In Summary
  • Poetry, like many other forms of literary expressions, has evolved over time, and appears in different forms these days.
  • One of the most recognisable spoken-word poets in Kenya today is Mufasa Poet.

Poetry purists still waste time claiming that what one reads these days isn’t poetry but verse. They argue that today’s “poets” can’t create poetry that provokes the mind in philosophical directions.

But that can be said of a lot of artistic work these days. In a world where values change so rapidly, even poets can, nay, should, be forgiven for not living up to the expectations of traditionalists. However, one can also see the traditionalists as people hanging on to principles whose time has passed.

Poetry, like many other forms of literary expressions, has evolved over time, and appears in different forms these days. Spoken-word poetry, a somehow cousin of dub poetry (which too had immense trouble with purists when it appeared on the scene), has become some kind of fashion today.

CREATIVITY

There is a performance of “spoken-word” poetry in many parts of this country almost every week. These sessions have their kind of niche audiences, but even a passer-by would enjoy the energy, the creativity and often the profundity of these performances.

One of the most recognisable spoken-word poets in Kenya today is Mufasa Poet. Mufasa does live performances of his poetry, either solo or as part of a group. But these poets are also increasingly publishing their verses.

Mufasa recently published an anthology of his poetry, Raising a Sun (2019). This collection has four chapters, each carrying several poems, every one dedicated to a particular subject, but all of them connected by the thread of the poet’s own daily life struggles.

Reading Raising a Sun, one meets a poet philosopher; a poet critic; a poet teacher; a poets’ poet; an artiste struggling to come to terms with the fate of humanity in a world that is quite inhuman.

Mufasa begins his performance in the home, among relatives, speaking with, to and about those close to him. For instance, the persona’s relationship with the father starts off the conversation/performance in the verse “Generations”:

GOOD FATHER

I am not at a place to know exactly/how life works. Whether one grows into a good/father or whether a son grows into their father. As a kid/I didn’t know at what point dad/was giving his all/And at what point he was all he/could give.

Here, the persona is worried that he might end up like his father, who, he notes, might not have had much to ‘give’ to others except probably just his self.

However, in the next poem, “Fountain”, the persona offers advice to all and sundry: Don’t dig a hole in your mother’s/heart/If you have never filled anything up.

This theme of care for women runs throughout the anthology, whether these women are the persona’s (or everyone else’s) grandmother (to whom the anthology is dedicated), mother, sister, girlfriend or women friends, among others.

Thus, the foundation of Raising a Sun is really the family. Why, one may ask?

The poet seems to suggest throughout several poems that the relationship one has with the immediate family shapes one’s worldview, conduct and life in general. The persona celebrates the grandmother as an industrious woman:

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