I am a free thinker, and for being a poet I heavily believe in the liberty of mental constructs a poet has. But poetry, as Robert Frost put it: “poetry is the kind of things that poets write”; this, to beat logic, poetry is its own self and does not rely on anything else apart from its own doing. Poetry can only be judged by a mind that is poetic itself, can only be understood by a heart that is poetic in emotions, and its underlying interpretation is divine to its own implication. So when writing a piece, there is supposed to be a general conception of an understanding of who is going to read not the book, but the poem itself? Intuit knowledge would then tell you that poetry is not for any all readers who can understand a language, for poetry itself does not understand language. But then, how a poem exists is a whole religion of imagery and emotions, so a man that does not get the message from a poem, does not deserve to be told the message, and as Louis Armstrong once said: “Man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know” poetry is not to be asked, but to be known.
The President’s Eulogy and Other Poems is a publication of the Eldoret Poets Association, an anthology of poems from various poets, most of them upcoming. Within this line then, my first sentiments would be on the title of the anthology: super great, and reading through the anthology give that representation, a world, of political misrepresentation, agile arrogance and denounced leadership. This collection of poems is typical representation of the Kenyan plight, the poets endeavour to their best to depict conditions and emotions; there is a great deal of use of imagery, this in a self-definitive and complicit attitudes, soft laments, and indispensable combination of styles and poetic devices. From the first piece, Faith and Irony by Antonio Sanchez, like a prayer for the book, denounces the Kenyan faith, but this is irony, religion is now a mere play of words taken from the bible to take money from people’s pockets, now religion is pretence with misguided approaches;
I need healing
But pastors went commercial, radio and TVs
Religion meets agriculture, kupanda mbegu
Through the political laments of Calton Ingoi; the arrogant self-righteous Mheshimiwa, the representations of the colonial desolations, the African Promises of Tomorrow as Yma Kemunto puts it, the love accolades of the Divorced Poet and Wudz, to the lonely loss case representations of the nomad by Steve Otieno: I see lots of images, emotions, sumptuous distinctions of flow and style. This is a generation held up in a misfit which they have eventually learnt to make it their own, for lack of an escape crack.
Somehow, in this anthology, the poets have been able to reason within the ordinary mind of an ordinary reader. This may not necessarily be interesting that much to a poetic mind but the messages in the poems are clearly passed. This collection is therefore reader friendly especially considering the kind of reading culture we have in Kenya. There is only one concern with the collection, the use of style, word relevance, and flow tend to somehow be ignored by most of the authors. At this level I don’t even look into the use of poetic devices that could be at resonance with the general audience, my main interest when reading a poem would be on style and flow. One piece with a great style and general approach is by Carole Nyabeta, the poem The President’s Eulogy. I love this piece because it is full of mystery and the poet builds them slowly while gradually resolving them. There is a great choice of words in the piece and flow too, for instance she starts with the verse below:
The elegance and flamboyance of the First Lady,
She walks with a sad demeanor,
Eyes sunken and pregnant with unflowing tears.
But for once, her conscience is at peace.
Her ego bears a silent smiling curve.
The words are provoking enough to the reader to go through the whole piece. From an early onset, you see the image at the situation at hand, and now the poet switches swiftly from the Eulogy in exact words, to a display of the imagery. Great piece. For purposes of this review, I will stop at this, the best insights could then be obtained by reading the poems. I can however summarize the whole collection as a collection of sorry stories, but narrated in a way that is not sorry; for this is poetry, it respects no law, hates flaws; might be slow but it flows in a way only it knows.
For detailed poem-to-poem review, download the review version of the anthology here The President’s Eulogy REVIEW Version. Click on the ‘comments’ section or on the yellow ‘sticky notes’ on highlighted(in yellow) areas of specific poems.
Ralph Pius Okado is a poet, teacher and principal at Passion Academy. He is also in charge of poetry and performance for Writers Guild Kenya.
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Another review by Sanaa Salon can be read here.
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