Posts Tagged ‘African writers’

        Book: Daybreak And Other Poems

                                             Publisher:  Saraba

Author: Dami Ajayi

Reviewer: Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

Pages: 30 pages

First published: 2013

Genre: Poetry

The release of Dami Ajayi’s collection of poems is a political statement.

In expanding the frontiers of publishing in Africa, Dami and partners are advancing a valid argument of new

ways of publishing. That is not only impressive but innovative. The bad news is the author will not get paid for his troubles. It, however, provides a medium to be read and appreciated.

Dami’s voice defines what Taiye Selasi  fails to see in her definition of Afropolitan-ism. Take Dami and Soyinka for example. Soyinka writes in  typical African idioms and metaphors. Dami  uses   that of Africa and what appears to me as an American accent. There are folks on the continent who have lived their entire here but have been strongly influenced by other cultures.  Those are part of the Afropolitan experience too.  To this, Emmanuel Iduma writes ‘’ but first I must say that in relation to Ajayi I am convinced that he is not yet completely immersed in speaking the Nigerian idiom. In ―Slow Dancing for instance he uses a foreign accent as though he is speaking to an unspecified audience. But I am concerned with his natural voice, which is Nigerian and therefore performative; a gesture of reaching out to an audience that use the same language he does to navigate their immediate locality’’ in preface to Dami’s  book which Iduma titled,‘’The Coming Poet’’. Defining Afropolitan-ism in the context of a diasporan experience is social suicide and  block of reality.

Back to my primary preoccupation as a reviewer, Daybreak And Other Poems is a chapbook of fourteen poems. In a simple language and often reflective mood, Dami sends readers on a journey to discovering the true meaning of love as he himself sets out to do. Combing through the pages, I realize an innate intercourse   between self (of the poet) and environment such that this book is an offspring. The bravery of the poet to take an alien exploration of themes is also to be commended. He explores love and sexuality in depth. For examples,Amaokpala East-side Motel talks about  prostitutes.

‘’ Sexual memories are made of these

Urgent needs that throb thighs

Pockets a-jingle with loose coins,

You take a winding walk

To the Amaokpala East-Side Motel.’’

Daybreak is a sweet conversation between day and night. Both seem to happy, enjoying their moments when they come and wishing they stay forever.

‘’And they both said day break is poetry.’’

The Gnaw speaks to how it feels to lose somebody special. It is a feeling I know too. It’s odd and incredibly exhausting. I read that in unison with a rhythm that I can not exactly point to.

This chapbook ends with The Alphabet Laboratory  which talks about  what poetry means to him (the author)  and concludes,

‘’All words are stolen from an alphabet pool

To undergo serial recombinant therapy.

The smartest scrabblers are negotiating turns

In the race of verbs, nouns, adjectives.

Adverbs. Prepositions are clues for positions.

Another letter drops with a sibilant hiss

Then I found you.’’

It is of supreme significance and literary honesty that the voice of the poet departs from familiarity. That in itself is a poetic justice against heighten cruelty of language and so-called taboos.





They would sit across the road and laugh heartily at my screams. They called me The Announcer. That  pitch darkness that formed between the end of the road and the house in which my mother waited for me was indeed a stage. I would stand there and scream my lungs out as if I was the only one who existed on earth.  I do not remember what I said but what I remember is that I was intrigued by the echo.  Paying close attention, I discovered that that voice was almost mine. Somehow, I came to believe that somebody, maybe in the skies recorded me and played it back instantly. I would later spend time to think about whom that might be. I was eight or nine years.

That happened when my two friends, Dwomoh and Kwadwo were not around. To put it correctly, they were my partners in crime. We roamed the whole Asante Mampong Township. We were The Three Musketeers. We sometimes fell into trouble. And we did, it was time for me to think of how we would escape. We called it plan. The truth was, that was our code name for lies. We were successful few of the times. Failure meant a period of wailing for us. The one I clearly remember is when we went to steal mangoes from Teacher Effah’s house. I had laid down that plan with assigned roles. It worked until the time someone blew our cover. Kwadwo was not with us that day. Then we had to run away. Dwomoh and I made it safely home. The others did not make it. Minutes after I arrived home, a group of people brought the others. Dwomoh’s mother pleaded for us and so they left. But there was one more thing. We received the best beatings of our lives. Our skins looked like those of  zebras after that episode.

I was ten and I was enjoying my role as the master planner. My role had extended to other circles of friends. My older cousin, Miriam even allowed me to come up with plots for what we called play (our term for drama). Gradually, I spent more time developing such plots and I found it more fulfilling.

Reading from The Mirror one fine Saturday afternoon, I stumbled on the winners of Burt Award For African Literature.  I felt I could be a writer upon seeing that. Such was the ego that set me on this journey. That was 2003 and I was elven. So I began to write . . .

 I would make sketches of concepts on papers that I kept. Many of them turned out to be an attempt at fiction writing. On a few occasions, I collected sketches from friends and I made poetry out of them. Of course, I should say that it was a pleasure doing that for Matilda, a girl I had a crush on from primary school to secondary school (She’s engaged now . . .smh). Unfortunately, I could not complete my novel titled The Hill because it was stolen in boarding school. I began writing poetry after that. I was able to create  thoughts in a concise genre and still  kept the dramatic techniques. Above all, I was able to keep my works.

Fast forward to 2009.

I felt the world owed me a favour. I wanted to write a book. When I found an online publishing house which was willing to accept my manuscript, I thought wow. But I was wrong. The world went damn silent on …Songs Of My Heart. It awesomely failed and I was completely dejected.

...Songs Of My Heart

…Songs Of My Heart

I would stop writing for the next two years.

Somewhere in 2012, I had a Facebook message from Daniel Kojo Appiah. Apparently, he had gone through my old notes on Facebook and he thought I could be a good writer. I would spend the next few months under the mentorship of Adjei-Agyei Baah, a man I had encountered before in The Mirror years earlier. I was so moved by his piece that I wanted to write under the name Kwabena Adjare-Agyare.

4th, February, 2014. Shalom Hostel. Room P 50. Ayeduase- KNUST.

Sometimes, I feel my heart will stop working. I sometimes I feel my weary legs will give up carrying my huge upper frame. But before my trembling fear steps out of that silent prayer, I would want to feel this moment. On this day, my twenty second birthday, I want to renew the vow I made a decade ago to writing. ‘’Till death do us part’’, I say.

It does not matter I if I get stuck here or not. I have dared to be opinionated even under personal discomfort. I have lived, owning perspectives. One day, I will die with nothing left on me. That will be my worth. Until that day, man will   soldier on.  




  I reproduce this extract   from my online project, Epistles To A Young Poet

Dear friend,
It has been a sad, sober moment for many of us in Ghanaian 

literati. On Sunday morning, our worst fear was confirmed. The

 man who has been the face of Ghanaian poetry for many years

 met his untimely death in Kenya whilst attending a literary 

festival. A friend had posted on Facebook, “Awoonor is missing.

 Please, say a little prayer for him’’ the previous afternoon. Less 

than 24 hours later, his body was identified.

Hmmm …

I never met the good old professor. I encountered him through his 

poetry in 2003, I think.  My father had bought an anthology 

titled,” A SELECTION OF AFRICAN POETRY.”  Introduced and 

annotated by K.E Senanu and T. Vincent for me. He was one the 

five  Ghanaian poets featured in that edition. The others included 

his cousin, Kofi Anyidoho, Yao Egblewogbe, Otukwei Okai and Kwesi Brew. 

About five years later, I studied his poem REDISCOVERY for my 

WASSCE core literature exams.


It is easy to say that ‘’Prof’’ as he was affectionately and 

universally called was proud of his heritage. His poems were 

rooted in Ewe lyricism. In fact, his early works were translations of 

the Anlo poet and lyricist Akpaloo.  Perhaps, this was the 

apprenticeship that honed the art of Awoonor.  To this,  he said,  ‘’ 

it is for this reason I have sat at the feet of ancient poets whose 

medium is the voice and whose forum is the village square and the 

market place.’’  Part of his lyricist nature could be attributed to 

the fact that he was the grandson of an Ewe dirge-singer. His 

cousin, Kofi Anyidoho also wrote in similar style.


In “REDISCOVERY”, Awoonor wrote ‘’


                                                            There shall still linger here the communion we forged


                                                                        The feast of oneness which we partook of



This is his desire that even after the storm we will be one.  In that 

particular poem, he spoke of an ‘’ Eternal Gateman’’. Even 


though he did not make a direct reference, this poem had a 

mythological feel. In direct terms, he wrote about ‘’Kutsiami the 

benevolent boatman’’ in “THE JOURNEY BEYOND.”  It seemed 

 to me the latter is a continuation of the former. So the persona 

got passed by the ‘’eternal gateman’’ in “REDISCOVERY” and 

then got ferried by Kutsiami to the other world where the silent 

 fathers live. The significant difference is that ‘’we’’ was used in  

REDISCOVERY signifying the communal approach whilst ‘’I’’ 

was used in THE JOURNEY BEYOND.  It means even though 

people die as a group, the ‘’journey beyond’’ is an individual 

voyage. In these two poems, Awoonor managed to tell us the full 

story of Ewe mythology of death and the life after.


He explored the theme of conflict between African and European 

cultures in “THE CATHEDRAL”. He wrote,




                                         They sent surveyors and builders


                                                                          who cut that tree


                                                                          planting in its place


                                                                         A huge senseless cathedral of doom


That view was not exclusive to him. David Diop expressed this 

same sentiment in the ‘VULTURE




                                                                             In those days


                                                                         When civilization kicked us in the face


                                                                         When holy water slapped our cringing brows


                                                                         The vultures built in the shadow of their talons


                                                                         The bloodstained monument of tutelage




Gabriel Okara had this to say in “PIANO AND DRUMS




                                                                          And I lost in the morning mist


                                                                      of an age at a riverside keep


                                                                     wandering in the mystic rhythm


                                                                     of jungle drums and the concerto




Awoonor spoke about how he felt Africans (especially politicians) 

have been brainwashed to the extent that they had no urge to 

wear African clothing. Thus, in “WE HAVE FOUND A NEW 

LAND”, he wrote,




                                                                      The smart professionals in three piece


                                                                   Sweating away their humanity in driblets


                                                                  And wiping the blood from their brow’





The good professor had a good sense of humor. Awoonor in his 

lifetime explored negritude themes with the potency of Soyinka. In 

him we had a bridge between these two thoughts that dominated 

the early post-colonial African poetry scene.


That said, there are two things that I wish ‘Prof’ did not do. The 

first has to do with his 1984 book, “THE GHANA 


PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE”. This work was based on his 

imprisonment and personal bitterness towards the military junta 

that he felt was dominated by Akans. The historical antecedent to 

this work has naturally been on diminishing returns. This work has 

been pulled out of history and assaulted in a way that has 

misrepresented the author. In this system of political kung fu, 

anything and everything is possible. In this case, ‘Prof’ has been 

unduly victimized. With the benefit of hindsight, I am sure the ‘old 

man’ would have done things differently.


The second has to do with his yet to be released collection, 


the time he accepted the deal in 2012 from University of Nebraska 

Press and the African Poetry Fund, I felt he should have made it 

an anthology and collected  works from second and third generation 

poets. It seemed to me to have been a perfect opportunity to put 

the ailing poetry writing in Ghana on life support. I thought it 

would have been wonderful to have an anthology edited by Kofi 

Awoonor and Kofi Anyidoho under the patronage of the series 

editor, Kwame Dawes. Maybe, they thought of it as a later project.



I can imagine ‘Prof’ answering me with this witty and instinctive response,


                                                                      My voice is hoarse, I know


                                                                   But I shall learn to wear it well.


                                                (Concluding lines of ‘MY SONG’ by Kofi Anyidoho)


 It will be an injury to poetic justice to take anything away from the 

‘old Prof’.  He paid his dues with all his might until the last 

moment of his life. Julie Muriuki recounted some of his last words 

to them. Julie wrote, “he told us [that] when you want to write, 

look back at how your ancestors used to speak, go back and listen 

to the stories of your people and then you would know what to 

write about.”  This is his commission to us who are left on this 

earthly journey.


Would you stand and be counted?

“This Earth, My Brother’’