Beyond the Hill

Syracuse poet reads verses inspired by Ghanian heritage at Salt City Market

Kasey O’Rourke | Staff Writer

Antwi writes poetry inspired by Ghanaian heritage and New York upbringing.

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Though Kofi Antwi is wary of it sounding cliche, he believes poetry has always been within him. When Antwi recounts his childhood, he remembers creating storylines for his toys.

“As a writer, I started to realize it’s great to write abstract and colorful images, but you also have to write in concrete and discuss reality,” Antwi said.

Last night at a Small Press Reading Series at Salt City Market, Antwi — who has been published in various literary magazines including great weather for MEDIA and Rigorous — delivered a selection of his poems to college students, poetry lovers, friends and family. Colgate University and Syracuse University Libraries hosted the event in partnership with Write Out Syracuse.

With a low vibrato and presence that commanded the room, Antwi delivered moving excerpts from his poems, which are inspired by his Ghanaian heritage, Brooklyn and Staten Island upbringing, Black identity and hope for change. He’s candid with the fact that it might not always be a light listen for all.

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“Some of my poetry is uncomfortable; it addresses things that make people uncomfortable. But that’s poetry. That’s poetry at its core,” Antwi said.

His delivery stayed strong, despite spurts of a whining toddler in the back of the room who would later be revealed as his son.

“Now that my son has departed I can actually hear myself … A rookie mistake I now know not to do,” he joked mid-poem.

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While Antwi exudes confidence and success nowadays, that was not always the case for the 33-year-old poet. His entry years into poetry were filled with hesitation and uncertainty. It wasn’t until Antwi joined Open Moments, Utica College’s poetry club, that he was inspired by the courageousness and fearlessness of fellow poets to translate his voice into this medium.

Growing up in a West African household also didn’t provide the warmest welcome into careers outside of being a doctor, lawyer or engineer, Antwi said. It was a trip back to Ghana two Christmases ago, however, when Antwi came to terms with his identity and its role in his poetry.

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The reading was organized by a local writer’s collective that organizes community outreach between SU and the surrounding school districts.
Kasey O’Rourke | Staff Writer

“I love traveling back to Ghana,” Antwi said. “Every time I go back to Ghana, I feel rejuvenated. It gives me the sense of knowledge of myself.”

It also wasn’t until this trip in 2019 that Antwi felt his debut book of poems “Tidal Wave” was ready to be published, a book Jacob Gedetsis — who helped plan the reading at the market — praised in his introduction of Antwi on Tuesday evening.

Gedetsis serves as the co-founder and director of Write Out, the community writing collective that planned the event. Write Out engages university students in community outreach within the Syracuse area school systems as well as on SU’s campus. He found the location within downtown’s Salt City Market to be out of the box of the typical campus venues.

“We felt lucky to have Kofi Antwi joining us today, and he’s new to the area so it was a great and warm welcome for a new poet who’s calling Syracuse home,” Gedetsis said.

Event attendee Lauren Cooper is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in English Literature at SU and is also involved in Write Out, which she described as a “community-based writing collective” that started with after school writing programs.

“We would go to specific community center sites once a week after school and work with students, like young kids, and just write poetry and tell stories, draw pictures,” Cooper said.

After the reading, as he reflected on his journey as a man to lead him to this point of being a celebrated and published poet, Antwi reminded himself that “it takes some time before we as writers realize, we are where we want to be.”

Antwi is distinct in the separation of life and writing, though he acknowledged there is overlap, and his work is a representation of who he is.

“What I believe should be spoken about and articulated even through creative mediums like poetry. And, I think that’s the beauty of it, right?” Antwi said.







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