From poems on the online blog to a real book . That is the short route of how Mines & Mind Fields , My spoken words, a poetry book by Njeri Wangari came to be. Kenyanpoet as she is popularly known online is one of the mos respected poets in Kenya today.
I have observed with great interest the way many Kenyans are using the technology and in particular the internet to play with words or spread wisdom, love and whatever else through poems. The now popular monthly event Wathai Spoken words started as an event to celebrate his blog turning one year old, but the attendance and passion at the time convinced him to have the event every month. He has never regretted that move and the December edition will be on 13th at Lenana Conference Centre. More details here
Although i have never been into poems a such, i took time to read Kenyanpoet’s book. At first casually but later on a realized that there is great substance in the book. Love, politics, urbanization, Culture and Technology are some of the bigger themes of the book. Tech being our main passion here, I picked one poem which has captured effects of of technology our social lives ; Digital Hearts
There was a time when a mouth eyes, ears, a touch
Were the enssentials in a conversation
Humans were more in touch with one another and with nature
Watching, listening and touching
A sight of migrating birds meant an approaching storm
Change in seasons or looming danger
The tree’s whispers of cool sounds soothed our minds into peace
The crackling fall of a branch and singing of bird’s music
Made love to our souls deepening our bond with what is real
Now instead of facing each other, we face book
Our voices have become keys that punch on keyboards
Our smiles and emotions have become smilies and icons,
Our hearts no longer constantly antagonize our lips to say “Love you”
For we simply short text our messages from our hears and minds
Long enuf 2 min wat we r sayin but shot enuf not 2 excd 160 charcyrs
We no longer pour our hearts out in persuasive soothing flow of words an smitten voices
Our fingers have subjected the feelings that the lips, eyes and face could never fill in a book
To cold machines making us similar o robots with the only difference being
We sit behind actual robots
We are baring our lives, captured moments and souls o the digital world
Starngers whom we would never invite in o our homes
Now see the bottom of our beds the insides of our loose and beneath our garmens
To fantasize, masturbate and stalk our digitized selves
Like the spider web that entangles a fly to its demise
We have gotten ourselves caught up in the world web
Yest in this connected world of digital bits and bytes
We lost our heart bits and bought into gadgets to substitute our five senses
I ask you
Are we connecting with each other or with technology?
Because we lost our human touch somewhere in the zeroes and ones of this digital age.
Writing a book In Kenya or Africa is probably the easier part but getting people to buy it and actually read it, is another matter. The problem is magnified if you are a new writer and learning the rope. First, there is much talked about non reading culture among Kenyans. It might be true to some extent but I think is a bit exaggerated somehow.
The bigger problem is with the local book stores and vendors. According to Kenyanpoet there a time when people are genuinely looking for the book but can’ get it from the local bookshops. It requires the new writers to keep on reminding them to stock the books. While many industries in Kenya, music industry being the shining example, moved from the obsession with foreign made products, it seems books industry is still in that world. We only hope that this will change soon to allow many young aspiring writers to showcase their talents. But again there is something else ..the internet
They say internet labeled the playing field and that is why i think the new writers have both means and ways to have their books reached people around the world. There is big opportunity for Kenyans to buy and sell online. Although there is still that problem of credit cards, i think for now if you want to buy something online you will get a way to do it. Currently Mines and Mind Fields: My spoken words is retailing on Amazon.com at $.12
I can confirm that the book will be available on Maduqa.com in the coming few weeks, where you can pay through Mpesa or Airtel Zap.
Verdict: Great book with great poems … grab a copy now