Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. I’m delighted with the submissions from the debut of the Harmattan Poetry contest. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the shortlist and announcement of a winner in early 2015.
Akwantuo Writing Presents
Harmattan Poetry Contest
Entries Accepted From Nov. 1 to Dec. 15
First Prize: GHS150 gift certificate at EPP Books, Accra
Second Prize: GHS75 gift certificate at EPP Books, Accra
Poems on the shortlist of five will be published on Akwantuo, the literary magazine of Ghanaian writing
Contest is open to all writers with a connection to Ghana
Limit three entries per person
Send each entry in attachment as .doc or .docx files to akwantuo (at) gmail.com with “Harmattan” in the subject line
By William Saint George
It was a perfect morning
until breakfast on
the precipice of hope,
I danced for a little while
that dipped and soared
like a flock of happiness;
black as beetles and stark
against the melancholic grey
of a late August morning.
The air wrapped its fingers
round me like fabric,
cold and icy that long iron
fingers touched my soul
and made me shudder,
words and laughter
whipped up like some mad
and in the clouds towered
silence pregnant with despair, about to break
and fall as rain,
a behemoth shrouded
in his despicable glory
towards the cliff’s razor edge
on which I stood, and
did not know
which way I was to fly:
not today, I told the voice
that rippled through frigid air,
and watched him slouch
and never move a limb.
Jesse Johnson writes poetry and fiction under the pen name William Saint George. He loves to read poetry from various schools and pursues several interests ranging from world history to fine art, photography and amateur music composition. Jesse’s poetry is characterized by a more than casual adherence to traditional Western form and the lyrical treatment of raw, intimate subjects. He works as a software developer and product designer in East Legon, Accra Ghana. Find him online at his website, on Medium and SoundCloud
Q: Writing can be a lonely business. What do you get from being part of a creative community?
A: Writing indeed is a lonely work. The satisfaction I get from people’s appreciation of my work is what keeps me moving. It is delightful that someone has got something to say, no matter how little, about your work. Writing itself is sometimes a therapy. It relieves one off the psycho-social (and maybe spiritual) burdens of everyday life.
Q: How do people react when you tell them you write?
A: The reactions vary. Fellow writers are happy and become curious about what I write. They ask many questions, share their experiences (usually starting with the sad ones) and want to read for you. Non-writers become too careful around me (as if they are scared). Some make comments like “apart from all the interesting things in life, why writing? Do you want to be a sad person and eventually go mad?” Many see writers as wierd human beings. The case is worse if they know I love to write poetry. Some people see poets as deeply melancholic, eternally unhappy and they are perpetually thinking about the things around them. They are, however, appreciative of my efforts if they get to read my works.
Q: Are there challenges unique to Ghanaian writers that others may not face?
A: The fundamental challenge Ghanaian writers face is publishing. Most publishers go for manuscripts people would quickly buy when published. Textbooks always are preferred to creative works. Novels get some level of attention but drama and poetry are always at the bottom of the preferential ladder. Many poetry books are self-published. Also, Ghanaians do not read from their writers. The young people, especially, would choose American ‘bestsellers’ (which almost every American writing is, these days) over indigenous works. I do not know much about other countries but the situation is not the same in Norway (a great and beautiful nation of good people) where there is a high level of nationalism attached to Norwegian literature and language. They, therefore, would choose a Norwegian writer over others. Nigeria, because of its large population, is also doing well (at least from the conversations I had with some young writers and readers from that wonderful country.)
Q: What draws you to the writing page? Why do you write?
A: My writing art is a result of; first, madness at a system, institution, action, history and the future. Secondly, the urge to change thoughts and shape dreams and thirdly, the love for writing as an art, motivate me to write.
Q: What genres do you write? Which one most attracts you when you sit down to write?
A:Poetry comes to me naturally. It is what attracts me most. Any time I attempt to write anything, I start with poetic lines. I, however, attempted some short stories (which I did not consider good enough and have been hiding in some folders on my laptop.)
Q: What is the first piece you remember writing? Tell me about the circumstances. How old were you if you recall, why did you decide to write? Did it change anything for you?
A: The first piece I wrote was Mia Denyigba (Our Motherland). The poem was entirely in my mother tongue, Ewe. When I was in Junior High School in Mafi Kumase Comboni Roman Catholic School, I was selected to represent the school in a poetry performance contest as part of the annual cultural week celebration. Someone was supposed to write a poem for me to memorize and perform but the person delayed in doing that task so I decided to write my own poem for the contest. The person, however, brought the poem and my teachers thought his piece was better. Mine was discarded. This poem was my first attempt and my teachers applauded me for the initiative. I won that poetry contest both at the circuit and district levels. I was 13 years old. This feat gave me the realization that I could write. I subsequently wrote some poems in Ewe but stopped writing until I got to Sogakope Senior High School.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge for you as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it? If so, how? If not, what do you need to overcome it?
A: The biggest challenge I faced as a writer was being rejected by the publishers I approached to publish my manuscripts. Many of them rejected the manuscripts outright without even going through to evaluate the quality of the works. Their reason simply was that my name is not well known in the writing circles so marketing my work would be difficult and that poetry does not sell. I resolved to ‘market’ my writing through my blog www.edordzi.blogspot.com and to contribute to anthologies both in Ghana and internationally. I have been successful in publishing in some anthologies and I have got a few followers on my blog. Whenever I am in Ghana, I read my works on radio and perform at various public spaces. I have won some awards too. I hope these can market my works enough to enable publishers accept my manuscripts.
Q: Do you write from the same physical space? If so, describe it. If not, what are your ideal surroundings for writing?
A: I write from different physical spaces depending on the stimuli around me. My ideal surrounding is quiet lonely greenery with calm classical or Ewe traditional music (preferably borborbor or agbadza). I could substitute a well-ventilated and quiet room for the former.
Edzordzi Agbozo’s works appeared in the Intercontinental Anthology of Poetry on Universal Peace (2014), Prairie Schooner (2014), Glass Warriors, (2012), among others. He also performed poetry at the state funeral of the late President J. E. Atta Mills of Ghana (2012). Find him on Twitter. Watch out for part 2 of our Q&A.