poet muse: Kofi Awoonor (1935 – 2013)

zamantungwa | July 8th, 2016 | current issue, poet muses | No Comments

(poet, author, educator, critic, ambassador, 1935 – 2013)

Let me lead you into the country
It is only as half clansman
of the ritual goat[1]Found Poem by Kofi Awoonor, from The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964-2013.

Kofi Awoonor was a Ghanaian poet, literary critic, professor of comparative literature and diplomat. His poetic works drew from and combined the traditions of the Ewe people as well as contemporary and religious symbolism.

Awoonor’s grandmother was an Ewe dirge singer, and the form of his early poetry draws from the Ewe oral tradition. He translated Ewe poetry in his critical study Guardians of the Sacred Word and Ewe Poetry (1974)[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kofi_Awoonor.

In 2013, while attending the Storymoja Festival, a four-day literary festival in Nairobi, Kenya, Awoonor was killed while visiting the Westgate Shopping Mall. He was among those killed in the Al-Shabab terrorist attack. He was with his son, who was also shot but survived. He was due to perform at Storymoja that evening and as consequence of the attack, the festival ended prematurely. In the following year, 2014, Storymoja held performances in his honour where a number of the guests from the previous year, came to participate.

His work includes Rediscovery and Other Poems (1964), Night of My Blood (1971), Ride Me, Memory (1973), The House by the Sea (1978), The Latin American and Caribbean Notebook (1992), and a volume of collected poems, Until the Morning After (1987). Novels include This Earth, My Brother… (1971) and Comes the Voyager at Last: A Tale of Return to Africa (1992). Literary criticism includes The Breast of the Earth: A Survey of the History, Culture, and Literature of Africa South of the Sahara (1975)9[3]http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/kofi-awoonor#poet.

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1 Found Poem by Kofi Awoonor, from The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964-2013.
2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kofi_Awoonor
3 http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/kofi-awoonor#poet