#WorldPoetryDay: Profile of Prof. Atukwei Okai

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World Poetry Day is a celebration of poetry, literature and free speech, observed by UNESCO every year. The day is aimed at encouraging creativity, inspiring the teaching of poetry and restoring a dialogue between poetry and other arts, such as theatre, dance and music.

PEN International also uses the day to highlight the imprisonment, murder and abuse of poets, writers and journalists around the world.

In Ghana also, there have been gifted people who have put the country on the map with their contribution to African literature in general and poetry in particular. Some of these people have become historical figures who ought to be celebrated, especially on a day set aside to celebrate poetry. On this day we celebrate one of Ghana’s finest.

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Prof. Atukwei Okai was born in Accra, Ghana, in 1941, he had his elementary education in Northern Ghana, then attended Methodist Middle Boys’ School (Accra) and the Accra High School, before going to Moscow in 1961, where he earned his M.A. (Lit.) in 1967.

He has taught at the University of Ghana, Legon, since 1971 as lecturer in Russian literature at the Department of Modern Languages and since 1984 as Senior Research Fellow in African Literature at the Institute of African Studies. Professor Okai currently teaches at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana. Okai’s poems have been translated into several languages and have appeared in anthologies and several prominent international journals.

Rosimaya is a poem he wrote about a woman who did not return his love for her but feigned interest and led him on. Enjoy!

 

I

You stone
my Saturdays,
You waste
my Wednesdays
And tear up
my Tuesdays
Into two:
You snare
my Sundays,
You squeeze
my Saturdays,
And toss
my Tuesdays
Onto thorns

II

You feign
You feign
you
Feign
you forget my face
In even
The pious
Presence
Of God our God
The Father Almighty
The maker
Of heaven and earth.
Including all−
Even you and me,
Who today
Both hold on to worlds
As different
As the land from the
Sea.
Why can’t you tell
Me
You no more love
Me?
Or why not tell
Me
You can love me no
More?

III

You scorn
my Sundays
You freeze
my Fridays.
And sink
my Saturdays
In a swamp:
You wet
my Wednesdays
You soil
my Saturdays
And milk
my Mondays
Of their mirth.

IV

You feign
you feign
you
Feign I
did not tell you
The time and
Place we were to meet;
But I know
I know I did tell you
You did
Repeat it yourself
My witnesses
Are your innocent
Ears, not your
Faithful tongue and eyes
Who’d also
Refuse to remember:
Why can’t you tell
Me
You never had loved
Me?
Or why not tell
Me
You just will not love
Me?

V

You slash
my Saturdays
You teased
my Tuesdays.
And snob
my Sundays
In the sun;
You mock
my Mondays
You wreck
my Wednesdays
And smother
my Sundays
In the smoke.

VI

You feign
You feign
you
Feign you
do so love me
But the truth
Is now like the rain;
He who sees not,
Feels it on his skin.
And with
A deep paralysing pain,
Erodes away
The still wet-walls of
Our strong castles
Built in my dreams.
The terrible truth
Is now like the sun –
Where it is
Not seen, it is felt;
Skin of your words
Show a tell-tale tan,
Scales blinding
My eyes start to melt.

VII

You foul
My Fridays
You starve
My Saturdays
And mess up
My Mondays
In the mud;
You shun
My Saturdays
You maim
My Mondays
And heap heavy sorrow
Onto my soul.

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