Nii Ayikwei Parkes (born 1 April 1974) born in the UK to parents from Ghana, where he was raised, is a performance poet, writer and sociocultural commentator. He is one of 39 writers aged under 40 from sub-Saharan Africa who in April 2014 were named as part of the Hay Festival's prestigious Africa39 project.
Born in the UK, Nii Parkes was raised in Ghana, where he was educated at Achimota School. He later studied in England at Manchester Metropolitan University. While there, he emerged as a performance poet and was also a member of the Black Writer's Group of Commonword.
A veteran of several poetry festivals, and former poet-in-residence at the Poetry Café in London, he has performed poetry in the UK, Europe, Ghana and the US and was a 2005 Associate Artist-In-Residence with BBC Radio 3. In 2007 he was British Council writer-in-residence at California State University, Los Angeles and became one of the youngest living writers (along with Owen Sheers and Choman Hardi) featured in the Poems on the Underground programme in London for his poem "Tin Roof".
Nii runs regular workshops in the UK and has set up a Writer’s Fund in Ghana to promote writing among the country's youth. He has recorded two CDs of his spoken-word poetry, Incredible Blues and Nocturne of Phrase, and has published three chapbooks of poetry – eyes of a boy, lips of a man, M is for Madrigal, and the self-published Shorter!, which was put together to raise money for the Writers' Fund initiative. Nii is also the Senior Editor at flipped eye publishing, for whom he has edited fourteen two (editor), Dance the Guns to Silence (co-editor with Kadija Sesay) and x-24: unclassified (co-editor with Tash Aw). Nii's short stories can be found in Tell Tales: Volume I (Tell Tales) and Mechanics Institute Review (Birkbeck) and an excerpt from his second fiction manuscript, Afterbirth, is featured in the New Writing 15 anthology published by Granta in June 2007. His debut novel, Tail of the Blue Bird, was published by Jonathan Cape in June 2009, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers' Prize.
An experienced performer of his work Nii has appeared at readings all over the world, including the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, New York; the Royal Festival Hall, London; and Java, Paris, and often leads writing and performance workshops. He was the resident poet at Borders Bookstores, where he hosted the monthly open mike at Charing Cross Road between 2001 and 2005. He is currently a writer-in-residence for the charity First Story and runs the African Writers' Evening series at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden. In autumn 2014 the University of Tübingen welcomed Nii and his fellow writers Taiye Selasi, Priya Basil and Chika Unigwe and to this year's Writers' Lectureship, all of them writers representing what Selasi calls Afropolitan Literature.
Magazines and journals
- Index on Censorship
- International PEN Magazine
- The Liberal
- The Mechanics' Institute Review
- Poetry News
- Poetry Review
- Statement (CSULA)
- Storyteller Magazine
- X Magazine
- Open Directory Project.
- List of artists Africa39, Hay Festival of Literature & the Arts.
- British Council Poet-in-Residence
- The Poetry Society (Poems on the Underground)
- Nii Ayikwei Parkes
- Evaristo, Bernardine, and Maggie Gee (eds), NW15: the anthology of New Writing Volume 15, London: Granta, 2007.
- African Writers’ Evening
- Nii Parkes Website
- Writers' Fund Website
- An Interview with Nii
- Profile on Contemporary Writers website
- Part 1 of BBC Radio documentary on Nii's novel (audio)
- Part 2 of BBC Radio documentary on Nii's novel (audio)
- Tail of the Blue Bird on Amazon