom of this post - simply click the links for answers!

Some of the answers will be expected, but some will surprise. We hope you enjoy this overview, and if you have any further questions you'd like answered, let us know!


Rob Taylor
on behalf of the OGOV team
September 2013

p.s. The original publication of much of this series was delayed due to the death of Kofi Awoonor (whose influence, as you will see, figures large in these results). It should be noted, then, that all the "votes" for Awoonor were cast prior to his passing. One can reasonably expect that since then his influence has only grown. You can read our series of tribute poems to Awoonor here.

Questions Answered

Which continent's artists most influence Ghanaian poetry?
Which country's artists most influence Ghanaian poetry?
Who influences Ghanaian poets more, men or women? By how much?
What types of artists are influencing Ghanaian poetry?
Which female artist most influences Ghanaian poetry?
Which artist from Ghana most influences Ghanaian poetry?
Which artist from Africa (non-Ghanaian) most influences Ghanaian poetry?
Which artist from Europe most influences Ghanaian poetry?
Which artist from the Americas most influences Ghanaian poetry?
Which artist, generally, most influences Ghanaian poetry?
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