Friday, July 22, 2011

The makings of you - Nii Ayikwei Parkes.

An Introduction


“Almost impossible to do; describing the makings of you” – Curtis Mayfield


You will tell no one
of the Christmas day when you sat
alone in your miniscule studio,
raised a forkful of sautéed potato
to your lips, and closed your eyes;

how savouring that mouthful of electric heat
and some farmer’s zealous labour, followed
by two hours of reading Neruda and Li-Young
Lee, was your only way of remembering
that life’s sack carries pleasure as well as pain.



At that dinner next week you will tell
nothing of how vacuous you felt, nor
will you mention the time when tortured
by your girlfriend’s inability to trust you
you drank cheap whiskey and clawed your walls



while singing along to Curtis Mayfield’s
the makings of you, as though the song’s lush
beauty would save you from depression.
No, you will tell jokes and smile and make
predictably witty and charming comments;

you will tell no one of the day when,
as an ashy-kneed eleven-year-old boy
in boarding school, you surreptitiously
sat on the concrete steps of your classroom
block to pick up a groundnut you had spotted



earlier, cleaned it against your brown shorts
and slipped it in your mouth where you let it sit
for an instant, before you chewed it for six slow
minutes, so you could fool your own stomach
into thinking that life was better than it was.



All these things that make you the man
that you are, you tuck beneath your dark
skin and never share: so nobody really knows
you, although most people say they like you
because of your enigmatic smile.



Biography
Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a writer of poetry, prose and articles, and has published 3 poetry chapbooks: eyes of a boy, lips of a man (1999); M is for Madrigal (2004), a selection of seven jazz poems; and shorter (2005), published to raise money for a writers' fund in Ghana. His is also the Senior Editor at flipped eye publishing, and a contributor to many literary magazines and journals, including Wasafiri, Poetry News, The New Writer, Storyteller Magazine, The Liberal, Mechanics Institute Review and Sable. Nii co-edited the short story anthologies, Tell Tales: Volume 1 (2004), with Courttia Newland; and x-24: unclassified (2007), with Tash Aw.


An experienced performer of his work he has appeared all over the world, including at NuYorican, New York; The Royal Festival Hall, London; and Java, Paris, and often leads writing and performance workshops. In 2002, he completed a six-week tour of the US, and he runs the African Writers' Evening series at the Poetry Cafe, in Covent Garden, London. He has been poet in residence at the Poetry Cafe, associate writer in residence for BBC Radio 3, and is writer in residence at California State University in 2007. His poem, 'Tin Roof', was selected for the 'Poems on the Underground' initiative.


His first novel, Tail of the Blue Bird (2009), was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best First Book). In the same year, a short story, 'Socks Ball', was highly commended in the Caine Prize for African Writing and he became Online Writer in Residence for Booktrust.


His latest books are ballast: a remix (2009), a collection of poetry shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award; and The Makings of You (2010).


I first came across Nii’s work through a review of his first novel on Winstonsdad’s blog, and although the book interested me, I was excited by the spoken word performances mentioned, I have since ordered his novel because I fell in love with the beauty of his words.


I Would also like to thank Nii, for allowing me to use his biographical notes, so as I could write this piece .


Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Nii Ayikwei Parkes(Wiki)
Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Peepal Tree Press)
Contemporary Writers
A Conversation with Nii Ayikwei Parkes at,
 ImageNations (Promoting African Literature)

pomes ALL SIZES
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4 comments:

Lenasledgeblog.com said...

Wonderful poem. I like the Curtis Mayfield part. She is talented.

winstonsdad said...

thanks for the mention ,I must try his poetry ,all the best stu

parrish lantern said...

Hi Lena, This is a great poem & his first novel was published in 09.

Hi Stu, it's the opposite for me I must & have ordered his novel.

James said...

This is a very interesting poet and I should explore more of Parkes' work.

Jim