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Featured Poet-Mike Kwambo

Mike Kwambo on stage at Rhythm & Spoken

How would you describe your poetry?

My poetry is cutting edge, sometimes controversial,sometimes sweet, sometimes witty, sometimes direct. It is pretty much a reflection of who I am.

What’s your creative process like?

There are two ways to describe my creative process.
1.Ad Hoc! Well…I am the kind of person who will get struck by creative moments while engaged in other activities.Many are the times I have dropped everything else or woken up at two or three in the morning to pursue this creative itch.
2. Structured…There are occasions when I have taken my sweet time, days or even weeks on end to complete my works.

Which poets do you look up to and why?
I look up to Allan Hope a.k.a Mutabaruka, Benjamin Zephaniah , Lamar Manson a.k.a Black Ice, Dana Gilmore,(I love her piece “wife..woman..friend”) and good old William Shakespeare. Their work are thought provoking, conscious pieces. There are plenty of local poets that deliver that kind of content too, they are also sources of inspiration.

Where have you performed and what has been the reception so far?
I have performed at the Kwani? Open Mic at Club Soundd in Nairobi. My first appearance here was in February 2007, I did a piece called “But Nyako” which the audience absolutely loved. I was featured poet at Kwani? in November of that year.I still do the odd performance at this venue.
I have taken a liking to Rhythm and Spoken at the Dass Ethiopian Restaurant in Westlands. The audience is always receptive.Their response is always great , which is very humbling. This gives me the motivation to keep writing more pieces.
I once performed my piece “vision 2030” at the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) Economic Symposium to a mixed reaction. This piece is questions the Kenyan government’s ability to attain its goals by the year 2030 as pointed out in their wonderfully written master plan.The audience loved it but one Prof. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in the Information and Communications Ministry was totally miffed. He took a whole hour responding to this piece before delivering his keynote address.
I have also performed at the just concluded Rift Valley Festival to a wonderful, humbling response from the really attentive audience. I attended this festival as part of Mstari Wa Nne, the performance poetry group I belong to.I use the words wonderful and humbling because we went up on stage just after Chris Adwar and The Villagers Band had wowed the crowd with their energetic performance. I was unsure of the crowd’s response, would they consider poetry an anti climax? Would they stay to listen to poetry ? Would they walk away? They were very attentive when Mstari got on stage. They paid keen attention to our poetry and gave us a standing ovation at the end of it. We made great contacts, big things are definitely on the horizon. It was a very humbling response.
I have also performed at the Kenya Burning exhibition in April 2008, and with Mstari Wa Nne,the Daniel Pearl World Day of Music in 2008/2009, Ignite Poets in October 2009 as well as some private functions. The responses from the audience have constantly been great and it is an absolutely humbling experience when people walk up to you and tell you that they loved your work or that it captures their sentiments.

What do you hope to achieve through poetry?

I would like to see a paradigm shift in our attitudes. We are have so many issues, good and bad that are not being dealt with. they are simply being swept under the carpet. Poetry is one of many vehicles that can address these issues. I aim to educate,provoke and entertain the public, the audiences that I interact with. I aim to influence everybody…the regular Joe and the decision makers in government and larger society.

What do you think is the future of poetry in Kenya and Africa?

With the right exposure and approach, poetry in Kenya and Africa has a very bright future. This is because it can be a very subtle means of dealing with the most sensitive and taboo topics. Africa is going through a revolution of sorts

What do you wish to see done differently?

The whole approach to poetry. I honestly think it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Poets have got things to say, issues to address, lets give them a chance. We need to change our mindsets and be more appreciative of poetry as a powerful art form and tool of expression.

Which of you poems is a crowd favourite?
Probably Vision 2030, it stirs up a lot of passion from the audience. I would like to think that people tend to associate with the issues being addressed in this poem
For obvious reasons, Big A** Bed, it is raunchy. Raunchy is popular.

Which is your favourite?

It’s not really a poem, it is my intro.I call it “She is” …I regularly open my performances with this intro.

Five lines off your favourite piece

She is….
my biggest temptation…my sweetest sensation
in my heart she’s managed penetration….filling me with joy…elation…jubilation…
she is a sultry goddess…every man wants to possess
when they see her they say lead us out of Egypt like Moses…


About projectheshima

Project Heshima is an alternative events project . We have a great interest in poetry and home grown music. We hold monthly poetry nights at

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