Njeri Wangari: Poet extraordinaire

What you need to know:

  • She is a performance poet, arts blogger, tech enthusiast, wife, mother and IT professional all rolled into one.
  • Whenever she takes to the podium to recite a poem, she has her enthusiastic audience applauding all the way.

Njeri Wangari could very well be called a 'poetry blog pioneer' having started the arguably most popular poetry blog www.kenyanpoet.com well over 6 years ago.

She is a performance poet, arts blogger, tech enthusiast, wife, mother and IT professional all rolled into one.

Writing for Sunday Nation in 2009, Joseph Ngunjiri said of Njeri, “Njeri Wangari has a powerful voice, and she knows how to put it to good use.

Whenever she takes to the podium to recite a poem, she has her enthusiastic audience applauding all the way.”

Njeri is the author of Mines & Mind Fields; My Spoken Words and is working on her second poetry collection.

Tell me about your book. How did you come up with the ideas behind the poems?

All the poems were written over a period of 5 years( or more).

I would say they were my first attempts and expressing who I am, confusion about my identity in this life and the space I occupy as a lady, as a poet, as one living in an urban area, one who looks longingly at her past sceptical about the present and future.

Thus the book has different poems exploring all these themes; identity, faith, culture, urban living, politics, beauty, music etc.

How did you get interested in writing this particular genre?

I have always preferred writing poetry as its short and precise. I do not have the patience of a novelist.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

The memory evades me as I started off quite unsure of what I was doing and then finally realizing that the ‘stories/ramblings’ am writing were getting some attention.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

None. I am just quite observant of the things around me. For example, I just observed hawkers being chase around by Kanjo one day.

Another day a bitter exchange between one hawker woman and a pedestrian then right there, a poem hit me. It became ‘Maisha ya Hawker’

What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write?

I wake up, go to work (yes I have an 8 to 5 job as an IT manager with East African Publishers) hussle with traffic to get home, retire to bed by 10.pm. I don’t have a specific time or room that I retreat to to write.

My muse can come to me anytime anywhere. I remember the poem ‘When Change Comes’ came to me while I was waiting in a Matatu for it to fill up somewhere in Donholm.

I wrote it on my phone(the draft ie) and later transferred it that evening.

Do you set a daily writing goal?

I tried and failed miserably. I have even tried purposing to a poem using words starting with different letters of the alphabet but it didn’t work.

My poetry comes to me. If I look for it, chances are, I won’t find it.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Editing my poem afterwards. I always feel like its a masterpiece the way I wrote it first. but we all know, that is the heart talking. I have since learnt to give it a few days before sharing it on my blog or performing it.

What’s the best thing about being an author?

Meeting those who consume your work. when a fan comes up to you and says “I loved that Poem, I have gone through that or I felt encouraged etc” its the best feeling ever.

What are you working on now? Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am currently working on poems on my 8-4-4 experience, can’t share yet as I haven’t edited. Look out for it though.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Follow your heart. I know it sounds cliche but don’t writes because that's what people love hearing or its the in-thing or because you want people to perceive you in a certain way. I have written Poetry that made some fans brand me as a ‘Feminist’ I didn’t care. I have written poetry taking different personas but they don’t define who I am.

When you understand that, you can write about anything.

Do you have any favourite authors or favourite books? If, so, which ones?

Those keep changing. I am currently reading Ben Okri’s The Famished Road. I am absolutely loving the guys use of imagination, language.

His writing is simply beautiful. the book is pure poetry.

Langston Hughes is one of my all time favourite poets. Maya Angelou was my first inspiration into poetry.

What question have you always wanted to be asked as a writer/poet?

Are poets born or taught?