Celebrating East African Writing!

New Age Poetry

The internet, computers, mobile internet and hi-tech personal digital assistants open up a whole new level of communication, and with it “new age literature”. As you may know, during the Storymoja Hay Festival, we ran two poetry competitions, one on regular poetry submitted via email, and the other a twitter haiku stream competition titled #tobeafrican.

When I first heard about the twitter haiku idea, I was wondering how in the world it would work. Well, the truth is, I have never been very good at poetry. Oh come on, we all know how much I like to talk and ramble. Sometimes poetry makes me feel like I have to cram a whole lot of smart info in a few lines. But a friend of mine who is an extraordinary poet told me that poetry is the opposite of  no-space; it is freedom. I had my doubts until I realised that texting, and tweeting, and status messages are the new age’s way of forcing everyone to be creative and poetic everyday. Unless your texts to your friends are always ‘Please Call Me’, and your tweets and status messages are boring messages about what you are eating, or which sock you put on first. Out of all the new age technology, three forms of hypertext poetry have emerged. 1. Poetic Précis: Very short and expressive lines, usually in haiku form, summarising a longer piece of prose, or expressing opinion about a topic. Below, find a poetic précis of The Psalms of David.

Out, out brief candle

Life’s but a walking shadow”

Strut, fret, play no more

The Tanka Psalter

2. Cultural Translation: An observation on current trends and culture. It is usually emotional and poignant. Cultural Translation poetry also takes themes used in already well-known forms of literature, and presents it in a localised translation. An example is the Nursery Rhyme ‘Jack and Jill’, which is anthropologically translated to represent the schema of humanity.

Certainly the most fundamental schema of humanity is ‘Jack and Jill’, boy and girl, male and female. The most fundamental element for survival is a pail of water. The most funadamental force which we must be overcome is gravity, our worst catastrophe is “the Fall” and the greatest sin is male domination of the female. Add these schema together to obtain life’s fundamental scenario.

See below a zen translation of the schema of humanity:

Touch me not or touch me a lot

Touch with care or touch me never

If we touch, but not too much

We will stay in touch forever.

3. Hypertext Embellishment: Hypertext refers to text displayed on a computer or other electronic device with references (hyperlinks) to other text that the reader can immediately access, usually by a mouse click or keypress sequence. Apart from running text, hypertext may contain tables, images and other presentational devices. Hypertext is the underlying concept defining the structure of the World Wide Web, making it an easy-to-use and flexible format to share information over the Internet.

Hypertext Embellishment is a build up on cultural translation, but in cute punchy lines.  Tanka has used a famous picture of cupid, uniting a couple, and made a Hypertext Valentine that reads:

Jack and Jill are wed today,

their marriage blessed by Cupid

Is this true love? Who can say!

Jack looks evil, Jill looks stupid.

This week’s reading is a poetry exhibition. The poems we are about to let you read, were the winning finalists of The Hay Festival Poetry Competition.

First place: Nkirote: 2 a.m. Souvenir
Second Place: Michael Kwambo: Letter from Kamiti
Third Place: Karanja Kebuchi: Four Wishes for Kenya

If you would like to participate in the Vignette Exercise to win the KES 1000 airtime, please go and read the instructions at last week’s writers’ weekly blog, and then send in your story to with VIGNETTE clearly marked in your email subject line by 11.59pm East African Time, Friday 5th November 2010. I am going to include the Blog’s schedule to make it easy for you to participate and make the deadlines.

“Start writing a new chapter, for if you live by the book you’ll never make history.”



This entry was posted on November 1, 2010 by in Writer's Blog.
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