Adjei Agyei-Baah: Scaring Crow

Adjei Agyei-Baah is a widely published poet from Ghana. He has written several books including Afriku (Red Moon Press, 2016) and is co-founder of the Africa Haiku Network and The Mamba (Africa’s premiere haiku journal). Adjei is currently pursuing his PhD studies in New Zealand.

Earlier in 2022, Buttonhook Press released Adjei’s new haiku chapbook: Scaring Crow. With a Foreword by Hiroaki Sato, the collection comprises 102 haiku about scarecrows. You can read the entire book for free by clicking this link to the Buttonhook Press website. Here are some of Adjei’s haiku:

parting mist . . .
the open arms
of a scarecrow

ghost story —
a scarecrow vanishes
from the pole

Throughout the book, Adjei presents strong images and finds fresh ways of relating the scarecrow’s interaction with birds, the farmer and the seasons:

midnight banter
the drunken farmer
and a scarecrow

Harmattan —
even the scarecrow
testifies

(The Harmattan is a season in West Africa which typically features a dry and dusty north-easterly wind that blows in from the Sahara.)

The Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi encourages us to accept the world as being impermanent, imperfect and incomplete. This aesthetic, which underpins much Japanese art and poetry, allows us to find beauty in loneliness, the passing of time and objects which are less than perfect. For example, a chipped, moss-covered statue by the side of a forest path can still bring a sense of peace and well-being to those passing by.

Reading Adjei’s haiku, it becomes apparent just how strongly the scarecrow evokes a wabi-sabi aesthetic. Performing a solitary role, dressed in second-hand clothing and becoming tattered through exposure to the weather, the scarecrow epitomises an acceptance of impermanence and imperfection. Consider, for example, these haiku by Adjei:

scarecrow —
all the days of rain
and thunder strikes

barren field
the bowed head
of a scarecrow

lean season —
padding a scarecrow
with a scarecrow

Adjei’s interest in scarecrows began when he was a trainee teacher in remote parts of Ghana. Interestingly, in Ghana people are sometimes employed as human scarecrows to protect ripening crops. Ghanaian film maker, Sena Sena, has produced a video showing what it is like to carry out this role of human scarecrow. You can see the video by clicking the YouTube link below.

Seen from this perspective, many of Adjei’s haiku take on additional layers of meaning. The scarecrow referenced in a poem may be an inanimate object but, equally, it may be a person. Poems which might otherwise be thought to attribute human qualities or behaviours to some clothes draped over a stick, suddenly offer new interpretation and insight. Consider these haiku by Adjei:

spring breeze . . .
corn leaves tickle the armpit
of a scarecrow

country walk . . .
passing on an old hat
to a scarecrow

Palm Sunday
the scarecrow too
waves a frond

Please click here to read Adjei Agyei-Baah’s haiku chapbook, Scaring Crow. And please click below to watch Sena Sena’s video about human scarecrows in Ghana.