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Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse

Friday 26 November 2010, author(s)-editor(s) Wanjohi wa Makokha

Wanjohi wa Makokha’s Nest of Stones is the second book of poems, since the publication of Sitawa Namwalie’s Cut off my Tongue (Storymoja: 2009), devoted in principal to the moment of the 2007-2008 Kenyan Crisis. The crisis is locally known as the Post-Election Violence (PEV). The book collects over sixty pieces of his recent verse chosen on the basis of artistic merit and social relevance. The poems focus sharply on the tumultuous period between the General Elections of 2007 and August 4th Referendum of 2010. Some of the poems relate to events drawn out of earlier moments in Kenyan history but are invoked as contexts of the recent discord. Wa Makokha’s interesting narratives are written in the form of lyrical folk verse. The verses are poignant vignettes, out of experiences of different communities and regions of Kenya, serving as repositories of the memory of a tumultuous moment in the life of a nation. Nest of Stones derives its themes from the commonwealth of Kenyan experiences across ethnic and political divides. This idea of the interrelatedness of the peoples inhabiting the Kenyan space; is in a way, a veritable interrogation of the ’imagined community’ leitmotif most often recoursed to when analyzing the tensions of co-existence in the post-colonial world. The heart of these amazing poems lies in Kenya but their philosophy of life is universal.

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ISBN 9789956578306 | 184 pages | 216 x 140 mm | 2010 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback

8 Book Reviews

  • Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse 26 November 2010 10:41, author(s)-editor(s) Binyavanga Wainaina

    This is a kind of epic that all can consume, that compromises nothing….

    Binyavanga Wainaina, Director, The Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists

  • Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse 26 November 2010 10:41, author(s)-editor(s) Shailja Patel

    wa Makokha writes poetry as architecture, poetry as sculpture, poetry as a visual and structural engagement with the page. To read this book is also to enter a gallery of words.

    Shailja Patel, Kenyan poet and social activist, Migritude (2010)

  • Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse 26 November 2010 10:42, author(s)-editor(s) Dr Susan N. Kiguli

    wa Makokha’s verse whispers, talks, shouts, cries and laughs all at ago. It carries you with its history, its pain, its silences, its loudness. It teases you with the urbanised Kiswahili, the poet is so at home with; it flings you at the edge of reflection and snatches you back into its clarity. In essence, it is beautiful.

    Dr Susan N. Kiguli, Ugandan Poet, The African Saga, (1998)

  • Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse 26 November 2010 10:43, author(s)-editor(s) Sandra Mushi

    A poignant poetically and emotionally charged collection – from the heart of a passionate young Kenyan with an authentic African voice – reflecting the rawness of the PEV era and forcing us to look in the mirror

    Sandra Mushi, Tanzanian poet, Rhythm of my Rhymes (2007)

  • Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse 26 November 2010 10:44, author(s)-editor(s) Professor Ali Jimale Ahmed

    The poems in Nest of Stones form a catena, a chain that parodies, taunts and subtly provides an alternative ethical dimension/vision. They are powerful, poetic, penetrating. The poet’s tone is both mystifying and unveiling, framing the issues without being too obvious or condescending. In this book, wa Makokha politicizes the poetics of memory in order to transcend a sordid and painful present that breeds nothing but more pain.

    Professor Ali Jimale Ahmed, Department of Comparative Literature, CUNY & Somalian Poet, Fear is a Cow (2002)

  • Envoicing Hope: Wanjohi wa Makokha’s Nest of Stones 25 January 2011 10:22, author(s)-editor(s) Prof. Sr. D. Dipio, Makerere University

    This review is from: Nest of Stones. Kenyan Narratives in Verse (Paperback) In Nest of Stones, Wanjohi wa Makokha has constructed a verbal edifice of stone for present and future generations to find emotional and rational nourishment. In its accessibility, that in no way reduces the poetic potency of this riveting verse volume, he has demonstrated the belief that the best poet is like one who prepares bread with wisdom grains to feed his famished community as a duty of fellowship.

    The ultimate end of this obligation is building the community and challenging it to rise above its drab conditions. Makokha excellently achieves this social role by leading his readers from their fallen states to aspire for grandeur. His verse throbs with the undeniable heart of our connectedness as human beings. The reader traverses the superficialities of individual, ethnic and national identities, to open up to the transcendence of our shared humanity. The image of the red rivulet of blood that flows all through the verse does not only speak of the monstrous acts humans do to each other, but also constantly reminds us of our connectedness, fragility and strength that "It is one blood origin".

    The hope that endures through pain is humankind’s capacity to rise above their apparent differences in order to assert what is basic: shared humanity. It is timely that this gift of poetry from Makokha’s sensitive being has come to nourish our bleeding world, so that a culture of humanity may grow.

    Prof. Sr. D. Dipio, Makerere University

  • Great Reading, this is... 25 January 2011 10:24, author(s)-editor(s) M. Njoroge (Philadelphia, PA USA)

    This review is from: Nest of Stones. Kenyan Narratives in Verse (Paperback) Protest Poetry, Dystopia and A Painting in Words: Makokha’s Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse. Bamenda, Cameroon: Langaa Publishers, 2010. 184 pp.

    Set in a dystopic Kenya, Makokha’s Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse is a striking multicoloured mural of protest poetry in the gallery of Kenyan literature. In this work the reader comes face to face with their conscience in a way that unsettles the mind and tugs insistently at his heart. The poems collected in this haunting book inspired by the Post Election Violence (PEV) and the 2007-2008 Kenyan Crisis, move back and forth across time, region and cultures in Kenya to constitute a monumental panorama of the Kenyan psyche, offering naked truths about the nature of our society, politics and history.

    The first thing that one notices after reading, with bated breath, this mind-blowing book from beginning to the end is simply how all-consuming and comprehensive the book is. It speaks in English, Kiswahili, Sheng’, Vernacular and the silent idioms of form, whereby the poems sometimes take the forms of the metaphors and symbols they rely on: crosses, flags, smoke, machetes, slaughter buckets, et cetera. It speaks from the rich orature of Nilote, Bantu, Cushite and Immigrant communities of Kenya. It speaks about angst in societies from East to West, South to North of Kenya. It speaks about the mountains, seas, farms, villages, cities, roads and skies of Kenya.

    From poem to poem, the poet weaves through incidents and events in the recent and national history of Kenya enabling the whole country to emerge as a patient in need of medication and healing. It is via this diagnostic approach that Makokha achieves his role of the poet as the tongue of society. The anxieties of nationhood are identified, given names albeit in description and placed on the table for the reader to see, reflect, discuss and possibly find or suggest the viable treatment needed. The introduction at the beginning of the poem is useful.

    Radical and experimental in many ways, Nest of Stones as a Kenyan book of poems is an unusual offering, but like many other poetry volumes out of the country, it remains true to its role as art; art in the service of society. Here is a book penned by a poet who is clearly participating in that famous protest tradition in African literature that has produced many fine poets such as Jack Mapanje, Okot p’ Bitek, Odia Ofeimun, Arthur Nortje, Sayyid Mahammad Abdille Hasan, Muyaka bin Hajji Ghassaniy, Micere Mugo et cetera. As with many books of political verse, Nest of Stones starts off slowly with a profound sense of hopelessness and apathy, but picks up the pace after the first five poems shouting beautiful messages of hope left, right and centre.

    With real life cultural and social situations thrown in, these new poems are semi-educational, semi-fictional and an altogether compelling read. They exude depth and common philosophy. They exude love based on difference and acceptance of it. They exude understanding couched on mutual respect and knowledge of each other and ourselves. The overriding message of the poet is that out of chaos, order does emerge if we put our minds to helping it to do so. It is a must read for all citizens of Kenya and lovers of peace and poetry across the world.

    Dr Martin C. Njoroge Director, Confucius Institute & Senior Lecturer of Linguistics Kenyatta University NAIROBI, KENYA

  • Intense and powerful 25 January 2011 10:25, author(s)-editor(s) NoViolet Bulawayo

    Nest of Stones is a riveting portrait of the poet as the soul of a nation. This is a book that strips Kenya naked and holds it to the sun—beauty, bruises, and all. Where Makokha deals with the troubled politics of his homeland, notably violence and corruption, the reading is poignant and haunting, and there are indeed moments where blood seems to ooze from the poems to stain the reader’s conscience. The lines between the personal and the group/nation are constantly blending and bleeding in the collection, and one is made aware of how identity can be simultaneously a blessing and a burden. Specific as Makokha’s poems are, there are refreshing moments when they cross borders to allude to Zimbabwe, Somalia, and Germany, reminding me of what it means to be both African and human. There are small moments of lightness and tenderness, but overall this is a collection that is deep. Makokha’s language is intense and strikingly beautiful, and the interesting spin to form tells us that we are in the presence of a fresh, modern, and dynamic voice. One of the most compelling books I have ever read.

    NoViolet Bulawayo