Of literary friendships and growing together

By Wr. Dismas Okombo

It was the graceful lines of plays that ushered me into the eloquence of poetry; then, poetry redirected my enthusiasm to ornate prose. From there, the whole world opened up to me. And yet over time, as I plied my heart to the weaving of narrations and composition of poems, the absurdity in me obliterated the humbling fact that my first encounter with the beauty of storytelling was in plays. [This absurdity, which I suppose exist in all of us, is the kind that makes one forget the things one should remember while remembering the things one longs to forget.]

Occasionally, when the flow of existence would begin to feel mechanical, I attended the theater; and intermittently, I promised myself to read more plays. But never did I contemplate writing one; until this past Saturday at AMKA forum, and from a conversation with Daisy thereafter. For the first time in years, a play had been presented at the forum for critique, Dr. Tom emphasized. And with Wahome’s, Ontita’s and his guidance, the intricacies of playwriting were intimately dissected.

Every second of the discourse, nostalgia clouded my mind.

When Daisy and I walked from our second literary event of the year [the first was at Writers Guild Kenya; the previous day], at the steps of Goethe Institute, the Nairobi’s noon sun warmed our skins. A new but familiar passion lurked my spirit. And as our chitchat fluctuated on writing, as is common among writers, Daisy would often rub her palms together and then place them on her cheeks. Our pace in synch, we crossed streets and avenues. And when we neared Anniversary Towers, the conversation veered back to plays.

In eager enthusiasm, she expressed her desire to write one. However, the dilemma is deciding what story to tell with what genre troubled her. Before this encounter, such a predicament was nonexistent in my world of writing. But then, my world of writing had constituted only short stories and poetry. A moment of disjoint silence that followed seemed to have begged from her further explanation. For, her eyes fixed on her next step; her hands now in her black khaki pants pockets, she explained: “…Like, what makes a writer determine that a story will be better told in flash fiction, or short story or poetry, or in this case, play.”

“I think it depends on the genre the writer has specialized in. A poet will instinctively opt to compose a poem. And an essayist will naturally incline towards essays.” I fumbled a response.

“I don’t intend to limit myself to a particular genre.” She replied; excitement mingled with a tinge of exasperation in her voice. This statement stung my conscious, that, from the immediate moment when at the University flyover we parted [while her predicament still unresolved], I was forced to contemplate on the matter and to review my writings and the limitations I had imposed on myself.

From the successive moments of reflections throughout my way home, I determined that every story can be told through any genre, and that, perhaps, it is unwise and limiting for a writer to restrict his or her writing to a particular genre. [And, to join the endless discussion going about; no particular genre is superior to another. The spoken word is no better than page poetry; just as flash fiction is not an elevated form of a short story, and children’s stories are of equal importance.] It is with this resolution that I anticipate our next meeting. In the meantime, I have resolved to try my hand in other forms of writing. Plays topping the list

Such is the importance of attending literary events and nurturing friendship with fellow writers; they expand one’s world view, challenge and refine one’s ideas. And if I may borrow from Mr. David Ngugi’s presentation during Writers Guild Ekklesia, where he demonstrated to those present the rise and fall of societies; the strong societies [writers] open their arms to others. For, fortresses breed negativism and ignorance. This year may you and I open our arms to others. We are kindreds at heart.

At this point, dear reader and fellow writer, happy new year! I pray that the muse may perch and nest on your shoulder; from this beginning to the several beginnings to come.

The Writer is an affiliate of Writers Guild –Kenya. Email-poetdismas@gmail.com 

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