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The words of a reluctant spoken word artiste

Tuesday August 26 2014

Poet Abigail Arunga displaying her anthology of poems titled Akello launched on August 18, 2014. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

Poet Abigail Arunga displaying her anthology of poems titled Akello launched on August 18, 2014. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

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Akello is Abigail Arunga’s maiden foray into the literary world. Her collection of 85 poems is neatly packaged in a little black book with a multi coloured heart of neon. It should catch your attention. While Akello is her middle name, it also means “I bring” or “I have brought”

The self-published book is a defiant labour of love for the young poet whose urge to bring us all into her world of coherent madness could not be stopped by sceptical publishers.

Numerous publishers felt that poetry should first be performed at open mic forums and a name made before they could take a risk.

With the art of spoken word becoming an arena for spitting out random words with or without rhyme and arbitrary meaning, few make it. Arunga tried this for a while and decide that she did not like to perform her poems and other people did not give justice to them.

She was sure she wanted the words written.

Written to be enjoyed by all nice people who love and live. According to the poet, she does not intend for the poems to have a static meaning or just one interpretation. There is no right or wrong with this one, just take the poems and let them speak to you. Fortunately so as the poems are written tongue-in-cheek interpreting them would take the joy out of them.


Her impatience with the establishment soon becomes evident acrobatic word arrangement, abrupt and unexpected punctuations and slang that must shock. However, the depth of her writing goes beyond this, both in form and meaning. From the raunchy exuberant of first self-esteem, love, lovers’ angst , heartbreak and the art of seduction in the age of instant messaging, her use of incorrect syntax in unusual ways is useful in illustrating the poems.


I’m counting days

They feel like years.

They pass, crawling, sleeping.

Her themes range from random to carefully thought -out poems about love, life and death to grieving and finding the strength to move on. All these are told in a poetic form and language that creates a distinct personal style. Most of Arunga’s poems are spare and precise, employing a few key words peculiarly placed on the pages.


The last time I saw you

Was spectacular collision of rebellion and


Nothing that my genius mind could simply


I’m grateful for the mistake

Of that night. I pray the lord

Your soul did take.

Akello: This brilliant collection is largely about something and somewhere we have all been in, love. 

Akello: This brilliant collection is largely about something and somewhere we have all been in, love. PHOTO | COURTESY

Lacking in titles, Arunga’s poetry is numbered and interspersed with that of Kylie Kiunguyu.

The latter poems supply sudden jolts back into grim reality that contrasts sharply with Arunga’s. The most surprising a poem of the book is by Kylie tackles the question of domestic violence and alcoholism in the middle classes where appearances are everything. Her sobering poem titled ‘based on a true story’ tells of the freedom and the innocence felt by a jailed woman whose abusive spouse she killed.

In many of her poems, it is evident that she has a sharp sense of humour. She has generously employed parody, puns and double entendres to create humorous yet scathing social commentary in this collection.


I count the hours

Jewels of time, bringing you

Closer to jewels:mine.

Some poems offer a glimpse of the poet and her soul that is laid bare. A young woman mesmerised by her mother’s flawless skin, a lovers’ caress she can hardly wait for, an expletive ridden tirade against a two-faced friend, the book feels like a postcard from someone who has been where we have been.

It also feels like the wisdom of a generation misunderstood. It feels like a privileged glimpse into their exclusive world that leaves us wiser.

This Book is a fruition of a childhood dream that Arunga has nurtured since she was young. While her debutante offering may seem naughty and rebellious by taking poetic license one step too far, her writing feel bridled.

As she experiments and attempts to come into her own, she promises to be prolific. This young author is one to watch and from her chrysalis may emerge a butterfly so iridescent we’ll be amazed.