Harmattan Poetry Contest winner Aisha Nelson answered a few questions on writing for Akwantuo’s occasional Q&A series. If you’re a writer interested in taking part in the series, get in touch through Facebook or email akwantuo @ gmail.com.
Q: When did you begin writing poetry?
I may never be able to tell exactly when I started writing, but I do remember that I started collecting bits and pieces of what will be the beginning of my writing – not just poetry – while still in Junior High School.
It began with a slam book-of-sorts which I meant to give to my friends when they came visiting – not that I am that much of a people-person. It contained randoms like quotes, sketches, anecdotes, and thoughts, most of which insisted on emerging as poems. I found myself hooked, and my writings continued to grow long after the book was filled up.
Q: What motivated you?
In time, I found that writing is at once the means and the outlet of the meanings and re-creations of my beliefs, thoughts, observations, experiences and environment. Sometimes, many times, it is one of very few things that keep me sane and breathing.
Q: What themes do you write about and why?
Even when I mean to write a piece born out of the specific or personal, I find that I am drawn to themes that are universal – of the human condition and potential; of this and other worlds; of whatever goes in the name of life, of making meaning of it, living it and that ‘It happens!’. This thing called life.
Its scope. Vicissitudes. More. That it is both a teacher and the lesson to anyone who would learn from it. I like to get lost exploring it. I like to be a student of life, including in my writing.
Q: Do you write in other genres? If so, which ones?
I’ve written a number of plays, most of which I also directed and two of which I had to adapt. I’ve written more prose – of varying genres and lengths. Many of them are short stories and memoirs. Poetry comes to me much more often.
Q: What do you think needs to be done to encourage young writers in Ghana?
Many of the things that young writers in Ghana need are institutional and industrial structures that not only nurture, but promote and support the craft. I’m happy, however, that many of these writers are making things happen, taking initiatives to help themselves – whatever that means – and are also pushing the boundaries of writing in and from Ghana, now and for years to come. When and if they come, the structures and support will never hurt but in the meanwhile, these writers are doing much more than just ‘encouraging’ their own selves.
Q: You were the only woman who entered the contest. Do you think women are discouraged from writing in any way?
Not that I know of. This could be sheer coincidence. Or it can as well be that a good number of writers who are women are inclined to writing in other mediums and or genres.