Written by Faith Oneya
He is Oluoch-Madiang’. His dad loves to call him Wuod Nyar G’Otumba…and he likes it. All his cousins call him ‘Bobby’ but do not tell anyone ;). He blogs at www.madiang.wordpress.com and www.madiang.blogspot.com
FO: What are you currently doing?
OM: In my day-job, I am Prevention technical advisor at an international NGO called PATH. I help design health, social and behavior change communication strategies to help communities access better health. In my other world I am a manipulator of pens, a lover of music, appreciator of womenfolk, challenger of men and agent provocateur. I live.
FO: What are your passions? Hobbies?
OM: I truly love most listening to children reasoning and living. Whoever said that children are philosophers should be awarded a Kenyan parliamentary seat in the current form before the constitution takes over. I play darts, read wildly, cook ‘strungi’ tea, ride a static bike and generally observe the world and provoke humans.
FO: What kind of poet are you?
OM: I do not know if they are kinds of poets. I am of the ilk, if you must, that writes without wondering where the readers will place them. You answer that question for me.
FO: What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up today?
OM: I was contemplating my next poem, ‘The Gentleman of Ill Repute” and managed to get two words that fit a certain description of the persona. The two words are linked to city women’s foolish assumption that shoes make the man! Nkt!
Above: Oluoch Madiang’ in a performance
FO: What books are you currently reading?
OM: ‘Unspeakable Acts: Why Men Sexually Abuse Children’ by Douglas W. Pryor,‘Ahero Dhowa’ A collection of Luo stories, The Holy Quran and a strange e-book called ‘Healing The Pain’ downloaded from an equally strange site, esoteric.org.
FO: Who is your favorite writer/poet and for what reason are they your favorite writer/poet?
OM: I really do not have a favorite poet in the popular sense. My university poetry teacher, Samuel Kimaru, (he of the ‘Forgive Me Parking Boy’ fame) is a poet that Kenya never discovered and he thus went into coffee farming to pull ends together. Yusef Komunyakaa’s ‘Ode to the Drum’ as read by Chris Abani just makes me go gaga. I think Pablo Neruda is amazing…and that Stefan Tsanev’s words in the play ‘The Other Death of Joan of Arc’ have deep poetic appeal. But my most genuine and deep response to poetry is inclined towards the poetic creations of the Luo Nyatiti songsters, one-man-guitar thinkers, the funeral mourners and men and women of prayer. I swear by my thin wallet, there is not any amazing poetry I have ever come across that beats the impromptu poems crafted by the Nyatiti singer, the mourner or the spiritually traumatized in the course of their celebrations, desperations and grovels! If you want to find poetry, go to the Nyatiti gatherings, the funerals, prayer-houses and the one-man-guitar dens. Therein do my favorite poets and poetry reside.
FO: What is one book you haven’t read but want to read before you die?
OM: Death shall not give me book-reading deadlines, my dear FO. It can go hang! I nevertheless look forward to the day I will get a kid. The book I shall work with him/her to write when he/she will be in his/her ‘why, why’ years will be to me the most fulfilling read I will have ever had. Ever. Currently I write children’s books by using other people’s children as my test tubes.
FO: Do you sit and think through every word of every stanza or do you just write freely and allowing the words to flow?
OM: I get the words as I walk or when doing something else like cooking or presentations/training in my day job. I also realize that sleeping is a good pose for writers…you amazingly find the right words, phrases, cries and laughter. A poet who sits will never think! Anyway, words are important to me in so far as they can provide the clues to my meaning. While being my best allies in expressing myself, they are nevertheless again my worst tormentors when my readers choose to eat them with the soup of their narrow-mindedness and socio-religo-econo-subjective cocoons. I seek musicality through words and phrases and stanzas sometimes, but really, they never mind-cuff me in my quest to share meaning, provocation, understanding.
FO: When did you first start writing and were there any incidents in your life that made you want to write?
OM: The realization in Std. 4 at Flamingo Primary School that in Composition, you can actually lie. Having been brought up in truth, I was at a great loss when Mrs. Onyando ordered us 10 year olds to write a piece (called Composition) entitled ‘My Grandmother’. I thought then that, surely, I could only write well and gain all the marks if I mentioned my granny’s names and age. Poor born-town me, I knew none of the above. So, I faked it. I composed that she was called some angelic name or the other and that she was this or that old. When I confessed my sins to mum and dad that evening, they assured me that I shouldn’t worry. My teacher, they theorized, did not know who my grandmother was! That was a shock to me! Teachers only ask you what they know, I protested! Otherwise, how would she mark me right or wrong? Well, Mrs. Onyando did give me 37 out of a possible 40 and asked me to read my ‘composition’ to the rest of my dunderhead classmates. She admonished them to learn from me on how to write. Since then, I started writing. Writing truths as if they were lies and lies as if they were half-baked lies! I wrote love-letters full of true lies and noticed my talent from the responsiveness of the swindled recipients. Then I knew, aha, I AM a writer: of truths and lies and everything in between.
FO: Do you have a favorite poem among those you have written? If so, which one? Please write down a few lines from it.
OM: I believe that my best poem is ‘The Weeping’. It is the poem I most relate with. My fans say they love ‘Lord, My Woman Is Talking!’ I think that is a shame, really. But let everyone to his/her own error go. Despite that poem being a favorite (A Congolese Catholic Priest told me it ought not to be broadcast to God’s creation), I think my favorite lines come from the poem, ‘The Commoner’s Feet’. Those lines remind me daily of what I see as Kenyans sharpen their votes every now and then to vote in rapists, plunderers, murderers, drunkards and incorrigible illiterates to lead them into rape, plunder, murder and all other vices of death:
Common man’s feet walking Uncommon man’s talk.
Common feet hurrying, shuffling, wobbling, tripping.
Common feet stepping on common feet,
Stampeding commons trampling commons; to walk…
The Uncommon Big Foot’s talk.
FO: Have you been published before? Any plans to do so?
OM: My children’s book, ‘In the Land of the Kitchen’ was published by Storymoja. My play, ‘Then We Were Fools No More’ was sat on by a publisher until I had to retrieve it before it thinned out kabisa! I have finished writing ‘Laughter In The Land of the Kitchen’ as a sequel to the published one. I am currently writing, ‘How They Voted In the Mouth Elections’ for children and ‘Once Upon Naivasha’ for adults. I will have these self-published, though a most intriguing and interesting and promising offer of publishing my work has just knocked on my door from a most unusual yet credible source. Watch my space as you read Saitoti’s lips! Lol!
FO: Where can we watch you perform?
OM: Honestly, nowhere! I like watching and laughing at others as they perform my pieces of art. I am nevertheless not averse to being seduced into performing…anywhere! Again, Lol!
FO: What question have you always wanted to be asked as a poet and how would you answer it?
OM: Poets should never be questioned…questioners should be poetrocuted! Nkt!
- You: Wislawa Szymborska, Nobel-Winning Polish Poet, Dies at 88 (nytimes.com)
- A Blog Post on … (ropesuc.wordpress.com)
- Poet Wislawa Szymborska Leaves the World (peaceandbread.com)
- Monica Achieng Oluoch : Kenya (kiva.org)
- Meet the Poet: Margaret Muthee (literarychronicles.wordpress.com)
- Meet the Alive and a Little Wild Poet: Anne Muturi (literarychronicles.wordpress.com)