I have nothing but high regard for the fine art of African poetry, ranging from the epic sensations of Uganda’s Okot p’Bitek and his ilk of sages, to the new age Kenyan voices of Wanjiku Mwaurah, Tony Mochama and Michael Onsando — who recently launched his latest book, Something Quite Unlike Myself.
And now there is a new voice in town, that of Abigail Arunga, whose collection of poems has been released this week.
Entitled Akello, this brilliant collection is largely about something and somewhere we have all been in: love.
The poems do not have titles. I do not know why, but I do know that some of the most beautiful pieces of art cannot be embodied in one or two words.
This book is punctuated with metaphors and vivid imagery that arouse a full spectrum of emotions, ranging from passion and rage to admiration.
Abigail’s diction will cut you to the quick, make you bleed, and then patch you up again. She tells stories of love with unflagging vitality, and she does not shy from using swear words when the occasion demands.
She gets away with such audacity in Poem No 56, the only way a heartbroken or angry girl can.
And when you think of it, is that not what love is all about? Love is not always rose petals, sunshine and chocolates. Sometimes love makes you jealous. Sometimes it raises your hackles.
Notable too, is that upcoming poet Kylie Kiunguyu has been featured in this book. I am impressed that Abigail shared her space. Kylie is equally talented, and shows great promise.
I tried picking out my favourite poems in Akello. I couldn’t, but a few stood out. There is Poem No 26 about her mother’s skin, Poem No 38 about Nairobi, and finally Poem No 81 that was featured on the Storymoja Hay Festival blog titled as The Pomegranate Sun. Consider this:
To sit on sandy beaches
and watch the tide come in
to feel the juice of exotic fruit
and sea breeze on my skin
to have someone to dance with
when the day is done
and then to watch the rising of
the pomegranate sun.
It’s encouraging to see contemporary poetry anthologies take centre stage in Kenya’s literary scene. I am impressed by what Abigail has done with Akello. In fact, I feel inadequate trying to bring out the true essence of this book in this review.
Getting a copy is worth the while.