Monday, December 24, 2007

the thomas crown affair

yes, i know, it's been a long while since i blogged - life happens and e-living must take a back seat. anyway, during my time away i watched the remake of the thomas crown affair again and i must say i think it's one of pierce brosnan's best films; he shows his pecs and butt, has faye dunaway as his shrink and, man, hasn't that film got one of the best soundtracks? from nina simone to some good old songs from martinique rendered in french kreyol... for a jazz/music lover, that film is right 'cos they allow the music to play, it's not just tiny snippets. so, i've been thinking about thomas crown 'cos, well, you now how intangible things happen that people start to develop explanations for? i've felt like that since my first novel was sold (yes, my first novel tail of the blue bird has been sold to random house in the UK and i started a facebook group for it); i keep hearing stories about who helped me put the book together... as my mother often says hmm... can everybody just take a back seat? the novel started with this image that's been in my head for ages and ages which gradually developed layers as life happened around me... no, i won't go into that, because i'll just get mad and start slagging people off... what i want to say is... that it's been a good year; i moved in with my sweetheart, i sold my novel, i got a fellowship, i paid some bills, i travelled, i dreamed... and i'm STILL making my living as a writer - unbelievable!

and tonight, i bumped into some of my former students from a poetry slam project i worked on, from bishop douglas school (london) in a club and, damn, was i proud? they've grown up so well - mature, well-spoken, full of verve and dreams, and they are all still good friends. everything is alright with the world...

may your years end well too... may thomas crown machinations stay far from your door :)

what i'm reading:
flights of love - bernhard schlink

what i'm listening to:
come into knowledge - RAMP (Roy Ayers Music Production)

what i recommend:
29 ways to drown - niki aguirre (i edited it, but i recommend it because it is just the best collection of shorts i've read this year)
amazon | waterstones | foyles

Thursday, September 20, 2007


So, I've been at the Brooklyn Book Festival as an editor, putting on readings and meeting folk and, in the days since, I've been scouting Brooklyn, which appears much more European in architecture than Manhattan with its high skylines, and, I swear, I saw a house front exactly like the Cosby's! What's been cool is checking out different areas; like Bed Stuy where I saw a guy from Ghana sitting on a stoop with an umbrella, manning his store from the outside, just like they do in Accra's famous Makola market; Park Slope, where I hung out with fellow Ghanaian writer Mohammed Naseehu Ali (whose 'Prophet of Zongo Street' you absolutely HAVE to buy and check out); and Canarsie, where I'm staying with my friend and fellow poet, Ainsley Burrows, where I had the best Ackee and Salt Fish with green bananas this morning.

Right now, I'm sitting in a library off Fulton Street marveling at how many kids rush straight from school to the library, wondering what London is doing wrong!

Anyway, news links:
My dear friends, Lloyd & Adwoa seem to be doing well/surviving in 'The Restaurant':
I just did a piece for the short story website:
and this weekend I'll be speaking at the Soundbites Festival:

OH, and Bringing the House Down is on soon too - go and book...:

Got to run, but more to come...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

the wake of change

The last time I blogged Sekou Sundiata had just died. Since then, another literary man - one of my Ghanaian predecessors - Kwesi Brew, has passed on. It's been a period full of mourning, wakes and wakefulness. In the Ga tradition we believe that when someone goes to the other side someone takes on their role in this world, so my thoughts have now turned to the replacements, the poets who will take on the roles, the public voids left by the departure of Sekou and Kwesi. Of course, the replacements will have to carry on being themselves, but better, more elevated selves so that some other emerging writers can become their lesser selves, and so the world adjusts. I will blog on that subject - the idea of who replaces Sekou and Kwesi - later, but for now I remain mindful that in the midst of chaos, there is always cause for celebration and how true that has turned out to be! One of my other poet idols, Charles Simic, has been made Poet Laureate of the United States and I'm ecstatic because he is truly a rare, unconventional and brilliant poet. His book A Wedding in Hell is one of my favourite poetry books along with a few Nerudas and Heaneys, Li Young Lee's The City in Which I Love You and Atukwei Okai's Oath of the Frontomfrom (of course I love all the writers I have edited for waterways and mouthmark but that's another story). Anyway, you can read a poem by Simic on the online version of the New Yorker...

While you're online reading, check out this lovely list of fifty new African writers to watch that I'm privileged to be on... and also go to the Writers Fund Amazon wish list and buy something for the project I'm running in Ghana. I've already got quite a bit lined up but not much in the way of these much-needed books for the Writers' Centre I'm helping set up at the Pan African Writers Association building in Accra. I'm heading out there soon to run some workshops and do some work on the ground so it would be great if a few books turned up while I was there.

Anyway, I'd better go and sleep, but I promise to be a better blogger this August!

what i'm reading/listening to

Internal Affairs by Pharoahe Monch

All I can say about Pharoahe is he's irreverent, but artistic as hell. His wordplay makes every swear word worth listening to, because each one has a purpose. Great sense of plot too; his storytelling skills would put many a short story writer to shame and, of course, he rhymes as though Queen's needs his end rhyme to build houses with and his internal rhyme to put fuel in their cars. The Mrs and I saw him live in London last month and his new album, Desire, sounded wonderful live. Probably worth checking out too...

A Heart So White by Javier Marias:

This book was recommended to me by a good friend, Hisham. It is heavy with detail in every scene, moments in which the author pauses to interrogate the world, but it all adds up to make a great story. I'm almost done now...

News Source: Guardian (for Simic announcemnt)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sekou Sundiata - sadly departed

I am sad today. When the flu came I should have known something was in the water; one of my heroes has crossed over. Sekou Sundiata, for me, will always signify the richness of metaphor in voice, writing so complex but delivered with simple heart and emotion so that the vocabulary doesn't throw you; you just get in and he leads you to the full stop.

Sekou, thanks for the inspiration; I will miss you...

"everything in the dream is the dreamer" - Sekou Sundiata
"women believe that God is a man, but a man is very horny." - Sekou Sundiata
"last night I had a nasty dream with peaches and I woke up stuck to myself" - Sekou Sundiata
"the first picture I saw of Charlie Parker was a naked bird on a busted branch with broken wings in Abyssinia Baptist Church" - Sekou Sundiata
"somewhere in America you could buy fries to go with that shake of yours" - Sekou Sundiata
"the year the Mississippi river just sat, like a hard promise, choking on vessels of commerce" - Sekou Sundiata

Most of these quotes are from a poem called "The Sound of Memory", which is perhaps my favourite Sekou poem. Go out there and find him and buy him; all we have left is his voice, but what a voice it is!

Friday, June 08, 2007

two articles

First one makes me think, if he stole $1 million to become an MP, what is he hoping to gain in office? Hmm... Ghana politician accused of NY limo scam Link here »

The second says, well, politicians always have their hands in something :) 'cos Washington had slaves under the table, like Clinton had cigars in the drawer :); Slave passage found at Washington house Link here »

That's all folks :)

Saturday, June 02, 2007


No, it's not Nine-Inch-Nails, it's Nii in the News :)

Just thought I'd share a review from my hard slog at the Brighton Fest:

Nii Parkes

Trying to get kids into Yeats is a tough job, so although Parkes did his best, his own poems about his mum were far more popular with this crowd. Plenty of fun exercises filled this hour-long workshop, with the children briefly discussing their views on poetry (primarily that it should rhyme) before getting stuck into creating poems about themselves and their passions (primarily chicken nuggets). An interesting task saw them learn about writing from the subconscious, signified by an aggressive green lollipop stick. The children obviously had fun being creative, but the session was far too short to really get into much depth on the subject - yet even a short handover makes a welcome break for parents, and Parkes makes a relaxed and inspiring tutor.


In the meantime my poem appears on the underground on Monday June 4 (date of the first coup I experienced in Ghana) and there have been some related press releases:

And I have come into my own as a contemporary writer:

Finally, I came upon a wikipedia Germany entry for me which I googleated (google-translated) for fun, and it was delicious to find out what gets a rise out of me:
Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a Ghanaian writer and artist, who write Kurzgeschichten, articles, song texts and also RAP. Parkes lives and works at present in London, where he arises to literature also in a Café. Its work has an emphasis in the youth culture, since Parkes works gladly with children and young people.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

a table is not a writing desk

i'm supposed to be editing, but sometimes this is what happens :) luther vandross, i miss you...

what i'm reading/listening to


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

new publications

well, not altogether new publications, not all of them:
i have some new poetry in the online oregon literary review that you can read by clicking this link - i think this was in 2006, but I was busy so I forgot to share the good news
and i've also had my story scotch bonnets appear in another Canadian magazine - a nice homely magazine called Ottawa at Home (it doesn't really have its own site but the link will get you some information). my surname was misspelled as Parke in the issue but i'm not stressed - a bit of money in the bank; they got my important names right :)

what i'm reading/listening to

Roy Ayers - Perfection (OK, just 'cos I'm in a busy period and I'm not hotlinking the titles doesn't mean you shouldn't check them out. Roy is amazing!

Alice Munro - The Love of a Good Woman (First time I'm reading a full collection from AM - interesting stuff)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

what's with the dollar bill?

So, I visited a workshop and the students were asked to find a photograph and write something in the style of Lloyd Schwartz's (great critic) Tom Joanides: Which of these statements is true? Being a writer, I could only get my hands on a dollar bill - George Washington - and this is what came out:

Georgie, what's the deal really?

(a) I don't like smiling (b) I'm not smiling because I'm sitting
on hot coals (c) My mother styled my hair after a wave
that nearly drowned her (d) My mirror broke and I needed my friend
to etch me so I could see myself (e) I designed my own clothes using curtains
(f) I love fashion; my favourite colours are black and green (g) I'm a highlander;
there can be only one me (h) I'm a tender person, but don't be misled -
I'll break your back (i) I'm an illegal immigrant with private and public
debts (j) I slept with Faulkner (k) I'm so powerful they named a city
after me (l) Rappers yank my chain (m) Don't let the print fool you;
I'm Black (n) You can wake up now.

OK, you all have a good day now. I will be back to normal (whatever that is!) blogging duties soon :)

what i'm reading/listening to


Just got myself a little mp3 player and I'm listening to a post-supper mix of Marvin Gaye, Amel Larrieux, Van Hunt and Amy Winehouse. For lunch I had B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix; The Thrill was definitely in the Red House :)


Recently finished Andrei Makine's "The Woman Who Waited", which was good, but I'm in writing mode now - commercial - I have to finish some articles I've been asked to write.

Monday, April 16, 2007

he what? he stinks?

This has got to be a cool moment - my writing buddy, Niki Aguirre, who blogs on the virtual onion has gone and shown what's beneath my feathers by 'nomination' me for the thinking blogger award. Now I'm not saying I don't think, but I stink at reading blogs. I read a few to amuse myself, but to nominate five that make me think, when Niki has already stolen almost all the blogs I read is criminal. Anyway, I will try....

  1. For general thought and 'dopeness' - Koranteng's Toli
  2. For diverse musical stimulation - DJ Durutti
  3. For book-type thinking & tidbits - Ready Steady Book, Editor's blog
  4. For writer's perspective book stuff - Laila Lalami
  5. and when he's not too busy tipping points - Malcolm Gladwell
I guess I have to go and let some of these people know I've marked them for life. Oh no! Shea it ain't so (more on this Shea stuff in my next blog!)

what i'm reading/listening to

I'm reading London Book Fair gossip, hoping to find that my novel has been sold, and I'm listening to Don Cherry's Symphony for Improvisors (read a review)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

birthday, no blues

my roman-symmetrical birthday came and i felt no blues - except for the moment i stopped to remember how marvin gaye died on my 10th birthday. i even wrote a haiku in the morning - a sign that my zen is maturing:

barrage of goosebumps
a corporeal down payment
for afternoon sun

otherwise, all goes well in California. i visited a remarkable middle school, Nimitz in Huntington Park, CA as part of the university's outreach programme and had the fullest day ever - from 7:25 until 15:13 reading poetry, running workshops, answering questions - i was completely hoarse when i got home. but, to balance that i had ice cream yesterday - cold stone creamery in long beach, CA - it was sooo good (see their website for pictures :)). i made my own mix of banana/coffee ice cream with pecan nuts, almonds and caramel, with the thickest crunchiest waffle ever

and who said we have to age gracefully? here's to 33 going on 3

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

the california season

It seems like I've carried a bit of the rain with me to California. It's rained twice; quite heavily yesterday in the tropical style - violent and brief. I'm teaching/in residence in the English Department of the California State University in LA, but the Department is housed in the Engineering and Technology building. As soon as I got to it I felt at home - the story of my life; an engineer/scientist turned writer. Anyway, it's been good so far: I've been in one editorial meeting for sentence, the in-house literature magazine, the introductory class for creative non-fiction and I've had a couple of one-on-ones with students - more on the way today. I haven't had a bad time with writing; I think I'm being fairly productive - my aim is to get the beginnings of a definitive poetry collection done before I leave the US, so I'm doing it a day at a time. Yesterday, I settled on a concept for grouping my poems so now I'm going to group them, edit and weed out the crap, then send a rough draft out to my agent. In the meantime, in between times :) I've been writing a couple of haiku. These three celebrate nightfall in cali and the fact that I've seen no energy saving bulbs around...

rare as brown flowers
fluorescent bulbs crouch in packs
the earth flames at night

homicidal lights
fret like insomniac starlings
warning signs in neon

leaves fade, bulbs burn slow
lights gleam like knives in alleys
the world mugged by night

what i'm reading/listening to

Jimi Hendrix on my laptop

Other people's poems - editing really....

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

what's in a name?

My environmentally soft heart often leads me to recycled aisles, but I like to feel like I am not being treated like a recycled thing. So, last week I went to re-stock on toilet paper and found that Tesco had redesigned the pack; it now read ‘TESCO recycled toilet tissue.” I didn’t pay it much attention until I was sitting in that thinking position then I started toying with the possibility that they mean tissue made from recycled toilet – of course, I know I’m being silly, but language is such an abstract thing isn’t it? Lends itself to loading with images, meanings, attitudes... right? Precisely the point of this post…

I swear, I am of a peaceful demeanour 98% of my life; it is the oddest things that get me going – I can get apoplectic in 2 seconds flat sometimes. One of those odd things is the marketing of books – especially books about the supposed ‘other’ (that means anyone who didn’t invent the idea of races or the English language) – and I’m not just talking about those silly typefaces that have come to symbolise different peoples although my Ghanaian blog-brother deals with it in some fine detail on his post Types and Faces, I speak of entire ideas and book blurbs that toy with the very notion of justice in the quest to perpetuate the idea of the roving hero (read WMOMS - white [english, french, spanish, portugese, danish, dutch - important detail; apart from queen vic I have no beef with english women, and I certainly didn't see any Lithuanian's trying to steal my diamonds in 18**] man on a mission somewhere). I usually ignore these things; I have become thick-skinned with the years BUT I saw the cover for Allan Mallinson's Company of Spears and I had a hard time stopping myself from tearing all the copies in Waterstone's to shreds. I admit I haven't read the book, and I am told that Mr Mallinson handles the battle prose as battle prose, no prejudices, BUT the cover's tag line is 'on the plains of South Africa Matthew Hervey [the hero] confronts the savage Zulu' - I mean, wait a minute! One party gathers men, gets on a ship, travels halfway across the world to pick a fight, and it's the person who is protecting his homeland who is labelled 'savage'? Yes, we all know that the Zulu were/are renowned warriors, but can't they just be brave? Why is it that South American, Native American and African warriors are always immortalised in writing as fierce, savage and brutal? Who is it that invented concentration camps against the Boer and African populations in South Africa (let's not even get into how that affected the psyche of the Boer and indirectly perpetuated apartheid)? Who is it that decimated native Central & South American populations in the bid to convert them to Catholicism? Who is it that considered castration and the removal of eyes as legitimate forms of interrogation against the Mau Mau in Kenya? I could go on... but I'm not asking for a revolution, I'm asking for these things not to be accepted as norms anymore - otherwise, who are we to turn around and complain that cultures can't co-exist? The truth is, the twin constructs of borders and race have always bothered me, but that is a huge battle that must be fought in stages. For now, I don't think it's too much to ask that we start by fixing our language use.

In nicer, warmer anecdote on the appropriation of words/names, Ike Turner (who I mentioned in a previous post after he won a Grammy) apparently has a song on his album having a dig at Tina. He renamed Eddie Boyd's Five Long Years as 18 Long Years (which is how long he was married to Tina) and dropped the beautiful line 'I've worked 18 long years for one woman/And she had the nerve to kick me out ... and do a movie.' (full story here)

That's my fustian done!

what i'm reading/listening to

Shame & a Sin - by Robert Cray

Robert is a bluesman's bluesman. His lyrics are IT and his guitar playing is incredible. I was lucky to see him at the Jazz Cafe in London last year and was struck by the odd fact that his face shows more emotion when he's strumming than when he's singing. But, man, that voice! He could look as stone-faced as a Trafalgar Square lion and you'd still feel the emotion. My favourite album of his is actually Sweet Potato Pie (cover on the right) for the songs Nothing Against You, Do That For Me, The One in the Middle and Little Birds.

Turner by David Dabydeen & A Wedding in Hell by Charles Simic

After close to a year of self-imposed novexile, it is with a rare animal-like pleasure that I have turned back to poetry, devouring line-breaks like Kit Kats. I am also aware that soon I will be in the San Gabriel Valley in California as writer-in-residence running poetry workshops - I have to come correct :)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

the Ghana effect

i wrote a short reflection piece for the BBC Africa Beyond site for today, Ghana's Independence Day. check it out at:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

with a grammy of salt

of course, like tina, i was ecstatic to find that the panel noted that ike turner is still on the beat and churning out good music, rewarding him with a fine grammy in his silver years - good job! i do however wonder at some of the categories: best album notes? well, obviously my talents as a writer are sooooo targeted towards the wrong audience - this year i will beg musicians to see if they'll give me a shot at immortality through the writing of their album notes.... best traditional world music - now, this one is the real stunner; you stand up and look at the whole-complete-entire-boundless world, and decide, you know what? that there is traditional world music - a sweet mix of turkish, mongolian, inuit, madagascan rhythms with a funk twist! yeah, we'll give an award for whatever sounds the most like that! and people say i live off fabrications!! i'll take that with a grammy of salt, thank you.

anyway, that's my rant, goodnight!

oh, i found a great music blog randomly. if you're into music then have a look-see:

what i'm reading/listening to

Von Freeman - Doin' It Right Now (He's so dope, and he's been around for a while. Oddly, for a minor jazz head, I just got to hear about him through some Chicago connections of mine 'cos he's a Chicago musician! Check out his info on his tripod site. I really need to start a page so I can connect with some more jazz!)


x-24: unclassified edited by Tash Aw and Nii Ayikwei Parkes (It's not out until next month, but I'm one of the editors so reading is one of my perks!)

x-24 cover

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

new podcast

just a little something i've been working on:

i'll be back on active duty soon, but for now i'm in hibernation :)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

my uncle said...

"I nurse a beard, as rebel young men do
And I love to sit and watch its bohemian growth

Each hair a sonorous protest."

Francis Ernest Kobina Parkes (1932 - 2005) aka Uncle Frank
Ghanaian poet, journalist, and editor

I couldn't agree more - I do the same with my hair :), and lately I've been pulling it and playing it like guitar strings 'cos I have too much to do and I'm broke. Another rejection slip came in the post, as well as a cheque for something I sent out at the same time. Amazing isn't it? That the universe gives us balanced balance sheets sometimes? Anyway, here comes that hunger again...