StarWoman : Poetess Cynthia Amoah creates social impact through spoken word
You don’t even need to meet her. You can feel Cynthia’s energy when she writes her words through out this interview. What’s most inspiring about Ghanaian poet Cynthia Amoah isn’t just her ability to bring vivid feelings and images to life with her carefully-chosen words, it’s her courage to follow through with a career path that is still otherwise considered simply recreational or even unstable. From her own words, Cythnia shows us how to leverage creativity and make some serious impact while you’re at it!
KY : Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
Cynthia: Sure! I’m a spoken word poet and what that simply means is that I’m fascinated with words: their meanings, their sounds, their impact and influence. I’m currently completing my MFA in poetry at The New School in New York City and my work involves anything from teaching creative writing, collaborating with artists and organizations on different projects, to performing my own works on various stages. I aspire to leave an indelible mark on the way in which we discuss race, gender, and social justice. My poems often explore themes of community, the value of culture, and a dedication to self-identity with an emphasis on empowering and inspiring women and girls across the globe.
KY : How did you know poetry was going to be more than a hobby for you but as a career choice?
Cynthia: When I began measuring my success in poetry. What I mean is, poetry became more than an exercise of my audience listening to me, rather I began listening to my audience. For me, success in poetry manifests in the feedback I receive from those who encounter my work in performance or otherwise. The people who are impacted or effected by my words matter and when the numbers grew, I began to see how it could continue as a career rather than simply as something I loved to do. I went full time with poetry in May 2018 and I’ve found it rather beautiful that something I used as a way to express myself and find my voice, has become a way for my listeners to do the same.
KY : How would you describe the process when working on your craft?
Cynthia: I believe in the art of hearing words aloud and so, my process has developed over sometime. It’s odd really, when creating, I must first speak the words before writing them down. Almost as if I have to convince myself of the meaning in sound before they ever hit the page. It can take an hour, a week, a month even to write a poem, but I don’t rush the process. I just try my best to write and create everyday. I also frequent a lot of open mics and poetry events so as to remain inspired and keep my work current.
Often times, I’ll use a voice recording app on my phone to speak a few things on my mind so I can edit them later. I’d like to think that I don’t look or sound crazy when creating/reciting/editing aloud but my roommates might think otherwise!
KY : When you first started performing as an artist, what was the feedback like? Is it any different today?
Cynthia: Slightly. I would say that when I first began, the feedback was always positive. Now, with the reach my work has garnered, the positivity remains with an added edge of suggestion and creative criticism. An occasional negative message surfaces when the meaning of a poem is lost upon a listener, but I suppose that’s what comes with the reach. Feedback is the way that I measure growth.
For instance, I recently performed at the wedding ceremony of a couple, in which I’ve known the groom for over a decade. After the performance, I ran into a mutual friend of ours who mentioned that my performance was refreshing as he hadn’t heard my work in years. He could tell that my voice had matured because I had matured, yes, but that my words had matured also, they were more “emphatic,” he said. Feedback like that is impactful for me to hear because it reassures me that not only do I have an audience, but that they take note in my growth, and are even at times growing with me along the journey.
KY: What inspires your poetry and what do you hope to create out of your performances? Cynthia : I am inspired by everything around me. My morning train rides in New York City, the experiences that are relentless and insistent on teaching me lessons, my sometimes complicated and dazed relationships with people as well as with myself, the way my hair rises when it grows, current news, you name it. I write as a way to understand, to learn, relearn, unlearn. To give name to unnamed feelings, to unbend and remain on level ground, really. I’ve always said that my work saves me long before it can ever save my listeners and my hope is to communicate this message with my work; that anything is possible through poetry.
KY : How would you describe the experience since returning home and performing in Ghana?
Cynthia : Wow. It’s been unreal. I must admit—I was uncertain about returning home at first, apprehensive about how I might be received, but after meeting some dope Accra-based poets, performing and discussing my work on some amazing platforms, and eventually launching my own event in Accra in December 2018 titled, “Women and Words,” I’d described my experience as nothing short of life-changing. It just feels right, you know? Like doing everything I’ve ever been meant to do where I was meant to do it. Performing back home, for me, is like my career coming full circle, it always returns me back to myself.
KY: The creative landscape in Ghana is still taking shape, what are the key elements that could accelerate some real growth in your opinion?
Cynthia : I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately. I must first commend how efficiently and creatively artists have been implementing their crafts in Ghana. Ghanaians are truly creatives at our core and it’s inspiring to see those of the continent and diaspora lend their efforts.
One key element, I would proffer, is to continue to urge more creatives of the diaspora to return home to Ghana. We have been doing so at an increased rate as of late, but it’s always good to continue pushing that narrative. We should return to enjoy the fruits of our country, yes, but to also find the avenues and spaces where we could lend our gifts and contribute to our motherland. With 2019 coined as the Year of Return, now is the best time to return more than ever before.
Another element I would mention is perhaps a message to all event organizers in Ghana: Pay Your Artists. I know, at times, there are budget constraints for events of all types, but if artists are respected and valued by being compensated for their time, it really does wonders of pushing the agenda of creative entrepreneurship as well as affirms how possible and realistic it can be for one to turn their passion and creativity into a career.
KY : The year just started, what are the aspirations for Poet Cynthia?
Cynthia : Yes! I coined 2018 my “readying” year. Now, I’m declaring 2019 as the year of “coming for everything” and “snatching all wigs while doing it.” LOL
In all seriousness, I’ve been working on my very first studio project set to come out in the spring of this year (so look out for that) while also working on building some branding and corporate relationships. I’m delving into the voiceover industry and would love to explore any potential relationships with people, companies, and organizations by using poetry to diversify their brands.
My overall goal is to bring poetry into spaces that it would not of be otherwise. I’ve succeeded with this mission at a couple of events so far this year so, the inside of my chest is growing something like hope.
KY : In all of this, what does self-care mean for you and how do you achieve that?
Cynthia : Writing and prayer is my first form of self-care. I also recite daily mantras. The ones that always find their way to me during the week include:
-Use Your Voice
-Run from the idea of perfection
-What’s for you can never be taken from you.
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