Ian Keteku

Ian Keteku Picture | Omniverse Project

Ian Keteku is an internationally acclaimed spoken word poet. He is a national slam champion and the 2010 World Poetry Slam champion. He uses his voice to inspire messages of peace, action and critical thought. Born and raised by Ghanaian parents, Ian feels spiritually and passionately connected to his heritage. Ian’s work is strongly influenced by his upbringing and journeys throughout Africa. His work follows in the lineage of ancient African storytellers by paying homage to the past and revisiting themes and lessons from previous generations.

Ian is also a multimedia artist who often works with video and animation, producing thought-provoking poetic short films. He has produced work for TVO, CBC and more recently Sesame Street. He conducts poetry, writing and performance workshops for students of all ages, corporations and various community groups, inspiring people to accept the power of their own voice. His work has been translated into French, Slovak, Russian, Danish, ASL and others. His debut book of poetry Black Abacus is published by Write Bloody North.


History Prompt

Think about your own history and think about the ways in which your ancestors, your great grandfather, great grandmother, great, great, great grandfather and great grandmother’s.

Who were they? What did they do? What lessons did they pass on through various generations?

So here’s the activity:

  1. Write an epistolary poem.
    • An epistolary poem is in the style of a letter. It can be dear blank, or salutations blank or to my dear blank.
  2. Write a letter to the oldest ancestor you know. It could be your grandmother, your grandfather, a grand uncle, your uncle, your big brother, your big sister. It doesn’t matter – write a letter to the oldest ancestor, you know, tell them interesting details about your life, about your family history.
  3. Ask them questions: what’s missing in your family story that you want to know
  4. Use that letter as your inspiration for your next piece.

Craft & Writing

Craft & Writing Prompt

  1. Walk around your neighbourhood.
  2. Write down a detailed and specific description list of:
    • 5 things you see
    • 5 things you hear
    • 5 things you smell
    • 5 things you touch
  3. From the list, find words that match the sentence or match the senses.
    • Eg. Rough, brown cement, feather, laughing.
  4. Use these words to write a short poem about the last time that you were angry.
  5. Using the words that you gathered from your walk, write a poem about being angry.
  6. Try not to talk about the walk in the poem – just use the rich vocabulary and the interesting words that you found to create something new.


Performance Prompt

  1. Take your poem – an old poem – print it out and record yourself reading it. You can do this on your cell phone or on your computer.
  2. Grab a pen or pencil and mark up the page. Indicate different places where you can add vocal changes to enhance the performance.
    • Maybe it’s raising your voice or making it lower.
    • Maybe it’s adding a pause or stop in key moments.
  3. Mark down where particular body or facial expressions would happen to help the poem’s delivery.
    • Maybe hear you’re smiling at a certain line you’re furrowing the brow.
    • At a certain line, you tilt your head. It all depends on the emotional tone of the poem.
  4. Now, record yourself reading the poem. This time adopt the notes in your performance.
  5. Notice the difference between the two reads – the one that you read without the performance cues and the one that you read with the performance cues. Which one is more engaging? I bet you 5 jelly beans that it’s the latter.