Eldoret Poets Association (EPA) started a slow revolt in the literary scene almost two to three years ago with their nascent e-book publication, titled; THE SENTENCE: Behind Bars of Wit. In an effort to synthesize a brand collective, they published another anthology titled; The President’s Eulogy in their annual adventure. As such, EPA has continued to exert its growing tradition of presenting emerging writers by providing them with a platform formerly inaccessible in the traditional publishing realm. The latest collection, LATIRA glows with expositions of candor, lyricism, esotericism, human consciousness, introspection, love, poetry, and the insurrection of language and the usual mirage of Mama Africa. The poets in this collection may not be a match to some of the acclaimed poets of today or yesteryears. To paraphrase Sanya in his Epistle to a Young Poet, there are many of these poets who write extremely well but they will never be known. Verily, this collection is by no means a sparkle of literary wars as the poets’ basic aim is to communicate, such that they are not the ornaments of the literary professors stuck in the bamboozle of parading old tricks to the modern contemporary writer nor are they puddle of senseless entitlement ballooning in the internet in form of poetry . However, like many anthologies, it is upon the reader to read and decide what cultivates his or her mind the most. Such is a matter of aesthetics, and this varies from person to person. It is my belief that the diversity of this collection does not betray its attribute of open contribution.
The poet Dannie Abse suggests that the essence of reading poetry is to start sober and leave a little drunk. Assuredly, most poems evaporate like ice falling on a desert; most of the poets are merely mentioned on people’s tongues, and few may intoxicate. In Latira, some poems will be bypassed for their immediacy, others for their conjecture in delivery and if this seems painful, then it is my wish that poets published herein and others elsewhere exert their attitude towards positive growth. To that extent, it is worthy to note that this anthology ratifies the belief that poetry has never died, in fact, it positions some poets and writers any reader should be keen with now and in the future. I will, therefore, try to examine several entries. In the first title, The Epistle of a Young Poet by Sanya Noel is reminiscent of The Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke published by the Norton & Norton Company as an appeal to a young poet to continue writing despite the odds. Sanya “advises” Sammy that for improvement, experience and popularity for poets /there are those in to the magazines and journals/ /it’s a common way, I have used it too/. While this may be an amalgamation of the writer’s method of growth in the oft-impenetrable literary world, Rilke thought otherwise in page. 18, when he decried the poet Frank from sending his poems to magazines. I think it’s a fashionable letter, and it remains upon the many “Sammys” stuck in their writing to reflect on the pointers Sanya talks about.
The first poem in the anthology, You Know One Day, I’ll Forget about You by Anca Mihaela has an excellent depiction of imagery such as /I emptied even my breathing/ not to pay my customs to life/. This is a type of pulsating imagery that fixates a reader on the ecstatic and almost overwhelming scenery of plush saudade. The poem despite its neatness has an annoying range of ellipsis that the editor(s) could have eliminated. The next poem, If She Were Mine by Clifford Mateh summarizes the unpopular friend zone chronicles where the boy craves the girl but he does not say what he feels and ends up losing her (He he), but the poem is tacit and expressive. I find it impressive. Poetic Love by Calton Ingoi muses on the love between a poet and a poetess by waxing lyrical with such lines /when a poet loves a poetess … it’s like a convergence of heavens in the nuptials of gods/. The metaphors are celestial, and vivid of an ecstatic emotion something like lull into an unending maze of passion. Another delectable line /… their nostalgias denounce inhibitions/ this is a certain paragon of rising and climaxing diction.
As such, this poem, in particular, can pass as my favorite in this collection. In Why Africa Weeps by Emmah Kemunto, the old epiphany of Mama Africa is revisited where the uneasiness of the problems confronting the continent are wailed upon. /Blood with a promise of peace/ happiness drowned her pain/ bad leadership, theft, corruption/ such are the pathological problems that are known to set Africa into poverty and chaos. In Sneak In by Kiambi Mutembei, the poet delves into the mannerisms of introspection. In a philosophical entreaty into the intricacies of a human soul, the poet writes /souls are vicious/ they seek each other by the gravity of love/. Such is a fixation on the component of fulfillment that an individual has to find in another to get the price of contentment as the poet concludes with /blessed be you for letting me/ see you without flesh/. Run Away by Daniel Many is brilliant; it’s all I can say about the poem.
This anthology borrows its name from Latira, by Omondi Ochuka. The amalgamation of language takes center stage in this poem. The poet chooses a clinical approach to communication where life is measured by time in a transitory, sometimes morbid variation of pain lodged into a metaphorical time capsule. In his infrequent levity and conscious creativity, he writes /a parody of library walls peeling out/ the seasons/ then incisions/ is a brief instance of humor before the poet retreats back into a feat of lexical disposition regarding the difficulty in understanding what reward a person gets from time even after suffering under its monarchy. The poem sensations are pervasive yet unfulfilling at the same time; one wonders what entity is to blame for life’s throes and truncheon. In I Speak Requiems by Redscar McOdindo, the use of unique similes is evident into the nostalgic perhaps longing for what is dead or irredeemable. Throughout the poem, the picketing resonance seems to urge the reader to act or reflect on how terrible the status-quo is at present. The poem, therefore, not only calls for critically accessing the situation at hand, but also decries the state of non-chalancy of people regarding the change they want to experience.
In The Sequel by Wudz, some of the personas body parts seem to die out before coming back to haunt the living. In fact, the personas’ undying love for his mistress suffers a poetic tragedy where he denounces all earthly contraptions if only he can have her by his side. Such is the force that moves the persona to say /how meaningless of life devoid of something to love/ sends man to an abyss of pity and despair/. The persona pursued by the intensity of passion later questions /how can I let love destroy me/ and deflects into a spiritual warpath with any entity he believes is preventing the ultimate intimacy with his lover. After all the struggle through love, then persona remains unbowed and chastises self by proclaiming that /love is my religion/. Go to the Next Poem by Steve Otieno is a lyrical composition which to my interpretation is meant for patronizing people who despite being humans are constantly awash with clues, pointers or information on how other people should live their lives. Steve disparages the invisible persona with sentiments such as /are you the choir that awaits trumpets at the edge of judgment/ then dismisses the challenges the persona /you are lifeless on your own/ to decry the perfection he or she is trying to assume. Lastly, The Role of Poetry in the face of Social Media by Eric Onyango is an essay that assesses the benefits of social media to a young writer, and as any reader would surmise, the benefits have been immeasurable. The chief example of this observation is this anthology.
It is no doubt that all the writings in this collection were knitted carefully and it is, therefore, upon the reader to decide what makes them tick. One must ponder, are the poems worth revisiting? Does poetry manage to cover the hybrid of themes presented in this anthology? What about the choice of words; are they reflective of the poets’ different styles and quality? This anthology is an impressive piece of literature and while there may be instances of laziness by the poets in proofreading their works, it is worth reading, pondering, sharing, and the cycle continues. It is my hope that in Latira, the readers hunger for fresh poetry will be satiated.
Review by Eddy Ongili..