Nana Fredua-Agyeman is a Ghanaian poet and blogger. He has been widely published in both print and e-zines: Acorn, Frogpond, The Heron’s Nest, Shamrock, Haiku Journal, Simplyhaiku.com. Nana has a prepared manuscript titled ‘BLACK PATHOLOGY’, which he hopes to get published one day. He blogs at freduagyeman.blogspot.com.
Geosi Reads: Is/Are there any circumstance(s) that led you to write poetry?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: After Secondary School – what they now call Senior High – I looked back and was touched by all that my mother did for me when I was in school. So to show appreciation, I decided to write something. At the time I didn’t know what it was supposed to be. But I really did put pen to paper and began writing. This produced something that was later polished and could then be regarded as a poem. The other circumstance that made me write the second poem, and therefore totally reduced the inertia, was when I watched a documentary on Female Genital Mutilation. I was so touched that I cried. That evening I wrote my second poem.
Geosi Reads: Does writing poetry come easily for you?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: Sometimes it does; at other times, even if I make a conscious effort to write, nothing comes to me. However, if I’ve thought over a subject for a long time and I finally decide to write, it comes smoothly.
Geosi Reads: How do you start a poem? How do you know when you’ve come to the end of a poem?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: There is no one specific start to any poem. Each poem is unique in how one conceives it and writes it. However, sometimes a title will come to mind. Something interesting; then I start to think what can be done to this beautiful title. Sometimes it takes months to develop a subject to suit the title. Then and only then – after I’ve mentally conceived of the subject – do I sit to write it down. This would be followed by several revisions. At other times, an idea for a poem will be kick-started by a passage, sentence of a word in a novel I’m reading or a documentary. There are times where I know what to write and later think about the title, when the work is done.
When I can no more generate enough verses, without being repetitive, to address the subject or title, I stop. Sometimes I end after two verses, sometimes after ten pages. It all depends. However, with time, I’ve come to adopt the minimalist’s approach to writing. I like how cryptic they turn out and how one can say a lot with few words.
Geosi Reads: Writing poetry and Performing poetry. Which of the two do you like doing most?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: Writing is good for me, though when I write I imagine myself performing and that determines the structure and mood I put into it. Sometimes, the shape of the words on the page is key to its unravelling and one can easily lose this in a performance. I’m biased to writing, perhaps because I’m a poor performer.
Geosi Reads: Do you think poetry has a place in this 21st Century?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: Why not? Poetry will always have a place. One can use poetry for several things. For instance, a poem can analyse the human condition. It can question actions or provide explanations. It can provide a different way of seeing everyday things. The issues we face in the 21st Century are not mutually exclusive to poetry.
Geosi Reads: Does it matter to you the subject matter of your poems?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: I usually don’t think about the subject matter though I tend to hover around specific subject – the human condition. I hate wars and warmongers; I hate when people lord over others; I hate obsequious grovelers; I hate pretenders. These are the things I write about. Thus, I want my writings to raise questions, to show how simple we are; for instance, we shall all die including the dictator who kills millions or the democrat who send drones to other countries. In the end, what do we seek to gain?
Geosi Reads: Does reading novels have any influence on writing poetry?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: Reading in general triggers the mind to think farther and wider. Initially, I used to write one poem per every read book. I believe that a writer should first be a reader. Also, novels say in a long way, what poetry would say in a stanza or two.
Geosi Reads: You are an Agricultural Economist by profession. Why do you indulge yourself in the art of poetry?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: Agricultural Economics is what the educational system led me to. You obtain a certain grade and some people somewhere decides you must read these subjects and so on. Then when you are old to take a decision, you are tied by your previous studies – at least this is how the Ghanaian educational system is set up. Though I don’t regret what I studied. Poetry is life. I just fell into it as I’ve already explained. Besides, there was once a time where Secondary school graduates had to stay home for almost two-years before proceeding to the universities due to a long-term strike by lecturers which resulted in backlog of students. Consequently, between 1997 and 1999 I had a lot of time on my hands and decided to jump into writing and poetry came easily to me.
Geosi Reads: You’ve been widely published in both print and e-zines: Acorn, Frogpond, The Heron’s Nest, Shamrock, Haiku Journal, Simplyhaiku.com. Do you intend to publish them in one collection?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: These are my haiku poems. Yes, but I have a (non-haiku) poetry manuscript titled Black Pathology, which I intend to get published.
Geosi Reads: You keep three separate blogs – thus – ImageNations, Haiku from Ghana, Black Pathology. Could you discuss them all?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: When I discovered blogs, I became interested. At the time, I had asked myself what I could do for literature in Africa instead of constantly berating authors on the continent. In June 2009, I decided to dedicate a large portion of my readings to African literature. So when I discovered blogs at the same time, I jumped to it and used that platform to share the books I’ve read. This led to ImageNations. Later, when I wanted to create a Haiku presence in Ghana, I realised that the best way to go is not to mix it with the literary blog dedicated to African literature. It will lose its impact. Thus, I created a different blog for it and named it Haiku from Ghana.
Black Pathology, as a blog, should not be confused with Black Pathology, my manuscript. The only thing they have in common is the themes. The blog is for political, social, economic and other issues that come to my notice and to which I want to contribute. I have varied interests and that’s where all the non-haiku, non-literary interests converge. It’s also the youngest member of my family of blogs.
Geosi Reads: ImageNations seems to be the most vibrant of them all and one that I follow consistently. Does it come to you as a surprise that many people follow ImageNations as compared to your other blogs?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: No. I dedicate much more time to ImageNations than the others. Haiku is not common in Ghana and because I’m not very active on it, I don’t expect it to be that vibrant. Again, I do read a lot so creating content on ImageNations comes naturally. Black Pathology will get there, though it will be more because of the issues I discuss than the volume of the posts.
Geosi Reads: I am wondering how you came about the name ImageNations?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: That’s fun. It occurred to me that imaginations are images we create in an abstract nation we call the mind. Writing breathes life into these images. ImageNations was how I titled my very first poetry collection, which later morphed into Black Pathology.
Geosi Reads: On your blog, you’ve noted that the vision of ImageNations is to see the growth of African Literature. Has this vision been realized?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: I have received several messages from readers who have read some of my recommendations and who look up to the blog for African titles and alternatives to the common European titles. Again, the blog has brought some form of awareness to African Literature. Because I don’t discriminate between established and new writers, people get to read the young talents on the continent. I’ve also been contacted by publishers who want me to review their books for them on my blog.
However, more can be done. Growth in African Literature is not one that a simple blog can single-handedly achieve. However, when one googles for a book by an African writer one should be able to find it, and then find others. If the person is interested in the book he found, then he would more likely come back for more. Soon he or she would have become an ardent reader of African literature.
Geosi Reads: One of your poems I have secretly admired is ‘A Curve in the Tell.’ The first two lines reads: – There is a Curve Deeply, – Seated in their Tell-. If I may ask, in whose tell is there a curve?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: The tales told by Westerners about Africa are so convoluted that sometimes you begin to wonder if they see with different eyes. I specifically wrote that in response of Naipaul’s The Masque of Africa. There is a given template on the narrative of Africa; if your text veers off this narrative, it is considered un-African. For so long a time, people have solidly stuck to this narrative. It’s sad. It is said that if the Lion does not tell its story, the hunter will always win the battle.
Geosi Reads: I am highly aware that Ghanaian writer, Ayi Kwei Armah is indisputably one of your top-most favourite authors. What would you say to Armah should you ever meet him?
Nana Fredua-Agyeman: I will seek his thoughts about our current governance system.