In Summary
  • The book’s title is based on epiphanies that strike the poet as he walks down the dark lanes inhabited by modern humankind; it shows the interplay of vivid colours rendered in an economical use of words:

The gentle and romantic poet in the Africa of the Second Liberation refuses to be prescriptive and instead chooses a style that is quiet and lacking in the hysteria that we see in the poetry of songsters who based their rhythms on the beats of traditional African poetry.

What we, instead, see in Khainga O’Okwemba’s surrealist poems is a narrative in which the poet lives in the unconscious, moving his poetic searchlight to Africa’s modern life, showing us what it is like to be a poet.

Typical of his romantic and sophisticated style is the poem from which he derives the title of his volume of poetry, Smiles in Pathos and Other Poems.

The book’s title is based on epiphanies that strike the poet as he walks down the dark lanes inhabited by modern humankind; it shows the interplay of vivid colours rendered in an economical use of words:

We were on a romantic picnic,
Dressed to charm another – red
For the lady, and – pink
For the man; he a playful lad
And she an outgoing lass
Smiles in Pathos

The title of this poem — and subsequently the title of the whole book — refuses to confine itself to a specific matter and instead explores the human pathos, as if to say that in life, joy and sorrow, death and life, night and dawn, live side by side in a paradoxical relationship.

The presence of joy, which shows in the lad who is in love with a lass, is soon overtaken by deceitfulness:

Our friend smiled in perfidy
Taking hold of the woman’s hand
And smiled again in perfidy

There is repetitive use of words in Khainga’s poems, which create the desired effect by the poet. When unrelated ideas and objects are brought side by side, they create a great impact on the reader. Khainga’s poem reminds us of the poem, "Sick Rose" by William Blake:

O Rose, thou art sick
The invisible worm
That flies in the night
In the howling storm

Has found on thy bed
Of crimson joy
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy?

A rose of not by any name a rose in this poem. It is sick, affected by extraneous forces, symbolised by “the invisible worm.” In Khainga’s poem, the “worm” is visible. He is “Our friend.”

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