Jay Kophy grew up in an environment that propelled him to take a keen interest in literature. As a child, he read a lot of the classic novels that his father owned, causing him to conceive the idea of writing his own stories.
He started out by writing short stories in high school but wasn’t consistent. However, in his third year at Regent University College of Science and Technology, his friend, after reading some of his literary pieces, suggested that he tried poetry.
“After dragging my feet on that for a while, I finally did and that was it, I don’t really know why but I became connected to the genre [poetry],” Jay Kophy said.
It, however, did not take too long for Jay Kophy to get recognised for his talent and creativity as a poet. In 2020, four years after his friend advised him to try poetry, he was adjudged the winner of the inaugural Samira Bawumia Literature Prize in Poetry for his poem Pharmakeia. He also received a Pushcart Prize nomination from Four Way Review in 2020.
He has also curated two anthologies, To Grow In Two Bodies and How to Write My Country’s Name in 2019 and 2020 respectively, with the aim of giving emerging writers the opportunity to get their literary pieces out for readers. The anthologies are made up of feature poetry, fiction and non-fiction pieces of about 30 writers.
“I did this because I believe Ghana has really amazing writers and I wanted to use the anthologies to shine a light on them,” he said. “Thankfully, after the two anthologies, other friends and writers joined in to promote the curating of anthologies annually and we created the Contemporary Ghanaian Writers’ Series (CGWS) as the body to keep doing this. And in 2021 CGWS published the Balance Anthology: Equanimity. Recently, CGWS put out a call for submissions for its fourth issue which will be published in 2022.”
This year, Jay Kophy had his book, Walking On Water, published. The book was selected by the Library of Africa and the African Diaspora (LOATAD), and Light Factory Publications (LFP), for the Reading the Migration Library (RML) series. Walking On Water consists of sixteen poems that grapple with sorrow and anger for homes and families disrupted by the hunger that drives dangerous, and fateful, migrations.
“The book attempts to look at the journey from being a citizen of a country to being called a migrant. It’s about how someone would be willing to risk their life to leave their home to survive in another country. Like Warsan Shire said, No one leaves home unless/home is the mouth of a shark and this book attempts to document experience of leaving home,” Jay Kophy explained.
He’s also had other works published in literary magazines including AGNI, Lolwe, FourWay Review, PidgeonHoles, Indianapolis Review, Glass Poetry, and Tampered Press.
At the moment, Jay Kophy is getting inspiration for new poems based on the Volta Lake and its origin. His recent peom, It Begins With Love (inspired by Romeo Oriogun’s poem which bears the same title), addresses issues concerning the creation of the Lake and how it affected the people in that area.
“Currently, what’s moving me is how language and memory was/is easily eroded when the Volta Lake was created,” he said. “The flooding to create the Lake not only displaced people but also their history and language. And being an Ewe and also coming from a family that was also impacted by the Lake, this is something I can’t ignore even if I tried to.”
Most of his poems, however, are inspired by other poets and writers, with regards to how they use language to evoke memory, tell a story or redefine history, as well as their exploration of various forms and techniques.
“I’m inspired by the works of many writers including Chris Abani, Ilya Kaminsky, Kwame Dawes, Ama Asantewa Diaka, Safia Elhillo, Jericho Brown, Ocean Vuong, Kaveh Akbar, Danez Smith, and Natalie Diaz,” he said. “Also there are some writers I’m privileged to call friends who are doing really amazing work that inspire me—Henneh Kwaku Kyereh, Fui Can Tamakloe, Sarpong Osei Asamoah, and Afua Awo Twumwa.”
“It’s quite interesting that what we say can bring life into someone’s world or break it. And poetry brings all this to our attention and also gets us to notice or name languages that we aren’t attentive to, like the body’s. This way, poetry makes room to attempt to define experiences that we can’t really explain or don’t even understand,” Jay Kophy said on the importance of poetry.
“Also poetry allows us to ask questions, allows us to be curious, allows us to wonder without having to burden the writer or even reader with the provision of an answer. And in this wonderment is beauty,” he added.
Jay Kophy, however, is passionate about the development of Ghana’s literary scence and wants more to be done for the talented writers in the country who need support to improve their skills and make the literary scene in Ghana bigger.
“There are so many good writers here but we need workshops, literary magazines, prizes and other initiatives to develop this space and I’m interested in that. To give chance to writers to be seen and develop their craft. We need spaces to promote Ghana’s literary scene.”
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