Brew, (O.H.) Kwesi

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BREW, (O.H.) Kwesi

Nationality: Ghanaian. Born: Cape Coast, Ghana, 27 May 1928. Education: Attended schools in Cape Coast, Kumasi, Tamale and Accra; University College of the Gold Coast (now the University of Ghana), B.A. 1953. Career: Entered the Administrative Service in 1953; government agent at Keta for nearly two years, then assistant secretary in the Public Service Commission. Now in the Ghana Foreign Service: has been ambassador for Ghana to Britain, France, India, Germany, the U.S.S.R., Mexico, and Senegal. Awards: British Council prize. Lives in Accra, Ghana. Address: c/o Greenfield Review Press, P.O. Box 80, Greenfield Center, New York 12833, U.S.A.



Pergamon Poets 2: Poetry from Africa, with others, edited by Howard Sergeant. Oxford, Pergamon Press, 1968.

The Shadows of Laughter. London, Longman, 1968.

African Panorama. Greenfield Center, New York, Greenfield Review Press, 1981.

Return of No Return and Other Poems. Accra, Ghana, Afram, 1995.

The Clan of the Leopard and Other Poems. Accra, Ghana, Anansesem, 1996.


Screenplay: The Harvest.


Critical Studies: "Kwesi Brew and His Poetry" by A.W. Kayper-Mensah, in Legacy, 3(1), 1976; in Opon Ifa, 1(2), 1980.

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The Ghanaian poet Kwesi Brew has a much wider range, both of subject and style, than most of his African contemporaries, and over the years he has developed a voice inherently his own. He has written poems about childbirth ("Gamelli's Arm Has Broken into Buds"), childhood memories, youthful indiscretions, and middle-age reflections ("The Middle of the River"), as well as some of the most tender love poems to come out of Africa ("Flower and Fragrance," "The Two Finds," and "The Mesh," to name only a few). Ghanaian folk songs and customs are intricately woven into the tapestry of his poetry, and since Brew has exceptional descriptive gifts, the Ghanaian landscape and idiom come suddenly to life for non-African readers through his works.

Brew has written about such specifically traditional subjects as ancestor worship ("Ancestral Faces") and the passing of the fighting tribes ("Questions of Our Time"), but he has not hesitated to deal with a contemporary event of great significance for his country—the downfall of President Kwame Nkrumah in 1966—in a poem entitled "A Sandal on the Head." In this fascinating poem, which appeared in Outposts shortly after the event, Brew maintains a careful distance from his subject by employing an objective correlative appropriate to the situation—the Ghanaian custom of touching the head of a chief with one of his own sandals to declare him "de-stooled." "Ghost Dance," "The Master of the Common Crowd," "The Secrets of the Tribe," "A Plea for Mercy," "The Harvest of Our Life," and other poems draw strongly upon the African way of life and present the conflict between old and new, between tribal instinct and national aspiration, and between the regional and the universal.

—Howard Sergeant