So every once in a while, I pop into some frenzy brought on by either stress, rebellion or both. During this frenzy, I tend to get into thoroughly heated arguments with the voices in my head. My seven personalities go to war with a few of them begging me to say something rash and a few level- headed ones begging me to keep my cool. This article will articulate which side took victory.

I have had the pleasure of attending numerous if not all events that involve poetry. I thank all who have championed poetry, especially performance poetry, and taken it to unparalleled platforms in this humble yet brutal entertainment scene that is Nairobi.

As is the norm with any logical thinking brain, I tend to notice people and relate to them via names, faces, art form and mostly personality traits. So here are a few that I have encountered in my short yet eventful time within poetry circles.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer necessary.

1.The Original

This refers to a person/ group of individuals who credit themselves as being the originators of poetry in the country. Forget the stereotypical head wraps, the kikoi pants and sandals. This breed performed poetry for a while then retired to the world of NGOs and activism. They will often be seen carrying a copy of their own book or draft of a book in progress. You will recognize one by their critique. They will be shit talking about how poetry has been watered down and how it’s no longer a dignified art form. Most phrases in their speech will start with “back then” and “back when I used to perform”

2.The X-Diaspora

They have travelled around the world, picked up a lot of cultural shock and somehow landed in Nairobi. They will be heard comparing Kenyan poetry events with other events and festivals that they have attended around the world. Most are not poetry enthusiasts but actual poets. They will often be heard starting sentences with “I had the pleasure of headlining…”, “I was reading this on my flight…”, “and I picked this up at the airport…”

3.The Celebrity/Product Promo/Events Pitcher

Normally, not even a poet or an enthusiast. Usually a big shot in other circles. This breed takes the poetry mantle as a PR/ logistics platform. They will usually be seen reading pieces from other poets (of course! They do not write poetry), quote famous authors etc. Most of them will follow their performances with, “For those who love fashion, we shall be having an event…”, “If you like what I am wearing, I have a table at the back of the room…”, “and Remember to keep your calendars open for next Friday…”

4.The Pilgrim

A book I once read bore the words “…The meek shall inherit the earth….” The pilgrim is the epitome of meek! They will be seen alighting from a taxi, pay entrance, walk in and settle in a lone corner. To this enthusiast, a poetry event is the perfect time to harmonize the mind. They will sit through every performance, applaud when necessary, take notes, update their social site pages, and sit patiently through the event till it comes to a close. They will then congratulate the organizers with a handshake, not even bothering to introduce themselves. They will head home and keenly monitor the internet as they search for the next “pilgrimage”.

5.The Socialite

The Kardashians of the poetry world. Poetry events are just a normal girls meeting for these types. Showbiz and showmanship is the word. They will make an entrance in a posh car, dressed to kill, their latest trophies draped over their arm. They will sit together and huddle noisily, each conversation starting with “look at that shoe….”, “see that top?”, “that poet’s hair…”, “where did you get your heels?” There is also the gay demographic that has joined this group recently. Turn left to the dark corner. The tight pants, the tight floral print shirts, the “high-fives” and complimenting each other with, “by the way nafaa kukuibia hiyo scarf!!”

6.The Freelancer

They are the kings and queens of documentation. Each trip to a poetry event is carefully recorded on electronic media. They will be seen with cameras, modems, laptops, BBs, and sometimes sound recorders and mics. They will greet everyone they know and each question feels like a prelude to an interview. Thank heavens we have them. At least poets can brag on their resumes and say, “I was featured on nani’s blog!”

7.The Traveler

The Caucasian, Asian, Celtic or Aboriginal guy/chic that just happened to be in Nairobi for work or vacation. They made friends with “the locals” and are being treated to a poetry open mic as a farewell feast before they leave “the motherland”. The only significance to them is the additional facebook™ pictures. They don’t even like poetry!!

8.The Explorer

They are on a literary trip around the world. Is usually working towards some cause that is literature related or jus a hardworking geek looking for material for a research paper? They will ask questions, conduct interviews, write notes and follow every event they can during their short stay. Good thing is they party hard!! So onjesha mzungu “yokozuna” and let the good times roll!!

9.The Plus One

Zero interest in poetry!! She/he is just here because their boyfriend is performing, or their pal is looking to meet up at the venue, or they are just honoring an invitation from a lovelorn poet who wants to impress her/him while “in the zone”. Didn’t you read the book about dating poets?? Oh, silly me, I am still drafting it. (evil laugh)

10.The Oops!

This category is the most forgivable of them all. It is usually the guy who spent the previous night at a bar and woke up with what Whispers would refer to as “the mother of all hangovers” (R.I.P. Wahome Mutahi). So the small trip to his favorite bar “kutoa lock” lands him in the middle of a group of people listening to an individual on stage. He will never even know what’s being said as he is too busy trying to silence the voices in his head!!

Speaking of voices in the head, I think the battle is over and the seven guys in my head have signed a temporary treaty. Until another war, ni mimi wenyu…. Argggh!!


© Jemedari