Preface by Tryphena Yeboah.
It is easy to skim through an anthology like this, graze the words in one swift motion and then, arrive at its end barely touched, as if one did not just encounter its quiet life, its vulnerable truths. It is precisely what makes this collection require your full attention and gentle presence to sit with it; not for any complexities because the language is simple and clean, rid of decorations and cuts straight to the heart of the piece; and not for any elements of dramatization for the poems and stories are flooded with the strength of humanity, an ordinariness of living and of course, all that is striking and disturbing about the human condition.
There are nineteen writers and with each authentic voice, they touch on everything from the bond of family, the fierce portrait of love, power and exploitation as well as the beauty in composure and quietude in the midst of disruption — a necessary read for this unprecedented time. The voices of these writers are unflinching in their confessions and unsparing in what they set out to find. Take, for instance, the interplay between identity and relations in Appoh’s Conversations with my Mother where the speaker admits “how I think of this body as not my own” and yet, in their own foreignness, “for the many things I cannot say,/ I would wear them,/ till you can see them clearly.” Or in Shedding by Yemofio, when the speaker is so deeply connected to their mother that what is passed on is just as relevant as what is left unanswered: “Who taught you love?/ I do not teach my children what I do not understand”.
There is an attempt of speakers wrestling and bridging themselves to the other side, whatever that may be: some clarity or truth or an urgent hope they can only arrive at by interrogating and doing the heavy work of disentangling. What I keep coming back to is how the writing illuminates a collective witnessing through an unwavering gaze — it is a single thread that is carried purposefully on the pages. One will find it in Vanderpuye’s God’s Wanderers, a touching letter in which a man recounts tracing his roots back home and it is infused with the threat of racism and also its futility. In Katai’s short story, Balance , there is an exposé on government failure, resistance against police brutality and a private look into a mother’s maddening grief. These are works asking us to not to look away, to make the bold decision to observe and reflect on the world and to actively partake in shaping it for better. Far more remarkable is the symbolic structure of this collection: it is the third edition by the Contemporary Ghanaian Writers Series and it is worth considering what it means for Ghanaians to be writing and owning our narratives, what it means to have outlets like this that believe in and nurture potential. This anthology is a strong demonstration to what we can accomplish as a people, what expansion we can bring to our schools and libraries. To finally be able to share this with so many readers is, I hope, a mark of continuity for an experience that is not only impacting the country’s literary landscape but also setting us up to be an integral voice in the evolving world of literature.
Our own Kwame Dawes has said when we open up and share our stories, we have a responsibility to tell them truthfully and especially, with the same quest for grace and beauty that we see in them. You won’t miss this in Peprah Agyemang’s Firstborns Don’t Cry where the intimate voice of a son in deep sorrow is captured: we see fragile masculinity what it is and the desperate attempt to shield oneself from feeling what they ought to. Be ready for what Benyin uniquely offers through dialect in his poem, The Morning that Lied — it pays a graceful tribute to our own language and boldly positions this work to attain a scope and range that is ambitious.
I have felt some sadness and triumph reading Equanimity and, by all accounts, grace and beauty have found their dwelling in these new voices. I hope you can read it with real kindness and a great deal of attention.