Q&A With Aisha Nelson

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.

Aisha Nelson
Aisha Nelson

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.

Aisha Nelson lives, dreams, writes, thinks and currently teaches at the Alpha Beta Christian College in Accra, Ghana. Her blog, Nu kɛ Hulu (Water and Sun), can be found at aishawrites.wordpress.com 

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Harmattan Poetry Bonus: Aisha Nelson

Akwantuo features a poem from the Harmattan Poetry Contest submission package by winner Aisha Nelson. Enjoy!

The Fisherman’s Daughter
By Aisha Nelson

last night
in the rain
I bought fish

last night
while it rained
Love wormed its way
into my rock-cold heart
into my mud-caked mind

while it rained
last night
Life – its cares –
nudged my fainting soul
nagged my flailing be-ing

on my way from work,
last night
I wished I was all-ready
home, so I could dance
in the rain,
while pretending to shower
while pretending to harvest
rain
water

while walking
in the rain
last night
I counted my blessings and
I found (too late, and pain-full-y
so, too) that my losses tug along,
waiting, insisting,
to be counted too

last night
in the rain
while I walked my self
home, I let my self
shiver and still afford
to smile, to laugh –
lightly, actually; Only
to find a tear or two fill
UP my eyes, flow
DOWN my shirt and dissolve
into mangled mirth
into pregnant pain
and resounding rain…

last night
in the rain
I remembered
Father, again

last night
in the rain
I bought myself fingerlings
from one who looks like him
or one like him
just like him
or him

last night
in the rain
I got some fingerlings
for five Cedis
for my self
from Father himself…


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Harmattan Poetry Contest Winner: Aisha Nelson

The point of the risk is in the taking
The point of the risk is in the taking

Stag-Nation
By Aisha Nelson

It is
at
that slippery, jittery shore
between staying on and
sailing off,
that
the caress of
the breeze on skin
the hold of earth under feet
the bliss of fresh fruit

tickles throat
refreshes soul…

It is
at
that
same temperate, temporal space between
moving on
and marking time

that
the cares of
the stale, salty watery-ness of a world
the blank, plank coldness of a home
the elusive, deceptive arc of a horizon

hangs between this-nation and desti-nation
defers every new hope…

Remember

what they say about
the thousand-and-more mile journey
and the first step
where they say the taste
of the kelewele lies

and
that
whether for bad or for good
whether for now or for good,
the whole point of the risk
will always be in the taking.


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Harmattan Poetry Runner-Up: Edzordzi Agbozo

Clan-root’s Demise
(To the late Komla Afeke Dumor)
By Edzordzi Agbozo

Komla
truthSpeaker
who sealed the mouth of  crocodile’s children,
Whatever prompted Kutsiami to boat you mid-duty
Blurred the diviners’ visions
And tamed the leopard-clan
Afeke
Root of the clan,
They say
Crocodile children clamped you
On a gun’s noose
Watching watching
If you will shiver
But
As a Tuesday man of the leopard family
Your smile set fire to their dreams
So they pulled the trigger
Placed you on the dining table
For Salagatsi to feast upon
Death eats juicy hearts from our clan-house
But yours
Must appease Salagatsi’s eternal hunger
He has gone too far
Death swept too fast
Even seers were deaf to his lingo
Let death know that
It just touched a bee-gourd
With a left finger
The fire still burns
Dumor
Your fire still burns


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Harmattan Poetry Selection #3: Andy Aryeetey

Refuge in Poetry
Finding Shelter in Poetry

When The War Came to Ghana
By Andy Aryeetey 

What was kpokpoi?
It was the rich man’s meal
Araba Last-Stop could no longer afford.
Sophisticated Akwele was no longer beyond
the reach of Ato, the fitter.
He made her strip at knife point
and ‘fitted’ something into her.

The Ga’s had mobilised their forces.
Eight-year old skilled men
taking commands from fifty-year old war commandos.
Attack on Ewes was mandatory
and a husband was to murder his beautiful Ewe wife.

The Anlos had sought Togbi’s guidance
and most powers were consolidated
in a few local heroes
believed to be bullet-proof, impervious to knives.
The Akans’ plan was to find out if they were bomb-proof.

Officials who were never at the battlefield
Were the professors and scientists of various ethnic groups.
Labelled most wanted, their lives were most sought after.
A lecturer sent his students to battle, they died there.

There were no more rural areas,
The inhabitants were extinct
Though others died through natural disasters
such as collapsing caves and underground hideouts.

The University of Ghana was bombed.
First came the pillars of the Registry
Then the lecture halls and every lecturer’s bungalow.
The safe houses were for a selected few.
Medical personnel, mostly.
To be deemed elite was a dangerous honour.
You would top the list of targets to be terminated.
Most celebrities tried to escape the country
but were denied visas.

It was no longer safe to call a place a home
a hideout was more suitable
and a family’s hideout changed address weekly.
A family consisted of one’s ethnic group
mobilised in a location.
Sometimes ability to speak two local languages
saved one’s life.

Akans molested Ga’s
and Ga children beat up Akan fathers.
Who was a school child?
He was a soldier in combat training.
Who was a girl?
She was an incubator.
Yet it was not a world to bring babies into.

Ghana was on the map for bloody reasons.
Foreign philanthropists sent aid to greedy leaders.
Three presidents were assassinated
and the party system was in chaos.
The local media was ethnocentric
and later each ethnic group elected their own president.

I could not afford a plate of banku and tilapia
and gari was hard to come by.
What do you mean by street children?
‘You dey see your body’ in ancient Ghana.
You are the street child.

To survive I gave up running and joined the family army.
This piece was my last.
My remains were found in a pile of papers
torn from my diary, a future writer.

Peace from the ‘monkey tail’ seller.
Peace from the ‘too gb33′ seller.
Buy peace from the Asaana seller –
the traditional Coca-Cola.
Peace is priceless.
Toshii Maame give me peace.


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