UoN news magazine publishes haiku

The Anvil newspaper of The University of Nairobi's School of Journalism and Media Studies (SOJMC) has published haiku for the first time.

This souvenir issue featured two haiku by Mr. Caleb Mutua and two other poems by Mr. Ibrahim Kipkorir. 

The editor of the Anvil, Dr. Muiru Ngugi, said he was pleased with the progress the poets had made and he was willing to publish more haiku in the future.

campus lawn--
fresh mushrooms assemble 
at a corner

campus showers--
drops collect on a trumpet
“This special issue of the Anvil is clearly a boon for the readers,” the director of School of Journalism and Media Studies Dr. Wambui Kiai said. “It also examines challenges that confront journalism in the wake of liberalization, not just of democratic space but of the economy.”

The poetry page in the Anvil.
The newspaper, which collapsed sometime back due to lack of money to publish, lack of equipment and facilities and complicated procurement rules and regulations, is considered by many as a premier journalism training tool.  

SOJMC is the oldest university program in journalism and communication in East Africa and boasts for being the only journalism school in the country with its own printing press.


Tributes To My Sister

This is the big Mugumo referred to in these tributes
June dusk--
I fight back tears under
a mugumo

concrete seat--
a dry mugumo leaf keeps
me company

under the mugumo
I watch a June dusk brighten
office fluorescents

campus lawn--
I watch rusty keys dangle
on mugumo

June dusk--
I scribble 'Naomi'
on the concrete seat

departed sister--
dry mugumo leaves gloom
the lawn

dusk walk--
showers wash my sorrows 
down Moi Avenue

funeral speech--
he calls his stubborn sister
back to the shelter

funeral speech--
I put down my sorrows
in a haiku


The first Kenyan Haiku on Shamrock Haiku Journal

Caleb Mutua, one of Kenyan Haiku poets
Haiku Journal of the Irish Haiku Society, commonly known as Shamrock Haiku Journal, has published a Kenyan haiku for the first time.

on the campus lawn,
fresh anthills surrounded
by fresh mushrooms

Shamrock is an international online journal that publishes quality haiku, senryu and haibun in English quarterly.

In a message to the author of the haiku, the magazine's editor expressed his joy.

"I am delighted to have your poem in Shamrock Magazine," wrote Antony Kudryavitsky, the editor of the Journal. "You're very welcome to further submit your works to us in the future."

In this crowded media-hyper market, active Yahoo Groups such as Kenya Saijiki, international online journals, blogs and magazines are ways through which haiku poets from Kenya and other parts of Africa can share their poems globally.

"If you want to build up a reputation for yourself as an international haijin, inclusion in this kind of publication is good," advices
The haiku is listed here (http://shamrockhaiku.webs.com/currentissue.htm) among many other haiku from France, Japan, USA Canada and other parts of the world.

Find other haiku published in haijix here:
 And an anthology:


Still A Drinking Nation

A drunkard proudly lifts up his favourite beer at a local bar
In the recent past, many revelers considered Mr. Michael Njenga Mututho a new sheriff in town but  things are starting to change.

For a few months, the exasperating smell, dirt, foul language and the deafening noise from bars and pubs vanished from the streets; at least during the day. 

The new Alcohol Control Bill prohibits selling of alcohol before 5:00pm on weekdays and 2:00pm on weekends, legalizes chang'aa among other changes.
"Five o'clock is now referred to as Mututho's time," complains Edward Omondi, a media student at the University of Nairobi. "It is a shame that some radio stations remind people that the time has come for them to go to bars,"

However, the new law is lately littered with negligence on the part of law enforcers. On the other hand, many Kenyans, especially those from not so well off addresses in Nairobi continue to let booze dampen their dreams and ambitions by overindulging.

"My husband drinks each morning before going to construction sites to look for the day's labour despite the new law," explains Maria Kerubo, a resident of Kangemi. "He says that chang'aa unlocks his mind and keeps him awake the rest of the day."

As global financial crisis continues to wreck havoc, Kenyans should understand that donors have enough problems of their own to deal with now. That it is a high time all Kenyans stand up and be counted for having built the nation in one way or another.

A Drunkard Who Figured It Out

Blank Pages; The Writers' Nightmare!

When you are a writer, then you know what a blank page does to you.

Be it a paper or a blinking cursor on a blank word document, they all have the same effect; they make your imaginations run wild!

Suddenly you are strolling down your memory lane, thinking about what to put down, and how exactly to put it down. Then you start writing. but not before long, a new "powerful" idea hits you and you tear the first page and start again.

Few sentences down the lines and you think you have a better way of saying whatever you are trying to communicate. Consequently, this page is gone too.

This process continues until you feel it; until you have convinced yourself that there is no other better way of saying it than what you have written!And until you feel it in your veins and in your heart, you cannot write!



I woke up this morning and I thought about you,
About all those years we've been together,
And about your content, your archives,
And I felt guilty.

I felt guilty for not writing on you,
For not inviting more friends to you,
And for not sharing your great photos,
And suddenly I wanted to write.

I wanted to write you a poem,
And tell you how much you mean to me,
I thank God I did write you this poem,
I love you my dear blog.


57 Damn Good Haiku by a Bunch of Our Friends

 Front cover of the book courtesy of With Words
With Words hopes to launch 57 Damn Good Haiku this year, after the book was launched in Haiku Northwest's Seabeck Haiku Getaway in US.

This newly published haiku anthology brings together 12 poets living in Japan, Africa, North America and Europe. They include Karen Hoy, Alison Williams, Timothy Collins, Tanya McDonald, Keiko Iwaza, Caleb Mutua, among others.

"The motivation behind the anthology was to showcase our friends who write good haiku," explains Alan Summers, the founder of With Words and one of the editors in the anthology. "We wanted to be honest and upfront and state that we were publishing friends."

The 'tongue-in-cheek' humorous title for the anthology made it easy for both editors to select haiku poets they admired, including their family members. 

Japanese Poet Keiko Izawa is one of the contributors of the book. She learnt to write English-language haiku by studying With Words website many years ago and she has since gone on to be published by Red Moon Press and various respected journals.

The book is yet to reach UK and Kenya but potential buyers outside the United States can make inquiries by emailing editor Michael Dylan at WelchM@aol.com.


A Short History of Haiku

haiku inscribed by a Kenya Saijiki member in Kilindini harbour in Mombasa
Long before haiku, there was already an established form of poetry in Japanese literature called waka.

Waka consisted of thirty one syllables, divided into five sections: five-seven-five-seven-seven.

Compared to haiku, this was a longer poem, particularly suited for expressing emotions and refined description of nature. As a result, it became very popular among members of the highest social class, the aristocratic courtiers.

They would employ waka in their playful mood as a medium of witty conversation, breaking it into two separate halves

Five syllables
Seven syllables
Five syllables
Seven syllables
Seven syllables

And they would sometimes reverse the order of these two halves to give more independence and
freedom to exercise wit.

Seven syllables
Seven syllables

Five syllables
Seven syllables
Five syllables

Witty verses continued to be written under the name of linked verses called renga throughout 794-1191 (Heian Period). These long sequences of linked verses were written by a number of poets sitting together and writing alternatively, and each poem in a series was linked to the immediately proceeding one, either by witty association or verbal play.

However, there was a danger of these linked verses retrogressing into chaotic confusion or boring monotony. Rules of composition had to be establish and various schools of poets were formed. Two major attributes to the starting piece were considered:
  • A reference to the season in which the verse was written
  • The existence of a breaking word, kireji.

This is the earliest beginning of haiku poetry because for the first time, the five-seven-five syllabic structure came to be recognized as a poetic unit.

Poets and their disciples continued to write linked verses until they realized that there was something very crucial missing. Poets like Gonsui(1650-1722) and Onitsura (1661-1738) started to make efforts to save poetry from vulgarity. This is the time when master of haiku, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) employed his great genius to lift haiku into the real of perfect poetry.Three essential attributes derived from this history of haiku are evident:
  • Five-seven-five syllabic structure (Short-Long-Short lines)
  • Kireji
  • Season word
It is for the benefit of every Kenyan haijin to get acquainted with the essential traits and attributes of haiku as a literary form.

By Caleb Mutua.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Basho...Translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa


Tarmacking for Industrial Attachment

Fountain of knowledge erected at the University of Nairobi
Many college students will not graduate this year because they have not done an industrial attachment unit.

Students are primarily attached to workplaces in order to gain experience and to put into practice what they have been taught.

“Our college writes us a letter that we present to multiple organizations in which we wish to be attached hoping that they will call us soon,” explains Kevin Onyatta, a student at the University of Nairobi. “Most places never get back to you.”

Colleges on the other hand expect these organizations to award attached students marks on punctuality, professional ability and sensitivity, accommodation of criticism, assertiveness and effectiveness of work, work relations among other parameters. A confidential report with marks and comments from your place of attachment is required at the end of two months

“I had to pay someone just to make sure my application letter ‘got in the right hands’ because in many organizations, attachment letters are left at the gate,” says Miriam Wainaina, a college student in Nairobi.

College students are now calling on The Dean of Academics to send attachment applications in advance in order to avoid further delays in graduation.

“We pay for this unit like other course units and it is the obligation of the college to find us places for attachment,” laments Miriam Wainaina.

Due to the increasing number of colleges, organizations now interview applicants and require a CV in addition to the attachment letter. On the other hand, most private universities find industrial attachments and internships for their students.


The Secrets of Ageing

A statue of Dedan Kimathi, one of Kenya's rebel Leaders

Today as I hurriedly jostled past Kimathi Street, something grabbed my attention.

A group of people had gathered around a daily newspaper vendor. Mainstream newspapers carried pictures of the president and the prime minister on the front page. There was also a Weekly Newspaper reporting on gratuitous violence and demonstrations currently experienced in the Middle East.

However, in the middle of all these print, a small book screamed The secrets of Ageing. This got me thinking. Thinking about life and the things we hold on to dearly, either as individuals, as a family unit or as a nation.

I had now stopped and I went short of asking the vendor the price of the book when I spotted a tall and hairy light skinned tourist. He crossed the street and stood next to a big statue of Kimathi wa Waciuri, a tough Mau Mau fighter, taking photos.

These are the things we should cherish in life, I thought. These are the people that we should remember in our prayers every day; people we should miss and be proud of. I turned towards the main campus thinking that perhaps love, courage and the will to continue are the secret of ageing after all.

Caleb Mutua.

Learn more about Dedan Kimathi here



Mombasa Collection

I visited Mombasa recently and I had a wonderful time while there. We were traveling at night and on your way to Mombasa, buses stop at Mtito wa Ndei for passengers to grab something to eat and to relieve themselves....

February night--
I get into a wrong bus
after a short call

Mombasa Shuttle buses rest at Mtito Andei at 2am

scotching sun--
a police patrol car parked 
under a tree

When you arrive in Mombasa town, these four gentlemen welcome you..

We spotted a fruit that looked like paw paw shortly after arriving at the coast...little did we know that it was a coconut milk

This is a coconut milk. In Swahili, it is called dafu and Madafu in plural! Because a ripe coconut takes up to six months, farmers harvest them in their third month and as a result, they look like these. They are in abundant during the rainy season because few people are willing to take coconut milk when it is wet or when it is cold. One coconut milk is sold at 20 shillings.
My Friend Dj drinking a coconut milk.

he stirs a coconut milk
with a straw

This coconut vendor was very friendly to us. He told us many things about his business and the diseases that coconut milk cure, and its season...and allowed us to take him photos while he prepared us our coconut milk...

a coconut vendor's 
dusty shirt

a madafu vendor sharpen
a spoon for me

He used a coconut milk peel to sharpen a spoon that I used to eat the soft coconut...

Find  more about coconuts here:


We also found out that in Mombasa town there is a big market for fruits and veges called Marikiti, just like the one in Nairobi...

 Marikiti Market--
a cart loaded with dusty
madafu comes out

 Then we went to the beach....woooohooooooo!!!

There are many public beaches in Mombasa, but Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach is nearest from town.

Indian ocean--
the smell of salty water hits
our nostrils

Indian Ocean
feeling beach sand between
my toes

February waves--
I lie with my stomach

sandy beach--
I close my eyes and think 
of good times

February waves--
deep irritation of salty water
in my eyes

Indian ocean--
a Rastafarian man kisses
an old lady

In the coast, especially at the beaches, white women and men frequent visit intending to lure young men and women into having sex with them for money (prostitution) and I was surprised to see this very young Rastafarian man kissing a very old lady, old enough to be his grandmother. The people at the coast are used to seeing this but it was a strange thing to me and my friends...

February waves--
a bunch of kids dive-in
in unison

bright February --
a couple kiss while on their
floaters tube

February waves--
she swims with her son
on the shallow end

Jomo Kenyatta--
February wave knocks her off
her tube floater

February dusk--
two kids bury their legs
in the sand

Indian Ocean
February breeze rubbed the first
Kenya Saijiki

As we were swimming, a girl so something and she yelled so loud that we come out of the water running... 

beach stampede--
each February wave brings it

Then we went to Likoni which is on the other side. To get there, both people and vehicle are transported by ferries free of cahrge. On our way, we passed Uhuru Gardens which is a public park, much the same  size like Jeevanjee Gardens in Nairobi...

 I remember asking a Mombasa resident, "excuse me, where are those big elephant tasks that we see on T.V located?" He smiled and directed us to go to a place called Docks...

There are two ferries, one is from the Island city of  Mombasa to the Kenyan mainland town of Likoni while the other ferry is on the Likoni side coming to the island city of Mombasa...The ride takes approximately 5 to ten minute at most. Both people and vehicle load the ferry at the same time so that by the time one ferry is reaching at this end, the other ferry has reached the other end...almost at the same time...There is a shade where people from both sides wait for the ferry while cool music relax them...and announcements are made when to board the ferry....In this shade, sweets vendors and pastors use that chance to preach and sell to people before the ferry comes...and thieves too because at times people get congested in there

Ferry services--
a no filming sign written
in capital

 February wind--
a tattered flag on a blue
old ferry

on the ferry--
my swimming short
still dripping

The water was not much and we walked at the Kilindini harbor for a while .....and after the ferry dropped us on the Kenyan mainland side of Likoni town, we took several photos..

In Likoni town, there were all sorts of souvenirs beautifully displayed on a stand...

I rub a rough souvenir

Then we saw this thing and we had no idea what it was....

This is Fenesi, a Swahili word for Jack Fruit and a favourite to many Likoni residents. It is sugary and sticky. A resident reported that it is in surplus from November to early February and another one said that it is there all season so its seasonality is controversial.

February morning--
I unpack three jack fruit

I was shown how to bury the seeds in the soil so that the fruit grows into a big tree and I hope I will succeed.