Abena Beloved Green's journey of rediscovery

The author of the bestselling Ode To The Unpraised used the alchemy of grief and community to write her latest book.

In the soil that feeds Abena Beloved Green’s family tree, a place of nutrients and knowledge that helps grow chlorophyll-packed leaves, inspiration was waiting to be dug up like treasure. “I always had a reverence for grandmothers and always envied classmates who were close to their grandmothers and would talk to them,” the lauded slam poet and author says. But when her own grandmother (who lived in Ghana) passed away, it was a door closing—and a seed of an idea erupting to fill the loss’ space.

click to enlarge Abena Beloved Green cut her teeth in the world of slam poetry. - JOY TOGBOTO
Joy Togboto
Abena Beloved Green cut her teeth in the world of slam poetry.
“It started from a place of: Who else knows her? Who else carries a type of wisdom or lessons that can be passed on?” Green, who grew up in Antigonish, explains, speaking by phone with The Coast. “I just wanted to gather from elders, because I knew that they knew things that I would find important but I didn't know what it was...Anything from having lived in a colonized country to how to plant seeds according to the season, to how they solve conflict to relationships: Just things that they knew that I knew I would never know, I would never read about, like there would be no way of knowing unless I asked.”

The result of that digging and asking? Ode To The Unpraised: Stories and Lessons from Women I Know, an ambitious mix of prose and poetry that feels equal parts soul-salving succour and handy life hack.

With a writing voice influenced by Nikky Finney and Jericho Brown, Green cut her creative teeth in the world of slam poetry, where she was a finalist in 2017’s Canadian Individual Poetry Slam and winner of the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia Atlantic Writing Competition in 2016. She has since become the first writer-in-residence for the YWCA Halifax. Her first book was a collection of poems, called The Way We Hold On—but Ode sees her moving more towards words that “have not lived off of the page as much.”

Since its mid-pandemic release and official launch last month, Ode has landed on Bookmark Halifax’s bestseller list (a fact Green learns in our interview)—proof that while these are words that haven’t lived much off the page, they do have residence in many a reader’s mind.

“Stretch out your hands and see who you can touch in your life. And looking at those people in a new way: That was how it happened for me,” Green adds. Looking at people you see everyday differently “makes much more fascination into your life, like: Oh, like I didn't know that that's who this person was.”

About The Author

Morgan Mullin

Morgan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She’s been with The Coast since 2016.

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