Akwaaba Ensemble

DSC03761

One of the fist things one learns after landing at Ghana’s Kotoka International Airport in Accra is the word “akwaaba.” In the Ashanti language, Twi, it means “welcome.” This past weekend, the Akwaaba Ensemble, led by Theophilus Nii Martey, visited Peterborough.

Ten years since spending an undergraduate semester abroad at the University of Ghana in Legon, one of the phrases most emblematic of my experience is “welcome.” In the US, the word is almost exclusively a polite response to “thanks.” In Ghana, however, the phrase takes on a new significance beyond a mere formality. Ghanaians say “you are welcome” unbidden by expressions of gratitude. It is an explicit affirmation of generosity and hospitality that honors host and guest alike.

DSC03763

Similar is the refrain: “feel free.” In Ghana one is often told to feel free by those who host you in their homes, their restaurants, their taxi cabs, their classrooms. The phrase is more an imperative than permission. Guests are not just free to be at home, but required to be genuine. The expectation of intimacy can be jarring, but it means that acquaintances rapidly become dear friend. It’s deeply civilized.

DSC03760Though guests, the Akwaaba Ensemble held court at Harlow’s. Martey as bandleader made the audience feel more at home in their own local. Electrifying percussion kept the dance floor full, and buoyant highlife grooves implored us to feel free.

Revising the Storm

This year, Geffrey Davis won the 10th annual Anne Halley Prize for poetry from the Massachusetts Review. One of the features of that prize is an invited reading in Amherst, Massachusetts, which Davis gave last April. So I happily made the drive to visit my old grad-school friend, celebrate his recent publication, and hear him read his soulful, penetrating work.

Revising the Storm

Amherst Books graciously hosted the event, which was well attended by an enthusiastic audience of teachers, students, poets, publishers, and readers. Among them was Jules Chametzky, a UMass professor and critic of ethnic American literature who helped found the Massachusetts Review in the late 1950s.The Halley Prize is named in honor of his late wife, who was a writer and poetry editor at MR.

Davis Chametzky

Davis’s debut collection of poems, Revising the Storm, was selected by Dorianne Laux as the winner of the 2013 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and published by BOA Editions (2014). He co-founded and co-edits the online journal Toe Good Poetry.

Here, Davis reads three of his poems: “Unfledged,” “Meditation at a Pennsylvania Diner: Early Morning,” and “What We Set in Motion.”