Sunday, March 20, 2011

21st March World Poetry Day-Just as surprised as you are!

This is my daughter Zion by the fish tank at China Bowl Restaurant. Children and water are very important elements to me as a writer.
I am a struggling poet, who, after finding it such an upheaval task to write a good sonnet and find at least two readers who will understand my rhyme, then someone tells me it’ s World Poetry Day, March 21st. By the way thanks Ben Oluka. I looked into my overwhelming source of embarrassment at this lack of knowledge but unflinchingly, I convinced myself that I was glad to be learning something new. This is what I have learned thanks to the search engines that have taken over our traditional libraries.
World Poetry Day is on 21 March, and was declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1999. The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout THE WORLD (Wikipedia) It was generally celebrated in October, sometimes on the 25th, but in the latter part of the 18th Century the world community celebrated it on 31 October, the birthday of Virrina rominouse maximus, the Roman epic poet and poet laureate under Augustus. (Wikipedia).
Now that I know that for centuries communities somewhere have been celebrating the teaching of this great art from which eruptions of discussion, argument on its form and structure, contemporary poetry battling it out with traditional forms and so on, I am quite pleased. Discussions of poetry for me make my brain work and appreciate that good art takes great work. Was it one of the Bronte sisters who decided that for a good writer, you either chose the art or the other path of life like marriage and family but you could not have both. Delving into this is like trying to split a mustard seed. Poetry does not come easy. Those who say or think it does are possibly the type of poet whose poem fades away as fast as water washes over a print in the sand. X.J Kennedy said, Poetic fame, like sea-water isn’t worth thirsting for. And also that You don’t need to publish a thousand poems in order o become immortal; you need publish only one poem, if it’s good enough.
Such sentiments make me feel like collecting all the poems I have ever shown anyone and redressing them. Feedback on art is an extremely difficult path because many argue that creativity is suffocated with the rules and regulations and a very good friend told me that if Emily Dickinson had stuck to rules, she would have never been, or that we would have never experienced the romantic era. I can now boldly say this is untrue because further reading brings me to another great quote (do the quotes make me seem academic or just a lazy show off). Anyway, that Poets will sometimes comment that they do not want to be bothered with all that stuff about material and assonance and craft, because it doesn’t come naturally...But once one’s craft becomes second nature, it is not an infringement on one’s natural gift ..if anything, it is an enlargement of them....(William Packard, 1988: 372).
Like I said, getting people to agree on what poetry is and what it should do is like trying to split a mustard seed. So, World Poetry Day is on 21st March. I will certainly read the Monitor newspaper for selfish reasons and finish off The Trial of Dedan Kimathi which I should have but there is this darned series called Criminal Minds and for this week, it has controlled my creative space and I blame it for making me sound like a loony bin. I just love good acting.
For what it’s worth, enjoy World Poetry Day and for poets and lovers of poetry, let the language of poetry take you places you will never forget.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Women’s Day Was Galooooorious

Some of the fashion at the Emin Pasha Women's Day festival.(Photo by Kiya)

Women’s Day was galooooorious. And yes, we do need the world over to be conscious of this day, this event, this moment, this transition, because women are artistes, they create, they give birth to and they are here to stay. I started off at Watoto North church and, under the royal theme of purple, the place was decked with beauts with tales to tell, merchandise to sell, authors with life changing stories, and it was so kool. Little Serukenya (Ken’s sis) led these songs which made us shake our kiwatos and remind ourselves of why we are African because we can daaaance. Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul should come to Watoto North first for pre-auditions. Then there was free breast cancer screening as well-every damsel should run for any opportunity to check their breasts. It is the age of information and education and we can save ourselves a lot of raging within.
After that, was the female artistes bash at Emin Pasha and what an extravaganza. Alliance Française stepped it up and had a string of fantabulous artistes one after the other at the resplendent Emin Pasha. There was Keko, a 20 something Jap and hip hop artiste who can make the furniture dance to her raps. Feminine and fierce and artistic and real, she is the embodiment of musical growth in Uganda. Of course, the sensations like Lillian Mbabazi, Tamba, Elaine Alowo and Ife made the day memorable. The power of words and sound was combined with so much charisma and Ife, Grace and Ann led us along this powerful story making the words win us all. I have never enjoyed the cliché’s of women’s day and was so glad that this was far from it. The fashion show lone with beads, bark cloth, accessorised into fashion fiesta was incredible. You should have been there.
Thanks everyone for making it happen.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is there Rehab for poets?

If you have been following the recent CNN feature on mental health in Kenya, like me you may have had the following reaction in this order. Shock, pity, resignation, amusement, pity, awe at the in-depth coverage, pity. It is very pitiful and outrageous that patients who feel like inmates who cannot afford the fees are made to stay in. This is a mental institution where patients(inmates are caged like the monkeys at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre but with less care and attention, and even when freedom is nigh, a few pennies short of the fee and their fate is capped with a merciless padlock until they pay up.
In response to the question, is there Rehab for poets? We are the Rehabilitation that the world needs. Haven’t you heard people saying that writing saved their life? And they say that without the slightest nudge of melodrama, unflinching like the German Minister who plagiarised his way in and out of PhD stardom. Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise is a poem whose very message creates a bed of music for the parched soul that needs to be redeemed from patriarchal, political pestilence in this world order called life which none of us can avoid. When she says, Still I Rise, she speaks of hope against all hopelessness; she speaks of the train of courage we have witnessed in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt. That train of courage along the railway tracks that gather hope, determination and steed.
This is what poetry and writing do to me. My poem below is called Jail Sentence.
Shackled to shame
Despair in the darkness
The Terror of Treason
A lifetime of Languish

A kaloli bird’s droppings
Embellish the wall
Blop Blop Blop
The music of prison.

Heavy Breathing. My breathing.
Patterns of my punishment
Embellish my mind
I inscribe a song of silence
I inscribe adjectives of agony.
My agony.
Wailing. Waiting. Winning.
Another day.
Another song.
Lines of Liberty
A jail of joy

By the way if the poem doesn’t make sense, please don’t incriminate yourself and tell me how beautiful it sounds and what imagery. I’m an artist not a fool. Love you too. In Ancient Egypt, the walls of the Prison Kingdoms are filled with writings in hieroglyphics because writing is what lifted them from their prison. Many Christians that have been arrested in countries worldwide often inscribed bible verses because they knew that those words would give hope to the next prisoner. Your creativity is the Rehab we all need. There are some young Arab artists now rapping new songs in response to their new found and strangely exciting yet dangerous freedom. It’s all we need.