Profile: Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Nii Ayikwei Parkes in performance
As a budding writer myself I thought I would bring to the attention one writer of Ghanaian descent who has inspired me. The man I speak of is Nii Ayikwei Parkes. He is a performance poet, writer and sociocultural commentator and an all round man of substance and conviction.
Born in the UK, in 1974, and raised in Ghana, where he attended Achimota School, Nii Ayikwei is a veteran of several poetry festivals, and former Poet-In-Residence at the Poetry Cafe in London, he has performed poetry in the UK, Europe, Ghana and the US, and was a 2005 Associate Artist-In-Residence with BBC Radio 3. In 2007 he was British Council writer-in-residence at California State University, Los Angeles and became one of the youngest living writers featured in the Poems on the Underground programme in London for his poem “Tin Roof”.
Nii runs regular workshops in the UK and has set up a Writer’s Fund in Ghana to promote writing among the country’s youth. He has recorded two CDs of his spoken-word poetry, Incredible Blues and Nocturne of Phrase, and has published three chapbooks of poetry – Eyes of a Boy, Lips of a Man, M is for Madrigal, and the self-published Shorter!, which was put together to raise money for the Writers’ Fund initiative. Nii is also the Senior Editor at Flipped Eye Publishing, for whom he has edited Fourteen, Two (editor), Dance the Guns to Silence and x-24: Unclassified (co-editor with Tash Aw). Nii’s short stories can be found in Tell Tales: Volume I (Tell Tales) and Mechanics Institute Review (Birkbeck).His debut novel, Tail of the Blue Bird, was published by Jonathan Cape in June 2009, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize.
An experienced performer of his work, Nii has appeared at readings all over the world, including the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York, the Royal Festival Hall in London and Java in Paris, and often leads writing and performance workshops. He was the Resident poet at Borders Bookstores where he hosted the monthly open mike at Charing Cross Road between 2001 and 2005.
If you have not already read Nii’s debut novel Tail of the Blue Bird, please make sure you do. It’s a detective story that combines the basic tug of the whodunit with the more elegant pleasures of the literary novel. The effect the Ghanaian dialogue has in the story adds to the entertainment and insight.
To have your first ever novel shortlisted for a Commonwealth Writers Prize is a huge acheivement, Mr. Parkes Me Firi Ghana salutes you!
You can find more about Nii and his work here or follow him on Twitter:
By Ben JK Anim-Antwi (Kwesi)