Kariuki wa Nyamu is from Kenya and he believes that the shortlist has elevated each poet to a literary pedestal. He undertook haiku research when called upon to edit a high profile literary magazine, after which his interest grew. #Babishai2017
What drew you to take part in this competition?
Well, although I rarely participate in writing competitions, I must honestly admit that when it is Babishai Niwe Prize, I always feel an impulse to take part, even if I have previously not made it to the long list, leave alone the shortlist until this year. In point of fact, this was my third time to try my luck. I have never given up though. In May this year, once I saw the advert for the Babishai Haiku contest, I set my mind to participate for I could feel that I had something that is out of the ordinary. I am glad I did. Well, here I am on the shortlist and ecstatic about it.
Do you have a particular personal story with haikus?
Yes, thanks. Last year, an Editor-in-Chief of one International literary journal [www.thewagonmagazine.com] based in India engaged me to compile and edit the January Issue of the journal sub-titled Africa Literary Special together with two other talented young Kenyan writers. I gracefully took up the opportunity and in January this year , the above mentioned Issue was published both in print and online form. In the said project, I got an opportunity to edit haikus which some of the writers especially from Ghana and Nigeria submitted. As we compiled the literary pieces, I particularly developed a stimulus for the art of haiku writing. Honestly, I had not written haikus before and so I had to undertake a lot of research on them so that I could select the best pieces. Since then, I made efforts to learn Haiku aesthetics through joining Haiku groups as well as reading journals [like The Mamba, Africa Haiku Network, Virtual Haiku, Ghana Haiku Society] where writers post their works and the corresponding critiques. I have learnt a lot from these and more groups and journals. Another thing that has demystified my learning of Haiku writing is my love for nature, photography and art in general. And one more thing, now that my piece has been shortlisted by a great team of judges, I promise to immerse myself in Haiku aesthetics, learn more and continue writing haikus on a regular basis.
What do you feel towards the shortlist in general?
I would like to congratulate all the shortlisted poets! I am very delighted to be shortlisted among poets, some of whom have made great strides in haiku writing. This is very humbling! Otherwise, I trust that this has elevated each shortlisted poet to a higher literary pedestal. About the shortlisted pieces, I must say they are terrific! They make us see scenic panorama of Africa and listen to melodic sounds. Ah, each piece is distinctive and fascinating in its own way thus all the shortlisted poets are winners. Bravo!
What motivation do poets need to keep writing, in this ridiculously competitive world that vies for their attention?
In my opinion, I do not think I can sufficiently manage to cite or even explicate the motivation that poets need in order to continue writing. Reason being, I am one of those people who believe that Poetry is a very personal enthrallment! Consequently, I would like to assert that the supreme motivation should be from oneself. I consider sound critical response as a basic ingredient though. It motivates a poet to go on with writing. I therefore strongly believe that poets need ardent readers who are all set to read poems closely and offer sound feedback that will in due course ensure their literary growth. This could be in form of reviews and commentaries even if it is on Social Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This chiefly funnels a poet towards the right direction thus offering great motivation to keep on writing. Otherwise when one’s work is accepted in especially internationally published books, journals and online literary blogs or upon being shortlisted and ultimately winning a contest, this certainly offers a great deal of motivation to a poet.
If your 2017 submission was food, what would it be?
Well, this depends on my place of residence. When I am in Kenya, the Pride of Africa and my first country, the food would be green mukimo served with kienyeji (local breed) chicken stew! And whenever I am in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa and my second country, the food would definitely be matoke served with beef stew. These local delicacies are very yummy!
Read his haiku here:
last night’s rain
in the morning mud
fresh toad prints
We at Babishai, congratulate Him again. The winners will be announced at the #Babishai2017 Poetry Festival dinner on Sunday 6 August at Humura Resort, Kitante Close. Cards are on sale at 40,000/- Call +256 703147862. The full festival programme is here.
The full winning haikus are here: