Sunday, December 17, 2006

the writer returns

So, lately I've been feeling like a writer proper. Partly because some Ghanaians - as you probably gathered from my earlier post - can be quite judgmental when it comes to appearance but every time I say I'm a writer, they go - oh, it's OK; that's why you've got locks! Yes, it appears writers can be forgiven for everything here because it's not a 'proper' job. My next dastardly deed is to try to rob a bank and see if I'll be forgiven :)

Update:
The good news is confirmed; I got a distinction in my MA and came top of the class, for which I am to be awarded - wait for this... no, really, wait... 50 POUNDS! I mean, I'm not going to refuse it, but PLEASE! Have you any idea what that course costs? 6400 POUNDS... At least give me 10% back, or, yeah I know it's asking a lot... refund my fees or something. I could really use that money!! Even my first degree, which I finished in 1998 awarded me £180 for coming top of the class - and that was in Manchester (lower cost of living and all that). Anyway, still, I met my favourite writing group there so ha hum I'll be mum... I'm still going to start a campaign for the next person who wins that award - it's 'disgracefulish'

On my more academic side, I have just completed a paper on linguistic diversity in Ghana, focusing on the influence of the media and the idea of national identity so I'll let you know when that is out. I went researching at the Balme Library in the University of Ghana in Legon and also at the George Padmore Library in Accra - those libraries have some choice material but they need help! No anti-theft barriers NOTHING. At George Padmore, the collection has reduced to a point where I am planning to mount a campaign for people to donate books to them... It's serious!

On my creative side, I FINALLY GOT A SHORT STORY IN A NORTH AMERICAN MAGAZINE :) Storyteller Magazine (Canada - http://www.storytellermagazine.com/) will carry the latest (and final) version of my story 'Scotch Bonnets' in their Winter issue. I'm ecstatic of course... but I have to stay focused; I'm deep inside my novel...

Got to go..

I'm not reading anything for the next week or so - just writing

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

headlines from Ghana

Long time no blog, but those-in-the-know know that I've been podcasting. It turns out it's a lot easier, especially if you go completely 'ghetto' like I do: I just use my phone voice recorder, then I plug it into my laptop and download it and there's your mp3 podcast... it only takes a minute to update the xml file for iTunes etc, so it's essentially pain-free. OK I'm not saying blogs are a pain, but it takes time to type and I certainly can't type as fast as I talk! So, the update, I'm in Ghana, trying my best not to miss my grlfriend too much, keep up with my work schedule and fulfill the social duties that come with being amongst family!! In that time I've written one short story, the outline for an article on the evolution of languages in Ghana (which I'm doing for a publication on linguistic diversity in Africa), a couple of poems, and a few pages of my novel in progess. I've also done some research for the novel and I'm hoping to do a lot more in the next couple of weeks. My writer's group in London are keeping me disciplined because I'm still feeding back on stories online using a great program called Celtx and I've had some pretty good news; it's now confirmed that the first chapter of my novel-in-progress 'Afterbirth' is going to be published in the new British Council anthology - New Writing 15 - due out mid-next-year. Meanwhile the anthology that I'm editing with Tash Aw (originally due out in November) is on schedule to be released in January - you can pre-order it online (search x24: unclassified). Oh, and I passed my MA Creative Writing course, in fact I'm told I got a distinction but I haven't seen the stuff myself yet so I won't start drinking just yet!

It's Tuesday and I wasn't planning on going to the internet cafe today but it seems I'll have to because of some bills I thought I'd sorted back in the cold that I haven't. On Wednesday, I'm told there's a cool jazz place that's come up in Accra called Jazz Tone so I might go and see what's cooking there. I'm always excited when I find out about a new stage-venue in Accra; I grew out of night clubs like eight years ago so it's no fun for me otherwise. It's funny, I say I grew out of night clubs, but I think it's more a case of the people I would go out with, like my older brother and a crew of my 'boys', are all late-working professionals and Dads now and I'd much rather be writing than out getting smoked up but I bet if we all got together the dance moves would all come out to play again :)

Speaking of which, I'm loving being an uncle to all these strange, beautiful kids who I probably won't see for another year and will have to get to know all over again. They are a great distraction from the politics going on around - our president who has the oratorial skill of a snail, presidential candidate asprirants in the opposition who have forgotten that they are friends, 'load-scheduling' of electricity (basically we have to accept that our lights will be off once every five days), our currency being redenominated so that I will no longer be a millionaire :). See unlike politicians, these kids state their goals clearly - TO CAUSE HAVOC - so at least you know what you're dealing with; the politician state that they are here - TO SOLVE PROBLEMS, and do exactly what the kids do. I'll take kid'sSHIT over bullSHIT any day...

Otherwise I'm out here getting darker and taking the opportunity to send out some work for publication. For those of you who subscribe to short stories and poems on my mailing list, I will be sending them out this week so look out for them, if you don't subscribe and are interested, go the the website and select the appropriate mailing list to join. I send the stories out quarterly and the poems monthly.

I'm reading: some Anais Nin anthology, the title evades me at this moment!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

hard work

In the last few weeks I've realised just how hard it is to keep a blog regular and up to date. Indeed it's been easier to keep my podcast going, and it's just occured to me that the podcast is so much more focused - I turn on the microphone and I have a clear goal; to read one poem. This blog on the other hand is freestyle and because I'm a broody kind of fellow (yes, to the tune of 'stubborn kind of fellow') it's hard for me to sit and write - I do so much in my head and when my head is heavy with thoughts, worries, responsibilities etc. etc. it's hard for me to put anything out in a blog. Emotionally, I haven't been on even keel for a long time. Juggling all the things I have to do to keep afloat as a writer I go through highs and lows like a newborn through diapers. Black History Month UK TM has just come to an end and given my life back to me, but here's a diary of occurences:

HIGH: The Barbican hosts a book launch for a poetry imprint I started a year ago ( AMAZON UK Link | AMAZON US Link)
LOW: BUT Printer goes out of business and I'm not sure if we'll have books on the launch night: I lose FIVE days of writing to sort this out and eventually we get the books - the launch was fine but, man I will NEVER get those five days back!

LOW: Tash Aw and I are distressed by the stories we have received for the anthology we're editing together - good stories are too similar; other stories are too bad! It's clear we'll have to put the launch date back.
HIGH: We send a distress message out and get a few more stories - we think we're OK... fingers crossed

HIGH: I get some Arts Council Funding to work on my second novel; it's meant to kick in in late October so I can stop doing gigs and concentrate on writing
LOW: I'm still waiting for the money :) - it will come, I know, but I'm still on gig street - my next is at the Folkestone Literature Festival on November 16; if you live in Kent, do come and check us out... oh, and buy some books - I've got to eat!

HIGH: One of my best friends, a pilot, is passing through from Switzerland, in the same week my girlfriend gets a great job (I forsee loads of free lunches and dinners!). I'm supposed to be able to see them both...
LOW: Yep, you guessed it... In spite of hours of phone coordination, I see neither :)

LOW: My account reaches the low point of £24.09 balance
LOW: All my bills arrive on November 1
LOW: Paying my rent takes my current account into the red; I have savings but people owe me money for gigs - it's the principle; I'm NOT transferring money from my savings!

HIGH: I manage to conduct 4 (FOUR) editorial meetings with my writers in one week - that's a record even for me!
LOW: I didn't get to see my girlfriend again! Not a good time to mess around, now she's all MINTED and I'm an ARTIST!

HIGH: I get e-mails from St Petersburg, Vancouver and Dayton. People are actually listening to my podcast!! Here's all the links to new outlets:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/flippedeye/MoQq | http://odeo.com/channel/142141/view | My Odeo Channel | http://www.podcastpup.com/pod.asp?ID=1914
HIGH: I finally send some short stories off to the New Yorker and The Paris Review, with another ready to go to the London Magazine and one coming up for Wasafiri - I don't know what will come of them, but I haven't made a submission in close to two years so it's a huge deal for me.

LOW: It's cold as hell. Winter is my least productive period in the UK 'cos I just can't talk myself out of bed... Hmmm...


So there you have it. A little summary of the Life of I. It's not all work and doom though. I have found some great video podcasts of cartoons and since cartoons have been an obsession since I was three years old, I've had some good times... I also got nostalgic about the Ghanaian football team who will be playing Australia at Loftus Road on November 15 and (seeing as we've had problems mainly with strikers) spent some time checking out one of our great stikers online:

Tony Yeboah spent most of his playing career in Germany and averaged better than a goal every other game. I found some cool vids of a couple of his games on what I now call Goo Tube. Nothing from the better part of his career at Frankfurt though. Here's my lil summary:

Tony Yeboah:
62 appearances – 33 goals for Leeds
123 appearances – 68 goals for Frankfurt

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBx_c8Y0r0c – Incredible goal for Leeds
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYZo6fjQacs&NR – Hat Trick against Monaco

What I'm listening to? Luther Vandross' new best of... I love Luther like my own brother!
I'm reading Wallace Stevens (Poetry) and about to get into Fatou Diome (Fiction) translated from French by a friend I made at a translation conference - in case you missed it, I write in Ga as well, that's why I was there - in Cambridge; Roz Schwartz.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

black & white

The school that made me, Achimota School in Accra, Ghana, has a black and white crest modelled on the piano, a play on the idea that you can't make good music with only the black keys or only the white keys. BTW the school was founded long before Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney sang Ebony & Ivory (yes, youtube have it!) - maybe we should ask for a cut of the royalties! Anyway, the old boys network just passed info on to me about a fund-raising website to help keep it in its glory so I guess I have to dig into my pockets pre-winter after all :) The website is www.ac2010.org if you're feeling generous! So... in the way random things happen to me that my mind manages to link or make sense of, I was doing research for some writing I'm doing and came across this interesting bit of information from wikipedia - "from age 16, millions of African-American men disappear from the census but women do not. In 2000, this came to 2.77 million individuals. Where did they go?" My first response, of course was, "why are you asking me? You built the prisons!" But then I thought they actually do count prisoners and 2.77 million prisoners would be an awful lot of prisoners to "disappear" (new usage learnt from my friend Hisham Matar when he wrote about what Qaddafi did to his father)... Not even Dubya could manage that... Then I read on... "The assumption... is that they redefined themselves as White." Of course, this is me diluting a lot of information, but the bottom line is, Dave Chappelle may not be the only Black man in the KKK; it's believed that a third of US Americans who identify themselves as white, have African ancestry. Though it's hard to believe, births were not officially recorded with the races of the parents in the US until about 1800. African people started arriving in the US in 1619 as indentured slaves - along with white slaves - who could work their way out of debt (and thus go free) almost 100 years before slavery was specifically linked to race in 1705 when the 'Slave Codes' came into effect. That means for close to 200 years, a child that was born and was 'light' enough would be assumed to be white, and by the time birth certificates kicked in - especially in the period between 1880 and 1965 when the US became obsessed with recording people's 'racial' origin - there would have been so many of them that they were, in fact, just 'American'. Being the nerd that I am, I extrapolated that against the 2000 US Census and the figure (of 1/3 of self-identified white having African ancestry) means the US is 50% white and that's not even counting the self-identified whites who may have Native American ancestry... Interesting stuff! Time for a Black President, or maybe, time for genetic tests on all the past US presidents... OK, I've messed about enough now - back to work!

Monday, October 02, 2006

trapped

Anyone remember that Colonel Abrams song? (I keep showing my age up in this web!)... "Oh oh I`m trapped like a fool I`m in a cage."; that's me right now. Of course I'm ecstatic that I just handed in my dissertation for my Masters and I was really looking forward to some "downtime" but ALAS here comes October. It's Black History Month in the UK, I'm a Ghanaian writer (of, dark, very dark complexion Mr Soyinka...) and I can't afford to refuse the the system its opportunity to employ me and PAY ME 'cos I have bills waiting. So... I find myself working on things I would have loved to work on in another month of the year, and no time for ME and my dreaming at all! Regardless, I'm doing sleepless nights reading and I'm carrying on with my novel so if you see me and my eyes are red and I'm not making sense, just know that I'm trying to survive in a country that only wants me to exist for a month :)

Monday, September 25, 2006

my article of the week: chavez boosts chomsky sales

In summary, Chavez does an Oprah: he appears at the UN asking Americans to read Chomsky's book 'Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance' ("because their threat is right in their own house") and sales go through the roof. Full story at: http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1880226,00.html (Guardian Online)

:)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

where in the world...

...is Carmen Sandiego? OK, don't tell me I'm the only one who played that game; it was probably the first (and only) video game I played [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmen_Sandiego ] - Anyway, I feel like her right now because I haven't had a moment in one spot for ages. I'll be back though. The good thing about moving about it that it gives you great ideas for writing and loads of useful useless info. For example, I was 'punting' in Cambridge and the boat/barge/punt builder told me there was no fish in the water for years 'cos it was so polluted (the fish are jumping like summertime again, thanks to an EU grant to clean it up), and it makes you wonder - what exactly were those Cambridge kids doing to pollute the water so much?? Just kidding, it was industrial waste - or was it?

Next big event:
Bringing the House Down www.myspace.com/bringingthehousedown

Listening to:
Hugh Masekela

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

mint

So, maybe we should get all the lit news out of the way then get to the mint? Well, as you gathered from my last offering I've been in NYC writing and stuff. I returned to the UK to a backlog of e-mail and all that lovely sour mash. The manuscript for my first novel has been doing the rounds and it hasn't found a home yet. I've had two lovely rejections from editors who had very different opinons of my work; one thought it didn't have a strong enough narrative thread, but loved my writing, the other thought the plot and story were fascinating and original but didn't like the language, which was described as 'solemn and brooding'. In any case, both editors were very nice about it and I'm glad for that because I respect them both BUT it leaves a writer thinking WHO'S RIGHT?? This is when you have to trust your own instincts. I mean how many books have we seen turned down that then became mega-sellers; my own agent turned down a manuscript that is now on the Booker longlist. Man, it's a beautiful world!! I do have good news though: a major excerpt from my second novel (in progess) is to be published in the British Council's New Writing anthology next year, and I'm on the verge of becoming a published children's writer - ha! No money, no problems...


Now, the mint. Basically fresh mint was on sale at Tesco so I bought a bunch. I put half up to dry to make tea with later, but I still have the rest of the fresh mint. Yesterday I made six mint teas - lovely! Then today I thought, let's make some interesting food. I had some left over tuna, some spring onions, parmesan cheese, a bit of lamb mince, a last thin slice of brown bread, a bit of double cream, and stuff. And then I spotted the large green pepper - so I thought pepper stuffing tuna/lamb competition. For the lamb the mix was lamb/chilli powder/double cream/half slice of brown bread (crumbed)/mint leaves (ha, ha, ha)/spring onions/salt&pepper and for the tuna it was tuna/mustard/half slice of brown bread (crumbed)/mint leaves (ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha)/spring onions/salt&pepper/plus parmesan topping. In the end I had excess stuffing so (influenced by the recent visit of the mother of a Libyan friend of mine whose mom is the most amazing cook!) I dragged some left over rice from the fridge and made rice-stuffing parcels to go in the oven with the stuffed peppers. While they were in there I made a double cream/mustard & mint (ha, ha, ha, ha, ha...) sauce and would you believe???? It was SOOOO FREAKING GOOD - and to my great surprise the tuna (from Ghana of course - all the big cans of Tesco tuna are from Ghana - dolphin friendly and all!) actually won the taste wars. Don't get me wrong, the lamb was good... but the tuna was poetry!! The rice parcels were yummy too with that crazy sauce. Another mad recipe for the book!! BTW if you want to try this stuff, the key to any mint sauce is to keep tasting because, trust me, you don't want to get too minted! Mo' money mo' problems!!


I'm listening to Stephanie Mills 'cos she has one of the best voices ever - none of this cheap trilling stuff we get fed these days. My girlfriend always laughs when I sing along to "Comfort of a Man" but it's worth it just to sing along to such dopeness...


what i'm reading/listening to


listening:
Stephanie Mills


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

missed stops

So i'm in NYC, we had a great book launch for Truth Thomas' Party of Black at the Bowery Poetry Club and I've been trying to relax and write. Verdict? I've still got the writing blues, but it's only affecting my prose, not the poetry. I guess I'll have to go with that. I cheered myself up today by doing what I often do when I'm with my Mom... Oh yeah, I've been hanging with my Mom for 8 days straight: nothing like riding a cross-state bus with your mother. It kind of tells you if you've been raised right or not. If you can't have a conversation, something went wrong between breast milk and moving out. I'm proud to say Mom & I have had a blast - laughing at people, debating post-natal depression (Mom's a retired midwife), and trying not to spend too much money, which has been surprisingly easy considering that my mother loves shoes the way she does... So, where was I? I googled myself (that's how I prove to her I haven't been wasting my time) and I am still tickled to find that a Manchester student rag saw me perform with Dead Prez and thought my set was the most moving of the night (link here) but the coolest link is my British Council/CalStateLa residency link http://www.calstatela.edu/academic/english/nparkes.htm YES, I HAVE ARRIVED! Now, who wants to take bets on how long it takes before I'm feeling low again?

Here's one of my poems:

Lapse

The Greyhound is late. I’ve been fast
asleep too long to know why, but the man
beside me – Chinese – tells me what time it is.

He turns to the back-lit maze of his phone, taps
a geometry of buttons, gets lost in an exchange
about auditions and lost opportunities. I look

across the aisle: the big guy with the Yankees
cap has struck up a dialogue with the Polish
woman beside him. Her dark eyebrows arch –

an eager pair – in synch under her blond hail; I can
tell she’s open; so is he, but he’s fearful, hasn’t
yet learnt the curved asymmetry of lust. There is

already a lapse between her keenness, his lean
and the speed of his initiative. Somebody should
tell him that if the lapse grows any longer

the door of chance will close – snap in
his face. It’s already too late. The bus is
drifting into Harlem, Connecticut a distant memory:

I hear him say excuse me, he calls his Mom. A pink
rose blooms on the woman’s cheek, she looks
outside. I hang my head, exhale, and close

my eyes. The man beside me snaps his phone shut.




Tuesday, August 29, 2006

on the road

So, you would think that a wedding getaway/holiday that started with some asshole (hereinafter known as Mr A) jumping a queue I'd been in for 30 minutes just because he was in business class could only go downhill. Well, I walked up to him and told him what I thought of him, and he wasn't at all repentant - the weird thing was the airline apologised for him! What? I asked the airline, to his hearing - of course - if it was fine for him to act like a jerk and have them apologise but they went quiet. So, the septuagenarian couple in front of me had to wait for Mr A to get checked in, but what was sweet was the couple and I became good travel buddies and Mr A couldn't look anyone in the eye for the entire flight - delicious 9 hour payback.


Anyway, it all got better... once on the plane it hit me how some things have become obsolete in my short lifetime - pretty wild to think about! One of them is airline ashtrays, and the whole idea of smoking on airplanes. The sight of all those glued-shut ashtrays just reminds you how old most planes are, but think about how far we've come: you could actually have lighters, lighter fuel, tobacco, smoke... all that good stuff up there in the air, and now you're not even allowed to carry a bottle of water to your seat - of course the duty-free shops are cleaning up :) There's always a good financial angle to all these alerts, prohibitions, curtailments of rights... I saw a guy who was transferring flights get stripped of two bottles of whiskey in Switzerland, yet he'd just bought them in duty-free and hadn't been warned. I see a whole new recycling sale industry developing... Biggest irony though? While we were limited to the tiniest carry on bags ever, the people who boarded in Switzerland seemed to have huge bags; a Jewish guy - of the big beard and long curly lock crew - on the plane even reached into his bag to get Pringles and - oh my God! - juice!! See how stupid it sounds that we were all staring open-mouthed at a guy becasue he took juice out of his carry on bag? But then again, two guys were thrown off a plane just for looking a certain way. I wonder what would have happened if they had reached into their bags for a bottle of fresh juice...

Shopping: I just found out that this really forward thinking basketball star - Stephon Marbury - started his own clothing label so young boys could have cool gear for less and not have to resort to crime to look fly. The label is called starbury (starbury.com) and they sell basketball shoes for $14.98, work boots for £9.98 and most of their other gear for $9.98. Of course I had to support the cause so I hooked my self up in Connecticut. Otherwise, I've been good!

The other great thing is because I'm here for family I've been road-tripping with my Mom and, man, have I been asleep with this writing stuff. Things have been going on around me and I have no idea; it's good to catch up...

Later.

what i'm reading/listening to


listening:
Woyaya by Osibisa


reading:
my own stuff to realign my writing in progess :)

Monday, August 21, 2006

...member?

Remember that Ghanaian poets project I spoke about? Well, I did warn you that I tend to go all out - it's become awhole'notherproject at http://niiayikwei.wordpress.com/poems-from-ghana/ and take a wild guess as to whose writing is slow :) - absolutely no thought movement... I better go and play catch up!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

mr hyde

Every so often I feel this little twinge of desperation, like all the things I'm doing will lead to nothing and I'll be left with dream shards that cut every time I try to move. It's like I have so much to learn and there's no time in the world and I just want to cry. I call those moments my Mr Hyde moments because if you catch me in a moment like that, with desperation and tears stacked up behind my eyes, I can snap with absolutely no provocation...


Ironically, the only thing that helps me push the feeling aside is remembering the really hard times I've lived through; the days with no food, the months sleeping on concrete, the 20-hour shifts to hold back debt... OK, it's not the ONLY thing that helps - crying hard does too but sometimes it's messy. Having said that, living alone like I do, it's often a quicker solution than dredging your memories for misery, but don't fall for the temptation of calling your mom or dad; they'll just cheer you up in that way that makes you cry even more - there's nothing as bad as someone trying to tell you you're precious and talented and a gift and clever and remarkable, when you feel like shit!

- SIGH -

OK, I let it go. I found a video that a friend of mine made when I was performing in Munich so I'm stealing it for you. (check out Ken Yamamoto if you speak German; he's a cool dude!)

Nii Parkes (London) Substanz 2006
click above to see it


i'm listening to patti labelle; she has a great voice for low times...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

imho - lmao

Can I just say, what is a humble opinion?? Think about it; if you have an opinion you already feel pretty good about yourself or what you're thinking - humility doesn't come into it. Respect, maybe... but humility? IMHO - In My Humble Opinion - Has no one ever wondered why the expression only exists in English? It's a typical English sucker-punch-type expression that allows one to kiss ass and speak their minds at the same time... of course, if you think that it originated from England and England still has 'the Royals' it makes a bit of sense. How do you advise someone who has the right to behead you at any time? Aha! In my own proud language of Ga, equivalent expressions for speaking one's mind are as clear as 'if I look' (ke mi kwe) or 'i don't feel that way'/ - more literally- 'it doesn't do me that way' (e fee mi nakai), in French it's 'a mon avis' - nobody puts humble in the mix except the English. Anyway, I've been thinking about the antidote for weeks, and it's another internet favourite: LMAO - Laughing My Ass Off (or in Ghana LMBO, where B=Buttocks!). The trick is once you laugh your ass off there is nothing left to kiss so IMHO can go bury itself!

So, I've been away beavering at a new interface for the Tell Tales site to restore interactivity after a long time away. The new link is at http://www.telltales.co.uk/tt_cafe/


Interesting stuff I've read over the last couple of days, are the use of the rings from female condoms as bangles in Ghana (link here). I mean, how can you not love a country where the mathematics of birth control can be turned into a distinct, economical fashion advantage, manipulated to ignite the chemistry of attraction and head back into the whirlwind of sexual activity. See, for years we've replaced the fan belts in our cars with stockings, created stretch limos by putting two halves of separate cars together... why would anyone be surprised that our women are so creative! The other thing I read is a perfect example of how a film might later be made about how a woman used the rings from female condoms to start a fashion empire BUT they just might forget to say she was from Ghana :) All hail Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, where a black ex-marine who helped save lives on September 11 was cast as a white man :) Well, I understand; there just aren't enough jobs out there for the struggling white actors in Hollywood (link here)

I'm listening to the poet - Bobby Womack - 'cos he's a lyrical mack with one of the most amazing voices in the world and I'm reading Roald Dahl 'cos I'm writing some kiddie stuff and Roald had that down! Speaking of kiddies, it's well past my bedtime - I need to go get my Horlicks and snoozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

what i'm reading/listening to


listening:
The Poet by Bobby Womack


reading:
Esio Trot by Roald Dahl

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sunday, August 13, 2006

it's called a break

been relaxing for the first time in like 7 years, buying baby stuff with one of my best friends who is going to be a father in september (babies are expensive business here!), and just talking - 'bout relationships, trust, and how impossible it is to explain to someone that you're faithful when you've never tried to cheat; see it's always the cheats that have their stories ready :) oh, the delicious ironies of life! anyway, we've been listening to raul midon and a whole heap of robert cray 'cos my boy is a guitarist - we used to write songs together but we haven't even sat down to share music for a while. this was my way of saying, we've been drifting, but here's some stuff i know you missed that i know you'll love. and guess what? i was right. so, are friends more predictable than the opposite sex? ha, ha, yes, it's a conundrum for these modern times - gotcha!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

pasta

no listening, no reading, just talking... i'm away from home unwinding with some old friends 'cos my life's all twisted right now. of course, what do i get for dinner? pasta - spaghetti bolognese. you couldn't get more twisted than that - am i reading too many metaphors out here? well, the good thing is it tasted great and i ate it all. now if i could consume all my entangled problems in the same way, i wouldn't care if it came with good wine or not!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

fenugreek love, fan hatred

First, anyone who makes a comment on how long it took me to get clean dies. I was working!
Even if I wasn't, that's what free will is about. So, anyway I said fenugreek is my new thing.
Natural, subtle or overpowering depending on how you use it; a spice like love and salt...
Use too much and you come undone. Speaking of overuse, I've decided I hate the extractor fan;
great big thing above my cooker that's supposed to stop my place from stinking of food - well I
really like the smell of food. And you can't be creative if you can't smell what you're cooking, I've
even tried hovering above the pans when I'm cooking but the damned noisy thing is a little too
effective. So I turned it off and now my dreams smell of palm oil. Hey, I'm happy. I will not
keel over because of the smell of good food, will I? I made a super slimy okro soup with chicken
wings last night, with a healthy dose of my new best friend fenugreek and the world stopped.
One of these days I'll write a recipe book. I've had one recipe published but it's just not enough.
What I have is a unique angle. Surely a kid who smelled his food so religiously that his mother
asked him if he was a monkey must have a different perspective on food...
+
random facts:
fenugreek is supposed to increase breastmilk production, some cultures have used it to increase breast size, and it is used in that lovely eritrean/ethiopian bread (injera).

hope you enjoyed my acrostic post - any excuse to practise poetry :) - speaking of which, that chronicling exercise I spoke of? I found the first poem. It was hard work, but I did so I'll be doing a double thought movement... Oh, and Random House just sent me an advance copy of Anne Carson's new collection of poetry (please, don't ask me why!) so I have some interesting verse to look forward to after I come out of jazz-inspired scribernation. I'm listening to Branford Marsalis right now - the guy is amazing! I've decided to let him play on because I've been very productive since he kicked in. I'd love to see him live one day - he's my favourite Marsalis brother (OK, Nii, when the jazz geekiness kicks in you have to say goodbye to the nice people...) Erm, bye bye!

what i'm reading/listening to


listening:
Requiem by Branford Marsalis


Ghanaian Poets I: Kofi Anyidoho: My Song

Ha, found the first. My Song by Kofi Anyidoho. It's kinda cool because I went to school with his daughter and she's a poem herself. He says of this poem "This poem is something of a signature tune, an invitation to "My song." It in part a translation of, and in part in elaboration on, an original Ewe song by one of the poet-cantors of the Haikotu Drum of my birth place, Wheta."

My Song

Here
on
this
Public
Square
I
Stand

I sell My Song for those with ears to buy
It is to a tree that a bull is tied
You do not bypass the palm's branches
to tap its wine

The things I have to say

I say them now
I shall stand aside
from those who care
to clear their throat and
dress their shame in lies

When you meet a poorly-dressed neighbour
at a great durbar
you do not spit on the ground
and roll your eyes to the skies

The umbrella I bought
You stole from my rooms at dawn
Now I walk in the early morning rain

You point at me to our young maidens
And they join you in laughter

Think
My People
Think
Think well before you laugh at those who walk in the rain.

The gifts that bestows at birth
Some had some splendid things
What was mine?
I sing. They laugh.
Still I sell My Song
for those with ears to buy

My cloth is torn, I know
But I shall learn to wear it well

My voice is hoarse, I know
But I shall learn to wear it well.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

new resolution

warning: i come up with these when i'm at loose ends!

i'm going to find as many electronically available poems from older Ghanaian poets as possible and put them up here - starting tomorrow :)

ok, it's like midnight and i'm just about to shower; i've got funk without music!!

oh, my new love? fenugreek - yep, i'm definitely doing a cooking post after i get cleaned up!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

spidery stillness

I've always thought that as long as things were in a state of constant movement, spiders couldn't settle. How wrong I was! My flat is infested with spiders right now and I KNOW I don't keep still, but then today - in a rare zen moment - it occured to me that my definition of movement could be stillness for a spider. I mean, how many seconds does a spider need to shoot silk from its backside and settle down? So, as much as I resent the invasion (and the fact that they are not paying rent etc) I'm OK about it now. I have finally understood the concept of light years in a down to earth manner, all through the galaxy of a spider's web!


Anyway, I'm sure you've noticed over the last two days that I've been listening to music and not reading. Well, that's a reason to celebrate. Those darned spiders are inspiring me to write, plus I have the comfort of knowing if I get stressed I can hunt them to kill (EVIL LAUGH - hu hu ha ha ha); it satisfies the Nii-anderthal in me :)



what i'm reading/listening to


listening:
Quiet After the Storm by Dianne Reeves


Monday, August 07, 2006

turkey talk

Am I the only person who finds it funny that I got hiccups less than five minutes after eating turkey? OK, I guess it's hard to tell out here in intergalaxy but I laughed; I laughed so hard the hiccups went. What's the moral of the story? Go figure...

UPDATE:
One short story in limbo
One short story in grey matter transit
One novel in hiatus/imagination exile
One kiddie story on clipboard - stewing
One hundred poems awaiting edits

Hmmm...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

a code for living

So, I nearly missed the 'daily' and it's only my first week! My excuse is that I was coding and doing web updates for the 'creative community' website www.x-bout.com that I've been running for about five years. I am highly inefficient at it because I haven't really sat down to study any code since 2001 so I have to learn everything as I use it - invariably there are mistakes. I mean I spent an hour trying to figure out how to feed this blog into myspace using flash and I didn't succeed; I mean I'm halfway there, but I can't afford the extra hour it will take to get it right...

I did manage to roast a tasty leg of turkey while I was doing all the updating, and also read through a friend's CV for two hours trying to match it up with a job spec to help in an interview prep... Anyway, long way of saying that my treatise on women/men/objectification will have to wait. I did get pissed off by a statement on BBC Radio 3 though: they introduced Richard Rodney Bennett's jazz composition with a preamble that essentially said he had 'a legitimate music background'. wtf do they mean by that? All the other jazz musicians have an illegitimate music background? Of course, it was a roundabout way of saying Richard Rodney Bennett (I believe he's a SIR) was from a classical music background and it's precisely the kind of cultural imperialist statement that proves that the western world's 'establishment' has changed its clothes but still wears stinky prejudiced underwear. No wonder Miles Davis spent his time following Bird and ditched Julliard; who wants to restrict themselves to some fossilised bs claiming to be new rain? Damn!

ok, vent over. I was happy :) to find some new thing called celtx that allows you to collaborate on a writing project online and THAT is what progress is about!

what I'm reading/listening to


listening:
The Best Man OST


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Writing Neuroses - Titles

I thought this was an interesting post thus I share. It's on titles from Kay Sexton, whose favourite title I was privileged to select for Tell Tales volume 3.

Writing Neuroses ... mine are rare, yours may be legion - Titles


Friday, August 04, 2006

myriad musings

Last night I judged a youth slam at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London and, man... The kids were so good; they had questions lingering like dragonflies and families falling to pieces piece by piece with no peace and fell in love like gangstas fall in love with rims etc. Crazy. And there was a kid called Henry who lied about his age to get on a writing workshop (said he was 14 but was 12), who just blew us away with his performance. On my way to the slam I was reading on writing for kids so it was very enlightening to see the range of imagination and points of view on offer during the slam. Great night out. I headed back home reading a spec script for 'Frasier' on the train because I'm toying with the idea of writing a sitcom with my good friend, fellow writer and dreamer, Ainsley Burrows in the next few weeks. Now, thinking of sitcoms makes you look at the world slightly differently, because everything is a situation so all you have to do is find the comedy - how a woman with hips narrower than a pencil is carrying an obese kid across the road, how one man in a conversation nods his head off-beat, like 10 seconds after the point has been made, how women often accuse men of flirting because they can see the subtle flirting of the other woman, but the men can't see it because for men, largely, flirting has to be blatant, a neat-freak bald man picking at his girlfriend's dress for fluff; all these things in the right context, with the right timing are rich veins of laughter... Anyway, I stopped at Sainsbury's in Paddington where strawberries had dropped from £2.99 to £0.69 so I couldn't resist buying a punnet with the intention of making a very basic dessert, with the last 4 digestive biscuits I have at home and some ice cream:

I'll be using a process similar to that used for making jam, but without the pectin ('cos I'm quick and dirty and gangsta!). Basically, I'll put about 8 tablespoons of sugar (I'm only making a little bit) in a pan with some water, heat slowly until the sugar is dissolved then crush the strawberries, put them in the solution and thicken slightly. When it cools it will get a bit thicker. On the other side, I'll crush the digestives into crumbs, layer the bottom of a bowl with it, cover with vanilla ice cream (soft) and then ladle the strawberry mix over it. (Man, this strawberry is bringing the whole Prince connection back like a raspberry beret!). The whole deal goes into the freezer to chill a little until I'm ready to chill with it!!

Otherwise, I'm been having some thoughts about beauty and the divisions it brings so expect some musings on that tomorrow - a recent poll conducted for men and women showed that men were less focused on physical attributes like breast size etc. than women! It was the women who wanted those bodies; interesting huh? The womeselecteded the most 'processed' woman (photo) as the most attractive, the men went for someone plainer who turned out to be one of the more intelligent women on the list :). But I'm off for now. I'm so proud of myself I've written two blogs today; this one - my thought movement - and thundermental writes

what i'm reading/listening to


listening:
Nevermind by Nirvana


reading:
Successful Sitcom Writing by Jurgen Wolff

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Someday My Prince Will Come

Ghanaian writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes performing his poem 'Someday My Prince Will Come to an audience in Bristol, UK. Yeah, that's me, fine opera voice and all :)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

sun schizo

Morning

My bed is juxtaposed so that the sun rises in my eyes. I face east and it stabs me hard when the day breaks, so I've decided the sun is schizophrenic because it's such a different creature at night. Low hips, seductive curves, an orange-red dress, and a longing to hide in the dark, behind trees, a desire to plunge in the sea... Love can be that way, and writing. I'm having dark days; my second novel misses my meddling but I can do nothing about it. The scent of the woman I love hangs around my bed, book spines peek from my shelves, colours hover on the edge of my eyes... distractions!

Quests
My attempts to get back 'home', tap into my thought movement :) and return to the manuscript have led me to dig out my Koo Nimo CD and get into his eloquent 'palm wine guitar' sound. Now, I selected a song from that CD for the radio programme (BBC) that was done on my first manuscript so I went back to listen to it (links below) and I didn't cringe as much as the first time. Regardless, the songs haven't worked so I'm reading a book on writing for children since I've had some interest from some reputable children's publishers in my work for kiddies. It's kinda been a good news week because the manuscript featured in the radio programme has finally gone out to a couple of amazing publishers and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Might that have something to do with my inability to write... Hmmm??

Sound
Mmmm, heard some good sound yesterday from my good friend Randolph Matthews (great vocalist, constantly-morphing percussionist and guitarist), Orin Marshall (Tuba) and Zena Edwards (poetry and vocals) at a place called Cottons on Exmouth Market. Had some food too; the jerk was OK but the rice was a bit hard. I like my rice and peas to be, as we say in Ghana, 'smooching' - softer and slightly sticky. However, the woman whose scent hangs around my room was there and she looked breathtaking (I had to keep my distance for reasons best left unblogged) and I bumped into an old uni friend after like 8 or 9 years (yes, I am that old!), which was mad cool 'cos I miss hanging out with my friends. Writing has twisted me into an asocial beast that only emerges occassionally to terrorise silence.

Introspection
I'm not just a lone beast. I mentor a couple of young poets and I'm constantly telling them how 'dreamy' they are; everything they write has colours, dreams and love - come on! Now I know I've been unfair. It's a phase and they need it. My silent moments led me to look back and I found 'meself' in them. To prove it I expose myself in this 1996 effort, Dreams like Mine:

If I had
a feather for a pen
I would fly on its blue wings
to your arms
to be inspired
by a colour
only found in your eyes.

If there were
a rugged swinging rope
dangling from the clear blue sky
I would climb
closer to heaven
to escape
the pain walls around me.

If my life
were imagination
and not ravenous questions
I would smile
in the tapping rain,
run through falling snow,
make faces at stars,
race the midnight winds,
seduce a sandstorm,
dance with a whirlwind
to enrage the sun...
just to show you
dreams like mine.



Well, I guess from now I'll just shut up then!!


Radio Links:
Cost of Red Eyes Programme Part 1

Cost of Red Eyes Programme Part 2



what i'm reading/listening to


listening:
Osabarima by Koo Nimo


reading:
The Way to Write for Children by Joan Aiken

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

justice for ordinary people

I've decided I've grown tired of protesting in the names of nations, because, ultimately, we, the citizens, the ordinary people, are simply mixed in with the rhetoric of politicians for effect. You only have to look at how athletes/footballers from Zola Budd (SA - UK), to Wilson Kipketer (Kenya - Denmark) to Gerald Asamoah (Ghana - Germany), to Chris Birchall (UK-Trinidad) have switched 'nationalities' to compete passionately for their adopted countries to realise that nations are just constructs to flare up people's passions towards causes espoused by - you guessed it - politicians. I mean I'm looking at this Lebanon - Israel - Palestine triangle and I'm thinking I don't thing anyone's hands are clean (although I do think Israel have more blood on their hands) so I feel a little odd about taking a placard and going out to protest for Justice for Palestine or Justice for Lebanon or whatever... I want my placard to read 'Justice for Ordinary People': I think it's sick that Israeli military commanders can be as young as 21 - the boys barely have a youth, and since they haven't really known pain they don't know what they are doing, and I think it's sick that they are ordered to fire on UN bases, families, and vital infrastructure by leaders who have just inherited bitterness from their fathers and have forgotten that what most ordinary people want in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and a dozen other war torn places is the ability to sit outside and stare at the sun without wondering when the next attack is coming... Anyway, that's my rant for the day. I had a brilliant evening yesterday at aromapoetry STAGE - some really fantastic readers out on the open mike, and the x magazine reading was great too. Although I edit the magazine, I only get to meet the writers at these readings and there's nothing nicer than putting a face to a poem :) - you can buy x magazine online at inpress books and you can read excerpts online at www.flippedeye.net/xmag. On my way from the reading I met my friend, SOAS Librarian Chris Gutkind (no jokes about all my friends having something to do with books, please!) who recently released a collection of poetry 'Inside to Outside'. I bought a copy off him, and although it's on the avant garde side of things and it takes me a while to digest those, I loved some lines like 'fire is happiest in unused matches' from the poem "Here" and 'they still look around listening for the sound of what-to-do' from "Inbetween". I also picked up Courttia Newland's new short story collection, Music for the Off-Key, at his fantastic launch, although I could only stop by for a short time because it was in London and a considerable distance from my bed... and we all know ordinary people need their sleep!



what i'm reading/listening to


listening:
No More Drama by Mary J Blige



Monday, July 31, 2006

the short season

I was just looking over my attempt at a two-year plan last week and I realised how far behind I am on my life - already 3 months off-schedule! One of the things I'm supposed to have finished is a short story collection and I think there are only 3 I'm completely happy with; my target is 15!! So, I've decided to motivate myself by entering as many competitions as I can in the next month and submitting to magazines - even if it means they'll reject me and stomp on my ego. I thus officially name the next two months "the short season".

The real problem of course is that I take on too much. Today, I'm up early but I have to leave home in like 15 minutes so that I can make it to central London and pick up some books. Then, this evening, I'm hosting an event I love - aromapoetry (www.x-bout.com/aroma) - with an open mike that always throws up beautiful surprises. Sometimes the talent is so good that I don't want it to end. However, from now on - especially today - I'll be leaving as soon as the clock strikes over. Oh, then I'm off to Courttia Newland's book launch so I guess I'll get to write 'round midnight (the Miles Davis curse!) Regardless, Courttia's Music for the Off Key is a seriously good collection of short stories; pick it up if you can! After all it's the short season...

what i'm reading/listening to


listening:
Musicology by Prince


reading:
Communion by Jacob Sam-La Rose

Molara Wood: nii ayikwei parkes...fiction extract

A blogger to look up to - up-to-date, smart, relevant - put an extract from my first novel (still doing the rounds) up on her page. Molara Wood: nii ayikwei parkes...fiction extract The blog is well worth checking out if you're into Writing from the African continent. She finds information it would take me months to get in a matter of days!

the thought movement

I'm starting this blog because I need to move traffic in my mind. There's congestion and I need a clear path to refocus so this is where the junk goes. Well, not junk, but writing is a great shovel; it can move the stacks of unconnected experiences and learnings in your head and make nice mounds that you can manoeuvre round with a brand new idea bike. I'll be putting up random links, reviews, views, maybe pictures if I ever pick my camera up again etc. etc. Who am I? My father's second son; a hand that writes, a hand that builds, feet that walk, and a mouth that knows not its own limits. I am a writer. I always say form is secondary, but many call me a poet - recently, I'm getting editor a lot too; I guess you could say I've had practice moving traffic! Thanks for being here. Comment away if you wish...