Thursday, July 24, 2008


I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
--Frank O'Hara

well . . . that was before my day, and I never thought the copies of NEW WORLD WRITING I saw were especially ugly . . . but I have been intrigued by Ghana's writing scene ever since reading Kofi Awoonor as a young student . . . I had many other reasons to harbor dreams of visiting Ghana of which I will write later, but the poetry alone was enough to make me leap at the chance to journey to Ghana as part of the Pan African Literary Forum.

The Forum is a curious hybrid of writers' conference and creative writing study abroad program. It is the brainchild of Arthur Flowers and Jeffrey Renard Allen, who first spoke of organizing such a multinational opportunity for writers while at another conference in East Africa. Jeff spoke to me about it not too long after, but I was still surprised at how quickly these two got things up and running. In short order they had hired staff, scraped up funding, organized an accompanying book drive and writers' contests --

The culmination of their efforts was an ambitious program of readings, lectures and workshops at a variety of venues spread across Accra and environs over a two week period. Writers from the USA, Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and elsewhere came together for the kind of exchange that is hard to come by at MLA or AWP -- I was there to give a lecture and a reading, but I got far more from my daily conversations with the other writers -- those unplanned meetings that sprout up in the margins of any good conference.

In the coming days I'll be posting more photos and recording samples from the readings.

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