Issue IV – Kofi Awoonor and The Challenge Beyond

Today, we have come not to be led by the poet-cantor. We have come on this sacred journey to internalize the power of his poetry, and that that is the challenge of history. It is said that death is a monument on the social landscape. Coupled with its willing partner, dates, we are not only reminded that life is transient but also, we have to live until it comes. Once, the ancient Ewe poet-cantor, Akpalu said that (and we put it in our own words) – do not worry if death comes when the seats are all taken for; he brings his own. The deepening aesthetic of death is a synonym to life, they are twins actually. This respect is what we pay to the master-poet, Kofi Awoonor, a year on after his unfortunate passing.
There are people that we will never meet in person. There are people that we become familiar with because of the traces of themselves that they leave behind on sheets of papers. One of those who fall in that category for many of us is Kofi Awoonor. Yet, when we discover them, they become part of self and we want to carry on what they left behind.
‘’When the final night falls on us
as it fell upon our parents,
we shall retire to our modest home
earth-sure, secure
that we have done our duty
by our people;
we met the challenge of history
and we were not afraid’’
– Kofi Awoonor, To Feed Our People
In the end, the poet will not be eternal; his voice will be. Poets are natives of everywhere and nowhere. We claim their words because they speak to us. They seek to map us. It is here that we succumb to the enormity of this task – life. We prowl history to discover the other cousins and to see the poetic borders of our evolutionary being, social function and a construction of identity. It is this call that tolls and invites a breed, poets/writers.
1. Awoonor’s Gone                                              – Afya Kiss-iwaa Ocran
2. Elegy For A Bard                                            –  Rasaq Malik
3. Nkem, My Own                                                – Atta Atta Brown
4. Four Poems                                                    – Afam Akeh
5. Taboo                                                             – Mawuli Adzei
6. A Song For Nyidevu For Afetsi who survived  –  Kofi Anyidoho

With Aisha Nelson
Kwabena Agyare Yeboah
Weta, Volta Region
21st, September, 2014


A Song For Nyidevu For Afetsi who survived

By Kofi Anyidoho

They say the Panther died in his sleep
But not without a Leap
The Hippo drowned in a Pool of Blood
But with a gentle Smile on his Face.

So you brought Death Home
In a Harvest of Ancestral Songs
Took down his Battle Dress
Gave him a Gown of Flames
Wrapped in Laughter’s Tender Care
Removed the Thunder from his Voice
the Lightning from his Eyes.
You placed a Rainbow on His Face

You explained to Death
How and Why he must be Brave
Turn his back upon the Grave
So the children in their Sleep
May Dream the Future
Filled with Hope,The Promise of Hope

Born in 1947, Kofi Anyidoho is a Ghanaian poet and professor who comes from a family tradition of Ewe poets and oral artists. He was educated in Ghana and the U.S., gaining his PhD at the University of Texas.

Note : The indentation that appears here is not the original. WordPress’ in-built formatting code does not allow it to appear as it is written. This poem first appeared on Prof. Kofi Awoonor’s memorial brochure.


By Mawuli Adzei

I am a wandering entity
disbursed into empty spaces
fated, perhaps, to die
where seven roads meet

But, Fates, if I should live this life again
yoked at conception as an island  of yolk
in a sea of albumin
some hydrocephalic tadpole
locked in mortal combat for survival
or a product
of some abominable abdominal chemistry
gone wrong
a fatal foetal construct
with a guardian angel lost in the galaxies
whose Paths I shall never cross
nor he mine
I shall die at birth

Only do not mention my praise-name
Just leave the iron gates ajar . . .
I shall return
Mawuli Adzei has taught in Nigeria, Libya and Ghana. Currently, he teaches African Post-colonial  literatures and Creative Writing at the Department of English, University of Ghana.

Four Poems: Afam Akeh

By Afam Akeh

After dinner

At the glass-eyed moment after grub
we repair to black holes and
dark matter, he as host holding forth.
Something wilts, as when a yawn arrives.
George Street in movie colour
beyond our window. Everything swings
out there, hanging loose, screaming
embrace, embrace, embrace.

All the time we speak they kiss.
Still we fly, here, there, ranging eagles
of the afterword. I am thinking salmon,
salad, whatever was dressed and lovely
on my plate. All that fare deserves
its response, so I loosen ready to give it.
At the moment of a rare pause, I
let out my air and do not regret.
It is a way of meaning without speaking,
the gut surfeit, offering thanks
but without words.


The cartoon clouds are up again.
They seem at peace with the absent sun.

Sights and sounds from the moving day,
remembrances of things once heard.

Bird on ground testing flight,
between desire and achievement.

What does the moment say
to its latest breath?

I am pleased to meet you.

I like you fresh, unbuttoned,
almost without mystery.

Stay, please stay.

Away from here you are never only you
because you are always history.

Summer and Snow

The kind of ragged day it is
wakes and slips back, wakes
and slips back into gloom,
everything seemingly weather
or ether, arctic cold
and lashing wind, such a day
as move some to love
or thoughts of last things.

In the damp light I grope
the years in search of us.
Every time
I seem to hold you
light eludes me,
storms break
and all is war memory,
wind and water.

We lost our warmth
to the German cold, tracking
Goethe and fellow gnomes
when all we needed
was a pocket map.
But – all that travel
and blister, was it
for Goethe or gold?

Nearly twenty, our years
as Summer and Snow.
We are the complex of water
in the mix with air,
forming cloud,
performing bubbles, and
in all that drama,
chemistry and mystery.
Billy Boy

They gnaw at you, those how tos
and how nots of coded practice.

Being so. And not so.

The curve on woven curve
of calligraphy, tailored

and primped
like a ballroom dance.

Life as a synchronised sport,
timing your move

with his move or her mood,
so much to void, avoid,

taming passion
with logarithm, stacking it right.

Like – Happy faces everyone. Chin up.
Say cheeeese!

Like – Sit here Billy. Go Billy. Come Billy.
Come back now! Good boy-y-y…

Billy so fed up
he lets drop wherever, whenever,

stinking to silence the orchestral voice –
Not here, Billy, not h-ee-rr-e!

Bad form Billy…

And that’s crude, not trained,
being so forward with your hunger.

You Billy-too-obvious,

squirting your smell for all to find,
the joy of craft is concealment.

I be ze craft – Woof! Woof!

Billy out again without a leash – Mad Billy,
Bad Billy – Rotten Billy Poop-a-Scoop.

A graduate of the University of Ibadan, Afam Akeh has fought two career currents for much of his life: the tussling rivers of Poetry and Literary Criticism. Concerning the first, his poetry has won awards: there was his 2nd prize in the BBC Arts for Africa Competition back in 1988. That was for his Poem, Nectar, published in Fate of Vultures and other Poems, (Heinemann). Concerning the second, he has worked in Lagos as Editor of the Times Literary Supplement on the staff of the Nigerian Daily Times.