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Entertainment of Wednesday, 27 October 2004

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Ghanaian Poet becomes first African Poet on Apple's iTunes

Ghanaian writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes has become the first African poet whose work has been approved for inclusion on the Apples iTunes download service; the world's best-selling music download.

Nii, who is based in London, is no stranger to firsts. Last year he became the first Ghanaian Poet-In-Residence at the Poetry Caf? in London and was commissioned to programme and produce "Bringing the House Down" a live poetry showcase for the National Theatre of England. The show was a bestseller and is now an annual event at London's Albany Theatre. He insists he is not unique, just stubborn. "The way I see it, I gave up a lot to pursue my dream of being a writer so I work extremely hard at it. Also, I come from a family of writers so I have something to live up to. My uncle Frank Parkes had work in the groundbreaking anthology "Poems of Black Africa" and my father Jerry read and reviewed work on the BBC in the 60s."

Asked about his success on iTunes, he admits he's a bit surprised. "I recorded Incredible Blues in 2002 after a visit to Ghana and prior to my first US Tour, but I never expected it to do so well. I was just expressing myself."

Others in the poetry business don't agree. Jess York, manager at the Poetry Caf? says, "Nii has many different approaches, appealing to a wide range of people. He is very warm to his audience and makes everyone feel at ease. He has a lot to contribute. We are talking to him about running a regular African Poets' Evening here." Taalam Acey, one of the world's best known performance poets adds, "I loved Incredible Blues and I still remember the day I walked up and down Crenshaw Blvd. in LA listening to it. Wonderful eclectic blend of warm words and music. Nii has to be one of the smoothest poets of our generation... a master of the subdued mood."

Nii's wide appeal has led to him being invited to several festivals including the Lancaster Literature Festival, Bristol Poetry Festival and the Austin International Poetry Festival where he also became the first African poet invited to give a seminar. He has also had his work incorporated into a mural on Lewisham High Street in London.

Not satisfied with just poetry, Nii has recently turned his hand to prose. Having already won an Arts Council England Award for his first novel "The Cost of Red Eyes," he has been touring England as part of a live short story group called Tell Tales, which he helped found. The resulting anthology "Tell Tales Volume I" is already selling well and there is talk of a follow up tour in 2005. Nii in the meantime, has begun to study for an MA in Creative Writing. Asked how he finds time for everything, he quotes Benedictus Spinoza ' "'Measure, Time and Number are nothing but modes of thought.' I have to keep learning. I'm very keen for Ghanaian Universities to have Creative Writing departments. We need the tools to tell the true story of Africa."

Supplementary Info:

Nii Ayikwei Parkes is the author of two collections of poetry, "eyes of a boy, lips of a man" (1999) and M is for Madrigal (2004); and editor of "fourteen two" (2004) and Tell Tales Volume I (2004). His CD "Incredible Blues" is available on iTunes in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Website: www.niiparkes.com

Related Websites: www.telltales.co.uk, www.poetrysociety.org.uk

BIOGRAPHY

With an unrepentant original voice layered with pride, pain, love and fantasy, Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a rare breed of poet. His craft of writing the "reality of pain in the language of smiles", has earned him respect internationally as a stirring writer and mesmerising performer.

Nii is the former Farrago UK Poetry Slam Champion, and Poet-In-Residence at the Poetry Caf?, London (home of the Poetry Society of England). He is the author of eyes of a boy, lips of a man (flipped eye), M is for Madrigal (tall lighthouse), veteran of several poetry festivals (including the Bristol Poetry Festival and the Austin International Poetry Festival), editor of x magazine and contributor to several magazines and literary journals including The New Writer, The Interpreter's House, The Accra Mail, The Map of Austin Poetry Journal, Dreamcatcher, Sable, and Wasafiri. His work can also be seen on the Lewisham Street Rhythms mural on Lewisham High Street, London.

Always versatile, Nii has performed with bands from Accra to New York, and hosts several events. Outside the UK, Nii is involved in setting up a Writers' Fund in Ghana to promote writing among the youth. He has appeared on radio and television in the UK, the US and Ghana and has recorded a CD of his spoken word entitled Incredible Blues. The draft of his first novel, The Cost of Red Eyes won him an Arts Council England Award and his stage show, Bringing the House Down was the best selling poetry stage show in the UK in 2003.

Nii is the face for Poetry in the 2004 Time Out Guide for London.

"...mesmerizing. He commanded the room with his words..."

Baltimore City Paper

"tells it like it is and pulls no punches. Love, anger, pain and optimism appear to be mixed into his writing in almost equal measure"

Derek Ansell, Jazz Reviewer on Incredible Blues

"sun filled stanzas and songs of love and pain"

The Times (UK)

"a roller coaster of emotions and expressions which leave you. satisfied"

Dwayne Kerr of Erykah Badu's band (Neda Stela)

"delightful love poems"

Accra Mail

"a talent to watch. His writing is by turns sharp, reflective, evocative, and transfixing."

P. Kalu author of Black Star Rising

"an incredible man..."

getunderground.com

"rhythmic beats hit home with socially conscious lyrics"

Pride Magazine

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