There is a lot of things in life that I do not get, poetry is one of them. This might come as a shock to a lot of people but not to me. People say to me: Potash you are a writer, how can you not get poetry. That is the problem right there. If it were to be assumed that I am a writer, how does that make me, by default, a good reader of every other means of artistic expression out there?
See, the thing I like to point out is that there is no lingua franca for artists. When people ask me what I write my response is: words mainly, but when I am lucky I get in a few sentences and paragraphs too. But no one asks me what I read and why, they just proceed to drag me into an engagement with their poetry. When I insist that I do not get it, they say: But, Potash you are a writer! Yes, I do write, but I write prose. It is the form that I appreciate the most. It is the structure through which I find myself most able to communicate creative ideas. I do not privilege prose, as the ultimate form of literary expression, I privilege it as the ultimate form of literary expression, for me.
Let me make a few things clear. I grew up being told, and I know it to be self evident, that the first step to being a writer is to be a reader. And a reader I am. In fact I go through alternating phases of intense reading and zero writing and intense writing and zero reading. (Zero is, of course an absolute and I baulk at such but see it here as hyperbole for illustrative purpose). As a reader, it ought to be noted that I read widely. I read everything I can get my hands on. And everything means everything, including Kenyan newspapers. The question is how often do I read Kenyan newspapers? How often do I read poetry?
The big challenge for me is the need to consume knowledge/ information and creative energies being on one hand, how to best consume these is on the other. So prose, being for me the easiest to ingest, must take an enormous amount of my time. Unfortunately, this need to consume aside, the writer part of me comes with more responsibilities than power. Being embraced by writers has made me part of a larger, global artistic and intellectual community that demands that you cannot trash it if you have not read it and therefore, once a month at most, if free internet is available and I have had a surfeit of breaking porn and trending tweets, I will skim through the most read stories in the Kenyan dailies.
Still there is horrid prose out there (and it is just not on page 1 of the Nation as my once in two years attempts at reading that blog Kumekucha have taught me) and though as a reader I am bonded to read them, as a human being, lately blessed with choice in reading material, I will often not.
And there is good poetry out there, too, I just cannot tell you if it is really good. I cannot because I do not get it. I just read it as part of my corporate social responsibility as a (fringe) player in the literary/ creative/ knowledge industry. And that responsibility ends with reading so spare me your demands for analysis.