Please join us at the upcoming Red World Literature conference at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik.

My presentation “Atukwei Okai, Ghanaian Poetry, and Soviet Education” is scheduled for May 11, at 2:45-4:45 pm, in Veröld-Hús Vigdísar (VHV-201).

Abstract: In the beginning of the 1960s, only a half of graduates of the Gorky Literary Institute – the premiere educational institution for writers in the USSR and the socialist world more broadly – were Russian, while the other half belonged to other nationalities, including both non-Russian Soviets and foreigners. As the decolonization of Africa was gaining momentum, the Soviet Union expressed a desire to influence the newly forming national literatures of the decolonized world, and the Gorky Literary Institute began inviting young African writers to study in Moscow. Atukwei John Okai was among the first thousand Ghanaian students who received a scholarship to study in the USSR. In this paper, I will analyze the impact of the Soviet creative writing instruction on Okai’s poetry and his subsequent literary career. I will show that despite the inculcation of socialist realist aesthetic values, Okai’s poetry is closer to modernist experimentations with language and form. At the same time, I will demonstrate how Soviet poetic performance and declamation practices influenced Okai and, more broadly, Ghana’s performance poetry scene.

If you click the link to the facebook event, you will find the program as well as zoom links, in case you are interested in joining online.

Conference Description

See you there!