By the Book: Wafula p'Khisa

Wafula p'Khisa describes himself as a lone sailor, stranded at sea, thirsting for light to venture through this dark voyage of unknown times.

Photo credit: Nation| File

What you need to know:

  • Apart from poetry, he writes short stories, book reviews and plays. He also writes music, Hip hop in particular.
  • In 2018 he was long-listed for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Prize. 

Wafula p'Khisa describes himself as a lone sailor, stranded at sea, thirsting for light to venture through this dark voyage of unknown times. Apart from poetry, he writes short stories, book reviews and plays. He also writes music, Hip hop in particular. In 2018 he was long-listed for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Prize. His works have received special mentions and won in various international online contests.


Tell us something about your poetry anthology, 'A Cock's Seduction Song'. What is it about, and what issues does it intend to address?

A Cock's Seduction Song is my debut poetry collection which was published in 2019 by Royallite Publishers. It is divided into four parts. Part 1, Love & Conjugal Business, talks about love and longings. Part 2, Politics, Democracy & Governance, talks about our failed political systems, betrayal of the citizenry by the leadership of the day and endless quest for change. Part 3, Struggle, Resistance, Starvation & Hope, addresses the pain, suffering and struggle that our people go through in these hard times. Moreover, it brings out their undying hope for a positive change in life. Part 4, Morality, Gender Issues & Human Relations, attempts to explore the various issues of morality and gender as defined by scriptures and cultural doctrines in our fast-changing world. 


Why poetry and not any other form of writing?

Poetry is my primary language of expression. I can quickly write it anytime and anywhere regardless of my physical, mental and emotional state. But even though I have written and published a lot of poetry, I also write prose and drama. I have published a couple of short stories in some online literary journals and magazines like The African Writer, Nalubaale Review, The Elixir Magazine and Dwarts Literary Magazine, among others. More are upcoming in some local short story anthologies. I also write reviews and essays. Moreover, I have written two novels which I am yet to publish.

Among the poems in your anthology, which is your favourite and why?

Honestly, it is hard to tell which poem is my favourite. All of them are as they are composed of my blood and bone. I wrote them at different times in response to different situations. And I hold them as my true definition, philosophy and world view of life and its institutions.

Do you think poetry, as a creative art is appreciated by Kenyans?

No. Poetry (apart from drama) is the most unappreciated form of art here. It is hardly read. It is seldom published and sold. It is rarely discussed and written about. For instance, I know of six poetry books that were published last year and highly sold (based on the covers and photos shared on social media). But to date, none of them (or even a single poem from any) has been reviewed or discussed anywhere. How do you explain that? Moreover, how many poets have won literary prizes here in the past ten years?

What challenges do you face as a young poet?

Publishing and marketing. I think that is the nightmare of most writers of my generation. Our mainstream publishers are very selective on what to publish (and what not to) based on the KICD preferences and market trends. This makes self-publishing the only option. But it is expensive, hard and tedious to sell your books due to lack of an established market network. Moreover, when you publish a book, you naturally expect your friends and colleagues to buy and promote it. But when they don't, and instead congratulate and wish you God's blessings, you are finished!

Do you think spoken word has in any way affected the voice of traditional poems?

Yes, and No. Spoken word is for stage performance. Its style and dramatic mode of delivery are chosen explicitly for audience appeal. This is the form of art that most people identify with today. We don't see this in traditional poems which are mostly read out or recited. However, sometimes people see spoken word as poetry. When they watch video clips or performances of the same, they begin lamenting about the death of Kenyan poetry!

Which poets would you say are your biggest influencers?

All the poets I have read, new and old, have influenced my writing in one way or the other. I cannot actually name all of them here for the rains might find us.

Your parting shot to budding poets?

Read widely, write consistently and publish online. You will never be the same.