NANA FREDUA-AGYEMAN JNR.
Nana Fredua-Agyeman Jnr. is one of Ghana’s leading, and prized, poetic voices. Heavily recognized by the Ghana Association of Writers and the GAW Literary Awards, Nana possesses a mindset which is beautifully nuanced; allowing him to tackle topics with decisiveness and grace. As evidenced in his impressive 2021 spoken word album, Ponder, his delivery is just as bold and compelling as his words.
The Poet’s List is excited to present our conversation with the talented and inspiring, Nana Fredua-Agyeman Jnr.:
Prior to landing on poetry, what memories do you have of your relationship with literature and writing as a youth?
My relationship with literature growing up was from [taking] English Language as a subject. From ‘Literary Devices’ at the junior and senior secondary school level to ‘Communication Skills’ at the tertiary level, these topics helped in my appreciation of literature. However, my captivating encounter stems from my father who was a literary genius; a journalist and writer par excellence.
When did you begin to claim the title of poet and how did you first connect with the poetry community?
I began having particular interest in poetry [in] 2011. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 2014 [that] I wrote a tribute to my pal of blessed memory, titled, ‘My Lost Friend.’ In 2018, it was adjudged third (3rd) prize winner at the Ghana Association of Writers Literary Awards in the Spoken Word category. That was when I outdoored as a Poet.
May you explain the Ghanaian poetry landscape? What are the available fellowship and visibility opportunities for the country’s poets? (Open mics, writing retreats, poetry slams, university programs, etc.)
The interest for poetry in Ghana is very promising. There are open mic sessions, poetry slams and other related events which create avenues for persons who want to either casually explore poetry or build a career. In Ghana, Literature has been a leading course at the secondary school level from time immemorial—which is an added advantage.
Congratulations on your incredible success! We have read about your consistent and record-breaking recognition at the Ghana Association of Writers Literary Awards. Of your prizes, which honor do you cherish most?
Thank you very much. As stated earlier, the turning point on my pathway as a poet was when a tribute to my late pal was awarded. Since then, I have taken my work seriously and achieved a remarkable feat. I cherish all my awards, because they are all significant. My first prize award in 2021 was instrumental due to the fact that I had unseated a consecutive champion. My second prize for 2022 also cemented my record as the first ever poet/writer to win in all positions in the same category at the Ghana Association of Writers Literary Awards since its inception.
Do you tend to write for the audience or for the reader? In other words: Do you consider yourself a stage poet or a page poet?
I write for all audiences. My work is as suitable for the stage as it is for the page. An admirer of my work once told me that I sound similarly in live performance as it is in my recorded works.
In your opinion, what makes a good poem?
A good poem is created through an amalgamation of addressing any subject matter laced with genuine sentiments.
We are enamored by your album, Ponder. It is a perfect mixture of pride, patriotism and politics. You don’t shy away from holding leaders accountable. But you are clear in your message that the land is to be celebrated. Is that balanced perspective one that comes naturally to you?
Life is all about balance. I was raised to be bold in my submissions, but tactful. Poetry gives me the ambience to be extremely fearless and expressive. It comes naturally, as it is not a departure from my persona.
How did this project come about? May you share any words on the writing and recording process?
The writing for the album began [in] 2016. I decided to record the album whilst working on another project. Prior to that, I only had one single released, ‘My Lost Friend.’ Recording began in the first quarter of 2021 and the first single, ‘Where I Come From,’ was released in June. The entire album was released globally on December 1, 2021.
The track “Where I Come From”, which you describe as “a patriotic pledge to the motherland,” won first place in the Spoken Word category during the 2021 Ghana Association of Writers Literary Awards! Had this been a poem you’d been wanting to pen for a while? What has been its reception?
It is the first work I penned down on the album. It is very dear to my heart and that of many a Ghanaian. It is a timeless pledge to my motherland. I remember my nephew was four years at the time I started writing it and he could recite it. That made me measure its greatness.
Your track, “Letter to Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah,” is a powerful poem written in homage to Ghana’s former prime minister. May you explain his legacy?
He was the one to drive the struggle of Ghana’s independence home together with a host of other patriots. He set the tone for what the country is today. Despite, the fact that the current state of Ghana and Africa, as a whole, is not how he envisaged due to his unfortunate overthrow by a coup d’état, his spirit is still alive. He is considered the greatest African to have ever lived due to his Pan-African activism.
One of our favorite tracks is, “More Questions than Answers.” What a great concept and wonderful execution. One line from that poem is, “Who paints the artist?” So, we’d like to know: Who have been some of your greatest inspirations?
I’m elated to know you have a number of favourites on Ponder. ‘More Questions Than Answers’ was triggered by urgent need for accountability in my country and the world over. I quite remember, a government official gave a lousy response during a national probe and this rhetorical questionnaire was created.
We know that you share heavily in the excitement surrounding the new Grammy category for Best Spoken Word Poetry Album. (Congratulations on having submitted Ponder for consideration!) What does it mean to know that this opportunity for recognition now exists?
This means more quality work and consistency. For Ponder to be considered for nomination for the Grammy Awards and part of the inaugural submissions is commendable and uplifting.
On you + advice:
Which aspect of your Ghanaian heritage has been most impactful to you?
Basically, the rich history of Ghana has been a bedrock for me. Interestingly, I did not study History and Literature as subjects, however my appetite for them is insatiable. I want to make it better than I met it.
What words of advice do you have for your fellow Ghanaian or Africa-based poets?
I entreat poets to stay authentic in their works and invest in their brand.
What would you like the rest of the world to know or understand about either your country or its poets?
Ghana is an oratory-indulgent country, as is typical of indigenous West Africans. Hence, poets mostly take the griotic style.
What has been the greatest piece of advice you’ve received thus far—poetry related or other?
Know your worth and believe in yourself.
Nana Fredua-Agyeman Jnr. is currently working on his next spoken word album. In the meantime, we implore you to indulge in Ponder:
Apple Music | Spotify | Amazon Music | Audiomack
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