Book Review

Self-published poet launches new book

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Morning Shall Come by Ouma Don Collins book cover . PHOTO | POOL

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Summary

  • Morning Shall Come,  was launched last weekend at Alliance Francaise.
  • Ouma Don Collins throughout his new collection of 50 poems, reveals himself to be a deeply thoughtful man who has much to say about many facets of life.

Ouma Don Collins sounds like a modest man when he described himself, on the last page of his book, Morning Shall Come, which was launched last weekend at Alliance Francaise.

He simply states,”Ouma Don Collins is an African Writer and Social Entrepreneur from Kenya (Nairobi).”

Yet throughout his new collection of 50 poems, Ouma reveals himself to be a deeply thoughtful man who has much to say about many facets of life. He is also a poet who studied bio-technology, not literature, at Kenyatta University.

“I have been writing poetry for as long as I can remember,” he told Weekender on the day of his launch. “But publishing a book of poetry isn’t easy to do in Kenya, so I chose to self-publish my first book,” he adds.

He also took charge of the book launch, which was well-attended, largely by fellow writers and spoken-word poets who waited patiently for the ‘show’ to begin.

Ouma was there in time for the lengthy programme to start on schedule at 2pm. But as per ‘Nairobi time’, nothing got going until 3pm. After that, there was a stream of spoken word poets, including three young girls (aged 8, 10, and 13) who stole the show for me. All three were poised, their performances polished. But it was the 10-year-old who tore it up by speaking from the perspective of a child who had been sexually abused and now endures the injustice of being a child having a child. She complained of being robbed of her innocence and even blamed her mother for not preparing or protecting her from such abuse.

The launch became a platform for that stream of ‘curtain-raisers’ who were followed by a panel. But apart from the moderator, University of Nairobi lecturer Apido Sidang, the three panelists mainly read several of Ouma’s poems.

All this is to say the apparently modest poet who understated himself in his book was more modest than necessary by allowing other poets to constitute the bulk of his launch. I wanted to hear more about his motivations for not only self-publishing but also selecting the poems that he did

Nearly half the poems in Morning Shall Come were in praise of women, including one dedicated to his mom. Whole poems were given over to the poet’s affection for everyone from Nelima, Kossi and Doti to Chella, Mbuki, and his ‘Three Strong Women’ who retained their anonymity. It is often their beauty that the poet admires, but he also has specific reasons for his affections, making him as much a storyteller as a poet.

Don’t get the notion that Morning must Come is essentially a collection of love poems, which it is not. And while one of the panelists, the published poet, Munira Hussein, suggested the overriding tone and theme of the book were positive and hopeful, there are several of Ouma’s poems that have political as well as spiritual undertones.

For instance, in Lamentation, he cryptically alludes to those who have been ‘maimed and preyed’ [upon]. He wrote: “My heart, my land, my soul, they took it all away/with all my freedom and rights.” He doesn’t identify ‘who-done-it’. But he notes he might be shot with impunity anytime. And in contrast to the upbeat spirit that he expresses in many of his poems, including the collection’s title, he actually laments in one poem that it looks like “morning will never come again.”

The poet is also concerned with the problem of power and how it can be misused. In Power, he lists all the ways power can be abused when mixed with evil rather than good.

But Ouma tends not to let his poems end on a dark note. In Power, he ends in the hope that his power will lead to his offspring’s happiness and “abundance for everyone.”

There is also an element of spirituality implied in many of Ouma’s poems. For instance, in Hush the Tussle, the peacemaker in him counsels against revenge and for peace. He even appeals to a Higher Power when he writes: ‘To the Almighty your soul we pray/ And to us His blessings to reign/ in our hearts you shall forever remain.’

Yet Ouma is no priest. He admits in his Preface that he’s ambitious. He also advises his readers not to downplay their own ambitions. Instead, he says, they should “dare to dream, dare to win and dare to be great. When all is said and done, morning shall come and the sun will shine.”