Poet, Author, Academic, Diplomat

For obvious reasons, we try to talk very little about politics on Today’s Author, but there are times when politics is an unwanted guest in the world of creative writing.

Kofi AwoonorUnless you are a current events avoider, I’m sure you’ve heard about the terrorist attack at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. What you may not know–I didn’t–was that one of those killed was a writer. His name was Kofi Awoonor.

Kofi Awoonor was, perhaps, the leading poet of Ghana. And if it wasn’t him, it was his cousin, Kofi Anyidoho. He was most famous for his poetry which was inspired by the oral tradition of the Ewe people. He studied at, then taught at the University of Ghana, before moving on to the University of London to study literature. He wrote several plays for the BBC, before moving to the US as a kind of travelling student/professor. After he returned to Africa in 1975 he became politically active, and was imprisoned without trial–after this his focus shifted and he wrote mostly non-fiction. From 1990 to 1994 he was Ghana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and headed the UN’s committee against Apartheid.

He was killed hours before he was scheduled to perform at the Storymoja Hay Festival–a four-day celebration of writing, thinking and storytelling.

Perhaps, his most famous work, is the protest poem, The Cathedral.

THE CATHEDRAL
On this dirty patch
a tree once stood
shedding incense on the infant corn:
its boughs stretched across a heaven
brightened by the last fires of a tribe.
They sent surveyors and builders
who cut that tree
planting in its place
A huge senseless cathedral of doom.

Kofi Awoonor
1935 – 2013
Poet, Author, Academic, Diplomat

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8 thoughts on “Poet, Author, Academic, Diplomat

  1. Thank you for this post. I’m an American living in Sweden. A friend of my fourteen year old who attends the international school in Stockholm had a former classmate killed in the shootings and another injured. The trees we cut down today cannot yield fruits for tomorrow. That poem most aptly captures the tragedy of our loss.

    Like

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