Meet Adjei Adjei-Baah, the Ghanaian Poet who Won the Japan-Russia Poetry Contest

A young student in the Teacher Training College was looking for an easy way out. So when he had to submit a creative assignment, he quickly copied an existing children’s rhyme and submitted it.

But his good teacher rejected the copied work and forced the young man to compose an original poem. That singular move is what sparked a love for poetry in Adjei Adjei-Baah and made a young man discover a whole new world of words, wisdom and wonder.

Fresh out of the Teacher’s training college, a newly qualified Adjei was posted to teach in a village so remote that nobody wanted to teach there.But Adjei saw something more than the abject poverty and the absence of electricity. He saw nature, and nature nurtured his nascent poetry skills that were now focused on his surroundings -rivers, birds and serenity.

After teaching in that village for a while, Adjei entered the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where he met other writers and poets through a literary radio programme organized by the campus radio station. This community helped members improve and Adjei benefited greatly.

Major Achievements
After years of developing himself, Adjei started seeing signs of success in the arts. Whilst reading a JP Clark poem that described the Nigerian city of Ibadan, Adjei decided to write a poem to celebrate his home region of Ashanti in Ghana. When the self titled poem ‘Ashanti’ was done, a friend saw it and passed it to a chief, who in turn passed it to their paramount chief, the Otumfuor.

The royals were impressed, and they rewarded Adjei with an invitation to attend a huge Akwasidae festival with his family. In full view of the Otumfour the Ashanti Paramount chief, Ghana’s former president Kuffuor, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and thousands of individuals, Adjei read his poem.

At the end of his performance, Otumfour personally asked the young man to come and shake his hand- a rare feat in such festivites where a legion of ceremonial guards surrounds the chief.

The writer’s next major achievement came when the British Broadcasting Corporation selected his poem to represent Ghana during the June 2014 Commonwealth Games – The Glasgow Games. That was a moment of pride for the Kumasi based poet.

Just days ago, Adjei Adjei Baah, made Ghana proud by winning the Third Japan- Russia Haiku contest organized by the Akita International University, 2014. This is a global Haiku poetry competition, a style of poetry that uses three lines to carefully capture a sensory feeling or image. The best haikus have a certain simplicity that hides a lot of technicality.

Despite these achievements, things have not always been easy. Adjei and some like minded friends formed The Poetry Foundation Ghana to be an archive of Ghanaian and African poetry. Ironically, people from other countries have been more supportive than people at home.

Advice to aspiring writers.
Don’t be shy to share your work with people for criticism and suggestions. “I have failed so many times. I have encountered so many rejections to get here”, he says.

Also, you may hear people say our society doesn’t appreciate the arts . But don’t think local. “If people at home do not appreciate it, what about the rest of the world?” use internet tools like podcasts and youtube videos to reach a global audience.

Very importantly, invest time to develop your own skill and aim for excellence. When you get to the level of excellence, support will come, maybe not from Ghana, but it will come.

Remember, “poetry doesn’t pay quickly. But when it pays, it comes big time. So once you know it is your talent, learn the aesthetics and the benefits will come” He ends.

This is Adjei’s winning piece. Reproduced courtesy the Author;

leafless tree —
lifting a cup of nest
to the sky
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