Literary Zone

Poetry: Mandela the Spear

30 August 2007 at 16:42 | 564 views

Mandela the Spear.

By Atukwei Okai.

You feign
you feign
you do so love me
But the truth
Is now like rain:
He who sees not,
Feels it on his skin,
And with
A deep paralyzing pain,
Erodes away
The still-wet walls of
Our strong castles
Built in my dreams,
The terrible truth
Is now like the sun -
Where it is
Not seen, it is felt;
Skin of your words
Show a telltale tail
Scales blinding
My eyes start to melt.

*Atukwei Okai(photo) was born and educated in Ghana before traveling to Moscow where he obtained his M.A. (Litt.) from the Gorky Literary Institute in 1967. After returning to Ghana for a year, he was awarded a post-graduate scholarship from the University of Ghana to pursue his Master of Philosophy degree at the University of London.

In 1968 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (U.K.) and from 1971 to 1991 he served as President of the Ghana Association of Writers. In 1989 he was elected the first Secretary-General of the Pan-African Writers’ Association (PAWA) a position which he still holds today.

Okai lectured in Russian literature at the University of Ghana from 1971 to 1984 when he joined the Institute of African Studies as a Senior Research Fellow in African Literature. He is presently the Head of Language, Literature and Drama Unit of the Institute.

The Entertainment Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana acknowledged his pioneering role in PAWA by presenting him in 1991 with their highest award, the Flagstar, which marked the first time in the 15-year history of ECRAG that the Flagstar award has gone to a writer.

Okai’s poems have been published in numerous anthologies and international journals such as The New African Okyeame, The New American Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Black World, and Literary Cavalcade, and have been translated into several languages.

He has also performed his poems for radio, television and to live audiences in Africa, Europe, Canada, Australia, Russia, Japan and Vietnam. Okai has received 13 national and international awards, among them The President of the Republic of Ghana’s Special Prize in 1960, the Iqbal Centenary Commemorative Gold Medal by the Government of Pakistan in 1979, and the International Lotus Prize and Gold Medal awarded in 1980 by the National Council for Research in Italy.

The musicality of his poetry is attributed to the Northern ambience of Ghana, where he grew up, which is rich in music and music-dominated idioms. Prof Femi Osofisan of Nigeria declared in the Second Annual African Studies Lecture at Leeds University that "Okai was the first to try to take African poetry back to one of its primal origins, in percussion, by deliberately violating the syntax and lexicon of English, creating his own rhythms through startling phonetic innovations ..."