Kobena Eyi Acquah
I chose to list five of my favourite African poets. Acquah is here representing all the African poets who came to prominence in the 60s and 70s and changed the conversation around African poetry. Acquah was a late-bloomer in that group – though he wrote in the 70s his masterpiece, “In the Navel of the Soul,” wasn’t published until 1995 – but he is my absolute favourite (with fellow Ghanaian Kwesi Brew a close second).
Juliane Okot Bitek
Daughter of famed Ugandan poet Okot p’Bitek, Okot Bitek leads off the “second generation” of poets building on what their mothers and fathers (literal or otherwise) created. Her 2016 debut collection on the Rwandan genocide, 100 Days, is one of the best books I’ve read in many years.
Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Parkes is a celebrated novelist, which might cause people to look past his poetry. Don’t do it! His 2010 debut, The Makings of You, spans continents and interweaves histories to mesmerizing effect.
Kenyan poet Ngwatilo Mawiyoo came to many people’s attention with her inclusion in the 2016 edition of the New-Generation African Poets chapbook box set. If you haven’t heard of the New-Generation box sets, check them out! They’re a wonderful way to learn about up-and-coming talent. Mayiwoo’s chapbook, Dagoretti Corner, is excellent, and leaves me excited for her first full-length collection.
L.S. Mensah (No Photo Available)
Mensah is on this list to represent the great number of gifted poets in Africa who lack the resources and opportunities to fully explore or publish their work. Ghanaian born and raised, Mensah lived in obscurity in the UK, writing arresting poems that delved deep into African culture, history and literature. Far too few of them were published before her unexpected death in 2012.
Rob Taylor is the author of three poetry collections, including The News (Gaspereau Press, 2016), which was a finalist for the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Rob is also the editor of What the Poets Are Doing: Canadian Poets in Conversation (Nightwood Editions, 2018) and guest editor of the 2019 edition of The Best Canadian Poetry in English (Biblioasis, 2019). In 2006, he co-founded One Ghana, One Voice, Ghana’s first online poetry magazine, which he edited for the next decade. He lives with his family in Port Moody, BC, Canada.