Poetry, a growing craft in Kenya, deserves a platform to grow and to be showcased to as many people as possible. Every day people are working towards maintaining poetry and diversifying story telling techniques, people like Allan Melchowistz, a young Kenyan poet and creative.
He shared with Varcity his story and views on the poetry and spoken word industry in Kenya.
- When did you start doing poetry and why?
In high school, though mostly writing. My English teacher had a huge impact in my love for poetry. From selecting me for drama festivals, his passion for it, basically, how he taught poetry made me fall in love with the art. Think professor Keating and his fledglings.
2. Do you write your own pieces? What do you write about (majorly)?
Always my own pieces. Dark Poetry, mostly.
3. What inspires you to write/perform spoken word?
Haha, weird enough, heartbreaks and disappointments. Humans are fickle minded and they’re bound to let you down at some point in life, you see, that, is what drives me to pen. Additionally, I like watching how people maneuver through embarrassing situations, it’s inspiring. Humans are the best show, and it’s free.
4. Aside from live performances, where can one get your pieces?
Well, I do have a profile at Kenya poet’s lounge, with all my contacts details. I also have a blog, though I rarely update it. The link is www.bleedingthoughts.blogspot.co.ke
5. What is your involvement with Slam Africa?
I’m one of the organizing heads, I’m basically in charge of communications and a bit of logistical issues.
6. How long have you worked with them?
It’s almost 4 years now, working with SlamAfrica.
7. Which other events have you participated in? Or organizations have you worked with?
Lots, basically every poetry event we have in Nairobi. Organizations, well, currently I’m with Cre8ive spills who are in charge of Mufasa’s show, Dorphanage and SlamAfrica. I’ve also worked with Fatumas voice and I get consulted here and there in regards to matters Poetry. We’re a big family, generally.
8. What challenges do you feel poets mostly face in Kenya? What issues have you faced yourself?
Performance wise, I’d point out the absence of a culture to sustain a poetry industry in the country. Then the lack of venues to host events, the high cost of rental space and the commercialization of public art spaces. Then there’s very few people willing to spend on poetry, which translates to low turn-out events, poorly paid artists, poets being contracted as filler acts in events and festivals, little or no media coverage, lack of distribution channels for recorded or published works, language barrier limiting expression, lack of goodwill from government institutions and the ministry of gender, sports and culture.
9. What would you say are your major achievements?
Slam has really grown, and while it may not be directly because of me, I’d say the team we have us really determined to put it on a global platform. Working with the likes of Mufasa, Ian Gwagy, Gufy Dox, Dorphan, Kevin Orato, Richie Maccs,Ngartia…such people, success is inevitable. Poetry has also given me confidence to appear in local shows like Prem, Block D and Lies that Bind, among other numerous Pilot shows. I did work with KBC in 2010 during the World Cup though.
10. What keeps you going with your art?
Poetry is my raison d’etre.