DANIEL KOJO APPIAH known to many as O’ZIONN talks why collaboration between creative artists is important, writing deep poems and harbouring suicidal thoughts plus his beard and hair
What does poetry mean to you?
Poetry means several things to me. Basically it means identity to me. It means when you admire something about someone, what or who they are, you may go ahead to imitate–I say this because of one of the things which inspired me to also want to write poetry. In this, poetry means imitation to me. The skill to take after something and this is because poetry is an art–in art we imitate things. In imitation we see that there’s a desire, a longing to be; an aspiration to be. And I think that to be something has a lot to do with identity, so to me identity is a sort of journey. And just as we will continue to be–more of an aspect of something we’ve identified with, or an aspect of us we will later discover–poetry will mean more of what it already means to me together the new meanings I’ll discover as long as I’m alive.
How and when did you start writing poetry?
I think the how of my writing poetry was simply the moment when my thoughts and feelings so much overwhelmed me that I penned them down in what I knew then as poetry (a combination of short lines; which must not cover the whole line of a page, and which ends mostly in rhyme). At that time my love for English Language (English Literature, to be specific) was stronger, and I had been sort of reintroduced to poetry around that time which resonated well with me (I speak of this innate resonation in one of my works titled “I Woke Up”.
Poetry was the quickest and easiest way to express all the anger and frustration within me. So it finally happened as result of the burden on my mind from the little I had experienced in life. Most significantly after one experience, and probably the last straw that broke the camel’s back–because I ought to add– dare I say, was somewhat spiritual.
I started writing poetry in my second year of Senior Secondary School. A phase of my life which is very pivotal to who I am today.
Your poetry has a matured ring to it. It is more abstract and sometimes hard to decipher. What accounted for this growth?
I’m sure it’s because I’ve made up my mind to try as much as possible to pen down poems with a lot of depth. I enjoy reading things with depth and so sometimes the poems I write, when I read them, are sometimes difficult for me even to decipher, and I like it that way because it keeps me thinking.
I also like to question things a lot–in my mind, without voicing them out–because of that I have a craving to search for answers; to read, to listen…to observe.
Along the way I find answers which beget more questions and so the search continues.
I constantly and deliberately think about many things and sometimes when such thoughts overwhelm me (in sudden realization or sudden discovery) I pen them down (or qwerty them down, as I’ve come to like to put it) in that moment which end up as poems, later on, or are written down instantly. Engaging in such activities sometimes rub off on what I write.
Poetry is growing, with many poets emerging and growing audience. What don’t you like about the poetry scene currently?
Well…what I don’t like about the poetry scene in Ghana? Let me put it this way–and I extend it to Literature as a whole in Ghana. I very much would like to see a lot of meaningful collaborations among the several literary organizations in the country; even though the groups or organizations do/may have different purposes, I believe the similarity of dreams or goals–temporal or permanent–should be a link for such collaborations. This, I believe, will help foster the complementary and needed unity we so much need so as to make a huge and positive impact in Ghana which is sure to ring beyond the motherland.
And that the now-closing-up gap between the older and younger generation of poets will eventually happen on a larger scale, because I believe that also has role to play as one of the many strands of the unity needed. Lastly, that emerging poets–like myself–will invest as much resources in themselves first, as some are wonderfully doing, to make better the excellence of this art form. Secondly, that the lovers of literature continuously respond the art form, because their patronization and support is also very much needed. Lastly, that corporations and individuals help this art form in the diverse ways they can.
Who’s your favourite poet-dead or alive?
This is a difficult question for me. Naturally, as a poet, I should be able to mention at least one or two poets from the older generation but I doubt I have a favourite. Need I say that I do not know them as I much as I need to. It’s something I’ve planned on working on; to get to know much about them and invariably their works. This, I reckon, should make it easier for me to have a favourite. Nevertheless, I have a few favourite poets from my generation, if I should put it that way, but I cannot seem to select a favourite just as yet.
What was the last poem you wrote or read?
The last poem I wrote is titled “Impressions and Rivulets in the Sand”.
And the last poem I read is titled “A Country Sings” by Eden Akwasi King
You’ve published a lot on your blog. What do you intend to do with your collection in the coming years?
I intend to even publish more on my blog. But as expected I’ll organize some of them into anthologies as time and creativity informs me. Need I add that I’ve started working on particularly one anthology, and a couple of anthologies as well which may take quite a while to complete.
I also intend to write (share) some of the newer poems through whatever outlet I’m so much moved to.
You’ve changed physically-big beard and an afro hair. Why this look?
I have this look because over some time now it has become a part of who I am as a poet.
I’ve had the afro the longest. Then the hat came and finally the beard.
The afro was informed by the simple desire that I’ve always wanted to wear an afro, but I was finally influenced after I watched a Kwaku One On One interview which had Wole Soyinka as the guest. Of course, I identified with him because he is a poet, most of all. And as I listened with so much attention as he spoke about his hair and I convinced myself I was going to have that look soon. The hat came in because sometime in my life I wanted to own one, and after I got it I wore it to almost every place, especially to poetry events. It became part of my look.
Lastly, the beard has several reasons. At a point it become somewhat economical to wear a beard, yes–because during my second time of keeping an afro my beard simultaneously grew rather quickly. I only trimmed it whenever I went to the barber to trim my afro. At a point I’d rather spend the money on something else because I was then visiting the barber frequently—being a hairy person as I am means more visits to the barber shop. I also battled slightly with razor bumps for a short while. After trying several solutions without remedy I decided to stop shaving everything off. I kind of liked the new look.
Lastly, I got tired of people always telling me to shave my beard amidst me giving excuses. So wearing a beard ended up becoming a philosophical statement: I can be or choose to look however I want and still be a nice person at heart. How we look counts, yes but I felt there was way too much prejudice concerning that.
Will you date a writer-say a poet? Why or Why not?
Yeah, it’s likely. I pretty much would like to date, not just a writer/poet, but an artist. I feel they will readily understand me as a poet/writer (artist), and I them; understanding each other is vital for a relationship to work. But that doesn’t mean that if the one I find (or finds me) is not a writer, poet, or artist I will ignore them, no. As I said, understanding is vital.
Share with us three things (secrets) we don’t of about you?
i. I’d wanted to publish an anthology of poems in 2008 (with a friend) but I gave up on it along the way.
ii. I’ve been having severe suicidal thoughts for time knows how long, I even did last month.
Iii. Finally, I’ve been a chorister before.
O’ZIONN blogs at ozionnpoet.wordpress.com. You can visit his blog and familiarize yourself with his poetry works.
Follow him on Twitter @Ozionn
written by @swayekidd