Yesterday, I was reading with acclaimed interest in the reader’s corner of the Saturday Nation, Linda Musita’s article titled ‘Give us Real Poets, the Clowns have had their day. My interest turned to approbation as she indignantly said that El Poet is not a Poet but a handsome young man who performs some ridiculously shallow poems. (Ooh kay!!) . She was however right to point out that my good friend Wamathai is a clever businessman who gets poets to perform at his events without giving them a cent.
As much as I cannot verify her allegations that these poets do not read, I have to give it up to this girl who, instead of screaming and shouting, ‘y’aay, wow that was deep’ at the end of a shoddy recital by some person she hopes to ‘network with; she goes ahead and lets us know what she truly thinks of the poetry scenes in Nairobi which is gaining popularity every day.
I do accept as true the fact that it’s about time the youth of this country raised the standards of what we want to hear, see and speak. Let us not be caught in a whirl akin the one on the political front alleging that everything youthful is grand heaven sent.
One way to elevate our taste is to take in criticism, albeit harsh, and not lash back at those who criticize. For instance, the yarn about El Poet, walking out of a poetry workshop at the Hay Festival because reknown poet Lemn Sissay told him he was performing words to rhyme isn’t too pleasing to hear.
The other illustration would be the Kwanites, who for the past few weeks have been splashing unflattering remarks at anyone who bothered to read and critic their recently launched Majuu edition. Most of their responses published in the weekend ‘Literary Discourse’ columns in both dailies have been dismissing the critics as old dogs who still subscribe to the 60’s era and do not embrace change.
Back to the article, it could actually be true that most of Nairobi’s poetry consumers are content with mediocrity. Having attended numerous poetry events myself, I marvel at the loud applauses given to the poets who storm on the stages speaking something close to through-the-nose black American English and striving to rhyme words at the end of each sentence. (Ideologically, the poems are as shallow as the contents in your kitchen sink I must say). Little notice is however given to the poor souls who take time to pen their well researched and profound thoughts and present them in their not-so-perfectly American English.
A few good Kenyan poets Musita must have forgotten to mention in her piece include; Phyllis Muthoni of ‘the Lilac Uprising’, Ngwatilo Mawiyoo of ‘Blue Mother tongue’ and Shailja Patel of ‘Migritude’.
So, to every Nairobian calling themselves ‘poet’ or ‘writer’ , please strive to do what the good book says, ‘onto your wisdom, endevour to add knowledge, unto your knowledge understanding and onto your understanding knowledge..