Nii Parkes

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Nii Parkes
2015 Neustadt Festival Opening Night - 22570580312.jpg
BornNii Ayikwei Parkes
(1974-04-01) 1 April 1974 (age 49)
Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
Pen nameK.P. Kojo
OccupationNovelist, editor, poet, broadcaster, essayist
Alma materAchimota School
Manchester Metropolitan University
Birkbeck College[1]
GenreFiction, poetry
Literary movementAnansesem, Postmodernism
Notable worksTail of the Blue Bird,
The Makings of You
Notable awardsPrix Laure Bataillon
RelativesJ. C. E. Parkes
Kofi Awoonor

Nii Ayikwei Parkes (/ˌnˈi ˈˈɪkw ˈpɑːrks/;[2] born 1 April 1974),[3] born in the United Kingdom to parents from Ghana, where he was raised, is a performance poet, writer, publisher 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.[4] He writes for children under the name K.P. Kojo.[5]


Born in the UK while his parents were studying there, Nii Parkes was raised from the age of three or four in Ghana,[6] where he was educated at Achimota School. His first editorial role was in 1988 working on his school magazine, The Achimotan, and he went on to co-found, at the age of 17, filla! magazine, Ghana's first student-run national magazine.[7] Parkes subsequently 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.[3] He was children's poet-in-residence at the Brighton Festival in 2007.[8]

A veteran of several poetry festivals, and former poet-in-residence at the Poetry Café in London, he has performed poetry in the United Kingdom, Europe, Ghana and the United States 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,[9] 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 with his poem "Tin Roof".[10]

Parkes runs regular workshops in the UK and set up a Writer's Fund in Ghana to promote writing among the country's youth.[11] 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!,[12] which was put together to raise money for the Writers' Fund initiative.

He is also the co-founder (in 2002)[13] and Senior Editor at flipped eye publishing, for whom he compiled fourteen two (editor), Dance the Guns to Silence (co-editor with Kadija Sesay) and x-24: unclassified (co-editor with Tash Aw).

Parkes' short stories can be found in Tell Tales: Volume I (Tell Tales) and The Mechanics' Institute Review (Birkbeck College) and an excerpt from his second fiction manuscript, Afterbirth,[14] was featured in the New Writing 15 anthology published by Granta Books in June 2007.

Also a playwright, his début play Walking Waterfall ran at London’s Almeida Theatre on 30 July and 31 July 2008, as part of the Tiata Fahodzi 2008 Tiata Delights season.[15] The production was directed by Femi Elufowoju Jr., and featured a cast including Jude Akuwudike and Marcy Dolapo Oni. It later toured in East Anglia.

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. Translated into French by Sika Fakambi, it was published as Notre Quelque Part by Éditions Zulma, winning the 2014 Prix Baudelaire, Prix Mahogany and Prix Laure Bataillon and being selected by leading literary magazine Lire as the Best First Foreign Book of the year and one of the Top 20 books published in France in 2014.[16]

An experienced performer of his work, Parkes 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 mic at Charing Cross Road between 2001 and 2005.

He became BookTrust's online writer-in-residence in 2009.[17][18] In 2010, he became a writer-in-residence for the charity First Story.[19] He also ran the African Writers' Evening[20] series at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden.

In 2012, Parkes represented Ghana at Poetry Parnassus, the largest international poetry festival in the UK, held at London's Southbank Centre in conjunction with the London Olympics.[21][22][23] In autumn 2014, the University of Tübingen welcomed him to that year's Writers' Lectureship together with Taiye Selasi, Priya Basil and Chika Unigwe, all of them writers representing what Selasi calls Afropolitan Literature.

In 2014–15, Parkes was the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Aberystwyth, Wales.[24] He was selected as one of Africa's 39 most promising authors under the age of 40 for the World Book Capital Africa39 project in 2014.[25]

Parkes ran the Creative Writing course at the African University College of Communications (AUCC) in Accra, Ghana,[16] and sat on the Board of Trustees of pan-African literary initiative Writivism, with fellow writers Zukiswa Wanner, Chika Unigwe, NoViolet Bulawayo, E. C. Osondu and Lizzy Attree, until 2015.[26]

Parkes was appointed as the founding director of the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing (Aidoo Centre), launched in Accra in March 2017, under the auspices of the Kojo Yankah School of Communications Studies at the African University College of Communications (AUCC).[27][28][29]

He serves on the editorial board of World Literature Today,[30] is a trustee of the Caine Prize,[31] and in 2019 became Producer of Literature and Talks at the Brighton Festival.[32] He was chair of judges for the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.[33]

His 2020 poetry collection, The Geez, was longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize, shortlisted for the Walcott Prize, and is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.[34]

Personal life[edit]

Parkes is a descendant of J. C. E. Parkes (1861−1899), the Sierra Leone Creole civil servant.

Selected bibliography[edit]

Writing by Parkes has appeared in many publications, including Granta, The Guardian, Index on Censorship, International PEN Magazine, The Liberal, The Mechanics' Institute Review, Poetry News, Poetry Review, Sable, Statement (CSULA), Storyteller Magazine, X Magazine and Wasafiri.


  • Tail of the Blue Bird (novel), Jonathan Cape, 2009; Vintage, 2010, ISBN 978-0099526124.
    • Translated into Dutch (by Ronald Cohen) as De blauwe vogel, Q, 2010, ISBN 978-90-2143-846-7.
    • Translated into Japanese (by Kazue Daikoku) as Aoitori no Shippo, Web Press Happa-no-Kofu, 2014, ISBN 978-4-901274-28-9.
    • Translated into French (by Sika Fakambi) as Notre Quelque Part,[6] Zulma, 2014, ISBN 978-2843047701.
    • Translated into Spanish (by Magdalena Palmer) as El Enigma del Pájaro Azul, Club Editor, 2017, ISBN 978-84-7329-217-7.
    • Translated into Catalan (by Xavier Pàmies) as L'enigma de l'ocell blau, Club Editor, 2017, ISBN 978-84-7329-216-0.
  • Azúcar (novel), Peepal Tree Press, 2023, ISBN 9781845235475.[35]


Children's literature[edit]

As editor[edit]

Selected essays and articles[edit]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ Website bio
  2. ^ "Interview with Nii Ayikwei Parkes". Video by Pen International, 28 April 2011.
  3. ^ a b Open Directory Project.
  4. ^ List of artists Africa39, Hay Festival of Literature & the Arts.
  5. ^ K.P. Kojo profile on Penguin website, Penguin, UK publisher.
  6. ^ a b Laura Angela Bagnetto, "African novelists aren't travel guides", RFI, 20 January 2016.
  7. ^ a b c "Nii Ayikwei Parkes, YCE Finalist" Archived 7 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine, British Council Creative Economy.
  8. ^ Nii Ayikwei Parkes Biography, Time to Read.
  9. ^ "British Council Poet-in-Residence". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 15 June 2007.
  10. ^ "The Poetry Society (Poems on the Underground)". Archived from the original on 11 June 2007. Retrieved 15 June 2007.
  11. ^ "Nii Ayikwei Parkes: Poets must learn editing and performing", Start: Journal of Arts and Culture, Issue 023, 4 August 2012.
  12. ^ Nii Ayikwei Parkes at the British Council.
  13. ^ "The Story". Retrieved 1 February 2023.
  14. ^ Evaristo, Bernardine, and Maggie Gee (eds), NW15: the anthology of New Writing Volume 15, London: Granta, 2007.
  15. ^ Tiata Delights 08 at the Almeida.
  16. ^ a b "Nii Parkes (UK/Ghana)", Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Kwazulu-Natal, 27 September 2015.
  17. ^ Alison Flood, "'Freddie Flintoff of publishing' to become online writer-in-residence", The Guardian, 14 September 2009.
  18. ^ "Interview with Nii Parkes", BookTrust, 6 November 2009.
  19. ^ "New First Story writers for 2010–2011", First Story.
  20. ^ "African Writers' Evening". Archived from the original on 25 September 2010. Retrieved 15 June 2007.
  21. ^ "Parkes, Nii Ayikwei", Poetry Parnassus, Southbank Centre.
  22. ^ "The pick of the world's poetry in London", Evening Standard, 29 June 2012.
  23. ^ Cat Lucas, "English PEN at the Poetry Parnassus", English PEN, 18 June 2012.
  24. ^ "Nii Ayikwei Parkes" (Former Fellows), Royal Literary Fund.
  25. ^ Margaret Busby, "Africa39: how we chose the writers for Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014", The Guardian, 10 April 2014.
  26. ^ "Announcing the Writivism Board of Trustees", Writivism, 2 December 2013.
  27. ^ "AUCC Launches Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing", Modern Ghana, 15 March 2017.
  28. ^ "Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing opens in Accra, Ghana", James Murua Blog, 22 March 2017.
  29. ^ Kwamina Tandoh/Winifred Zuur, "Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing inaugurated", Ghana News Agency, 16 March 2017.
  30. ^ "Masthead", World Literature Today.
  31. ^ "About Us", Ako Caine Prize.
  32. ^ "African arts set to star in this year's Brighton Festival", ITV, 7 April 2019.
  33. ^ Ruth Comerford, "2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlist announced", The Bookseller, 22 April 2020.
  34. ^ "The Geez by Nii Ayikwei Parkes | PBS Recommendation Winter 2020", Poetry Book Society.
  35. ^ "Azúcar", Peepal Tree Press.
  36. ^ "South of South Detail Page at Peepal Tree Press".
  37. ^ "Filigree Detail Page at Peepal Tree Press".
  38. ^ "Nii Ayikwei Parkes", Performance Poets, Apples and Snakes.
  39. ^ "Nii Ayikwei Parkes wins award for second successive year", GhanaWeb, 26 January 2005.
  40. ^ "USBBY's Outstanding International Books connect kids worldwide By Kathy East", School Library Journal, February 2012.

External links[edit]