In Summary
  • Africans pride themselves on authentic folklore, and in this book, we have been exposed to the depth of the Luo folklore generously.
  • Senegal is what it is today because poets ganged up to speak of the colonial evils through words.

Flipping through my WhatsApp videos this week, I came across a video making fun of spoken word. From the video, so long as words seemed to rhyme and make some small sense, they became ‘spoken word’. This is what the late Prof Chris Wanjala used to call “oversimplifying the genre of poetry by the young generation”.

It gets me mad, by the way. Poetry in literature is the most sacred genre and should be handled with the respect it deserves. Ask Léopold Sédar Senghor, the god of Negritude, and he will tell you Senegal is what it is today because poets ganged up to speak of the colonial evils through words.

Nevertheless, I am honoured to bring to us Evelyne Ongogo, a resourceful schoolteacher and a celebrated poet who has composed poems that have been performed at the national level of the Kenya Music Festivals. I call her the daughter of Okot’P Bitek, a sister of Okello Oculi and a mother of Oyoo Mboya.

VIRGIN RIVER

Her poetry invokes different stories, such as that of creation, calling on Nyakalaga. She praises the African Queen, telling her that her strength flows like that of a virgin river, bringing hope to the sleeping earth. In the same voice of Okot P’Bitek, she mars her work with enough sarcasm that mocks those that have run away from their culture.

In a beautiful way, she uses similes to pass her praises and assurance to Dichol, an African woman, to go for her perfume because she knows where to find it.

As a poet, she has succeeded in what many in the current generation of poets have failed at. The strategic deployment of poetic stylistic devices and powerful diction.

The manner in which she has armed herself with jest, mock, irony, local dialect, folklore, exaggeration and dialogue is thoroughly thought-provoking. She literally takes you back to the basics when poetry represented the fat-belly of African literature. Her poems such as “Anyango Speaks” have questioned the things of the modern world and how poisonous they have become to us.

BEAUTY

Perhaps we forgot the beauty of African whistles in the night and its paralinguistic effect in African literature, the courtship that used to happen in the bungu — bushes, traditional practices such as wife inheritance — which I also met in the Bible the other day. Evelyne has reminded us all that in her book Dichol.

Africans pride themselves on authentic folklore, and in this book, we have been exposed to the depth of the Luo folklore generously.

She has gone ahead to translate to the reader the meanings of the words she thought were hard to understand or would be an impediment for the reader to enjoy her poems.

I love poetry, I keep hoping that we, too, enjoy poetry, find them intriguing, read them for pleasure and perform them as part of art.

I believe it is mandatory to invest in poetry by all means not just for the sake of grades but for intellectual pleasure.