On Self-Observation & Poetry

On Self-Observation & Poetry

by Basil Kincaid, 2014-2015 ACI Artist-in-Residence

 Basil's work in progress

The mid-year retreat came at the perfect time.  

Marian and I traveled to Elmina, an area about 3 hours outside of Accra, to go over my experience so far and to plot a course for the rest of the residency. It was really nice to be able to get away from Accra, as a fast paced and packed city, to slow down and really open my mind to begin the reflection process. 

For the retreat we found ourselves at a lovely beach painted with a beautiful strain of seaweed I had never seen before. At night tiny snails danced slow boogies in tiny bowls carved into the rocks by the sleepless tide.  

The sound of the ocean played a three-day backdrop to our workshops and to my meditation and reflection. It was really valuable for me to be able to step outside of my work to survey my experience up to date.  This time gave me perspective and clarity of vision that drove the success of the work when I returned to Accra to complete the body of work that I will bring back to the United States.

I spent a lot of my time writing poetry and observing my own mental states, as well as observing how this journey has changed me as a man and as an artist.  Before I came to Ghana I felt like I had everything in order despite infrequent yet gripping bouts of depression. Over my time here I have really been able to face myself, make some lifestyle changes and see the error in my past self that contributed to my low points.  

My time here has taught me in a reinvigorated way how to rise to the occasion and take responsibility for myself, my actions and my emotional states. It is easy to get caught up in the flow of things and disregard that necessary time that is crucial for self-rejuvenation. I found an awareness during this retreat that poetry is a major part of who I am, and writing poetry is indispensable in my ability to remain self-aware. 

For a very long time poetry was just something that I did on the side here and there when I was really gripped or moved by an event. I would write and clean my mental and emotional slate and then move on, often losing the poems that I wrote and many times never revisiting them.  I have been writing poetry ever since I was about 13 years old and in college I wrote with great frequency.  

Poetry was always the art form that I kept to myself; very rarely would I share a work.  That trend has begun to change within this residency as I have shared work through the Huffington Post and within these blogs.  What I am finding is that the more I write the more aware of myself I feel, the more in tune I feel with my mental and spiritual states. 

This clarity has impacted my art work- I am sure, although I am not sure how to measure the effect. During the retreat I wrote nearly twenty-poems and I have continued to write almost every day since the retreat as a way to stay focused, awake and to limit my distractions. I want to write more about my experience here, about Ghana and about the issues facing the American landscape, with a particular interest in issues of racism, sexism and the prison industrial complex- but so far, most of my poems have been about love and my internal landscape. 

Below I will include one of the poems that I wrote during the retreat. In addition to the clarity found through writing and reflection, all of the workshops planned were very insightful and thought provoking.  Each session helped me clarify my vision for the rest of the residency and helped me solidify the conceptual foundation of the body of work as a whole. 

The ocean

The ocean,

More than the ocean,

The sound of the rolling tide,

It's endless conversation with the sand,

Foam playing with the wind and sky,


Of what dances this foamy salty breeze would do through your hair,

Licking the salt from my lips reminds me of kissing,

Your body,

Every hill and sweet water valley,

From basin to crown,

Then back down,

Your legs,


Your sweat,

Tastes so good,

Better than,

The ocean.