chris@okemwa.com |

XX Internacional De Poesia De Medellin, 2010

I attended and participated at the XX International Poetry Festival in Medellin, Colombia, from 8th to 17th of July 2010.

The poets who participated with me were as follows: Vladimir Marku (Albania), Teresa Colom (Andorra), Althea Romeo-Mark (Antigua), Esteban Moore (Argentina), Lola Koundakjian (Armenia), Quito Nicolaas (Aruba), Udo Kawasser (Austria), Obediah Michael Smith (Bahamas), Quamruzzaman (Bangladesh), Claudio Willer (Brazil), Homero Carvalho (Bolivia), U Sam Oeur (Cambodia), Paul Dakeyó (Cameroon), Alberto Vélez, Andrea Cote, Ángela García, Argemiro Menco, Berenice Pineda, Claudia Trujillo, Consuelo Hernández, Darío Jaramillo, Eduardo Peláez, Fernando Rendón, Gabriel Arturo Castro, Gabriel Jaime Franco, Gustavo Garcés, Héctor Fagot, Jairo Guzmán, José Libardo Porras, Jotamario Arbeláez, Juan Diego Tamayo, Juan Diego Velásquez, León Gil, Marco Mejía, Pedro Arturo Estrada, Piedad Bonnett, Rafael Patiño, Raúl Henao, Sarah Beatriz Posada, Tarsicio Valencia, Tatiana Mejía, Umberto Senegal, Walther Espinal (Colombia), Vito Apshana (Nación Wayuu, Colombia), Guillermo Sáenz Patterson (Costa Rica), Domingo Alfonso, Oscar Cruz (Cuba), Verónica Zondek, Javier Campos (Chile), Mette Moestrup (Denmark), Rei Berroa (Dominican Republic), Lucila Lema (Kichua Nation, Ecuador), Amin Hadad, Arif Khudairi (Egypt), Lauri García Dueñas (El Salvador), Jean Clarence Lambert, Alice Caron Lambert, Julien Delmaire (France), Alhaji Papa Susso (Gambia), Uwe Kolbe (Germany), Carolina Escobar Sarti (Guatemala), Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo (Guinea), John Agard, Grace Nichols (Guyana), Imtiaz Dharker (India/UK), Luigi Cinque (Italy), Christopher Okemwa Oira (Kenya), Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (Liberia), Homero Aridjis (Mexico), Juan Gregorio Regino (Mazateca, Mexico), Hadaa Sendoo (Mongolia), Howard A. Fergus (Monserrat), Mohammed Bennis (Morocco), Luis Carlos Patraquim (Mozambique), James Norcliffe (New Zealand), Niyi Osundare (Nigeria), Erling Kittelsen (Norway), Nathalie Handal (Plaestine), Aiban Wagua (Kuna Nation, Panamá), Carlos Villagra Marsal (Paraguay), Gemino H. Abad (Philippines), Renato Sandoval (Peru), Yevgeny Yevtushenko (Russia), Milena Ercolani (San Marino), Cecil "Blazer" Williams (San Vicente y Granadinas), Braño Hochel (Slovaquia), Indran Amirthanayagam (Sri Lanka/ United States), Jenny Tunedal, Lasse Söderberg (Sweden), Fabiano Alborghetti (Switzerland), Hala Mohammad (Syria), Jules Deelder (The Netherlands), Jean Jacques Sewanou-Dabla (Togo), Ak Welsapar (Turkmenistan), Vasyl Makhno (Ukrania), Caroline Bird (United Kingdom), Bob Holman, Ken McCullough (United States), Gustavo Pereira, Ophir Alviarez (Venezuela).

My Performances

On 9th July 2010, at 11.00 am I performed my poetry at Alianza Francesa, Parque de San Antonio, together with Juan Diego velasquez of Colombia, Hala Mohammad of Siria and Vasyl Makhno of Ukrain.

On the 10th of July 2010, at 4.30 pm, I read and performed my poetry at Municipio de Ciudad Bolivar, Camara de Comercio, with friend poets--- Pedro Arturo Estrada of Colombia, Arif Khudairi of Egypt and Erling kittelsen of Norway. During the event I met one great artist called Lina Isabel Jaramillo. She interviewed me for the television before the audience.

After the event we travelled back to Medellin city. On the way it started to rain. It increased and the driving became difficult. As we drove on we were stopped by trees that had fallen across the road. With the help of Erling Kittelsen, the strong poet among us, we tried to remove them, but to no avail. We had to return and spent a night in a small market centre somewhere in Colombia. We left for Medellin the following day. What an experience to remember!

On Sunday 11th July 2010 I performed at Museo El Castillo, Loma Los Balsos at 6.00pm. I was together with Ken McCullough of Estados Unidos, Jotamario Arbelaez of Colombia and Jean Clarence Lambert of France and John Agard of Guyana.

(Click on the poem titles to read the poems)

I attended and participated at the XX International Poetry Festival in Medellin, Colombia, from 8th to 17th of July 2010.

The poets who participated with me were as follows: Vladimir Marku (Albania), Teresa Colom (Andorra), Althea Romeo-Mark (Antigua), Esteban Moore (Argentina), Lola Koundakjian (Armenia), Quito Nicolaas (Aruba), Udo Kawasser (Austria), Obediah Michael Smith (Bahamas), Quamruzzaman (Bangladesh), Claudio Willer (Brazil), Homero Carvalho (Bolivia), U Sam Oeur (Cambodia), Paul Dakeyó (Cameroon), Alberto Vélez, Andrea Cote, Ángela García, Argemiro Menco, Berenice Pineda, Claudia Trujillo, Consuelo Hernández, Darío Jaramillo, Eduardo Peláez, Fernando Rendón, Gabriel Arturo Castro, Gabriel Jaime Franco, Gustavo Garcés, Héctor Fagot, Jairo Guzmán, José Libardo Porras, Jotamario Arbeláez, Juan Diego Tamayo, Juan Diego Velásquez, León Gil, Marco Mejía, Pedro Arturo Estrada, Piedad Bonnett, Rafael Patiño, Raúl Henao, Sarah Beatriz Posada, Tarsicio Valencia, Tatiana Mejía, Umberto Senegal, Walther Espinal (Colombia), Vito Apshana (Nación Wayuu, Colombia), Guillermo Sáenz Patterson (Costa Rica), Domingo Alfonso, Oscar Cruz (Cuba), Verónica Zondek, Javier Campos (Chile), Mette Moestrup (Denmark), Rei Berroa (Dominican Republic), Lucila Lema (Kichua Nation, Ecuador), Amin Hadad, Arif Khudairi (Egypt), Lauri García Dueñas (El Salvador), Jean Clarence Lambert, Alice Caron Lambert, Julien Delmaire (France), Alhaji Papa Susso (Gambia), Uwe Kolbe (Germany), Carolina Escobar Sarti (Guatemala), Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo (Guinea), John Agard, Grace Nichols (Guyana), Imtiaz Dharker (India/UK), Luigi Cinque (Italy), Christopher Okemwa Oira (Kenya), Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (Liberia), Homero Aridjis (Mexico), Juan Gregorio Regino (Mazateca, Mexico), Hadaa Sendoo (Mongolia), Howard A. Fergus (Monserrat), Mohammed Bennis (Morocco), Luis Carlos Patraquim (Mozambique), James Norcliffe (New Zealand), Niyi Osundare (Nigeria), Erling Kittelsen (Norway), Nathalie Handal (Plaestine), Aiban Wagua (Kuna Nation, Panamá), Carlos Villagra Marsal (Paraguay), Gemino H. Abad (Philippines), Renato Sandoval (Peru), Yevgeny Yevtushenko (Russia), Milena Ercolani (San Marino), Cecil "Blazer" Williams (San Vicente y Granadinas), Braño Hochel (Slovaquia), Indran Amirthanayagam (Sri Lanka/ United States), Jenny Tunedal, Lasse Söderberg (Sweden), Fabiano Alborghetti (Switzerland), Hala Mohammad (Syria), Jules Deelder (The Netherlands), Jean Jacques Sewanou-Dabla (Togo), Ak Welsapar (Turkmenistan), Vasyl Makhno (Ukrania), Caroline Bird (United Kingdom), Bob Holman, Ken McCullough (United States), Gustavo Pereira, Ophir Alviarez (Venezuela).

My Performances

On 9th July 2010, at 11.00 am I performed my poetry at Alianza Francesa, Parque de San Antonio, together with Juan Diego velasquez of Colombia, Hala Mohammad of Siria and Vasyl Makhno of Ukrain.

On the 10th of July 2010, at 4.30 pm, I read and performed my poetry at Municipio de Ciudad Bolivar, Camara de Comercio, with friend poets--- Pedro Arturo Estrada of Colombia, Arif Khudairi of Egypt and Erling kittelsen of Norway. During the event I met one great artist called Lina Isabel Jaramillo. She interviewed me for the television before the audience.

After the event we travelled back to Medellin city. On the way it started to rain. It increased and the driving became difficult. As we drove on we were stopped by trees that had fallen across the road. With the help of Erling Kittelsen, the strong poet among us, we tried to remove them, but to no avail. We had to return and spent a night in a small market centre somewhere in Colombia. We left for Medellin the following day. What an experience to remember!

On Sunday 11th July 2010 I performed at Museo El Castillo, Loma Los Balsos at 6.00pm. I was together with Ken McCullough of Estados Unidos, Jotamario Arbelaez of Colombia and Jean Clarence Lambert of France and John Agard of Guyana.

(Click on the poem titles to read the poems)

When I Die

 When I die, my fair kin
Don’t burn my body
Don’t bury it either
Leave it to rot on the ground

Only put a little flower on it
But not the fragrant rose
For I might smell it and be happy
And wish to live again

When I breathe no more
My kind siblings
Sing me a song from the hymnal
But don’t choose number thirteen

For it might chant my ears
And warm my cold heart
Be reminiscent of joyful days
Making me wish to live again

When I kick the bucket
And stark becomes my body
Read me a little line from the bible
But don’t read the psalms

For you know I am a sinner
And have done little to mankind
And would want to do something for charities
Therefore wishing to live again

When I die, my fair world
Don’t cremate my body
Don’t, with hoes, inter me either
Leave it to waste on the ground

©Christopher Okemwa

Valentine’s Day

Having missed you on Valentine’s Day
I went back home, wan and grey
With nothing much for me to say

The little rose with a bright hue
Is now sullen, drooping
Seemingly mourning the absence of you

Don’t wait till all leaves drop, dear
And the stem remain empty and bare
It will be to make love glare with fear

Come on and water it, this symbol of love
Being part of it, oh sweetest dear
You know better how to retrieve the withering life.

©Christopher Okemwa

Let Me Know

If I ever offended you
Discuss it with me, dear love
Don’t keep it in the heart for too long
Let me know of the mistake
I have made, dear love
That makes you pale, mute
If I once shouted at you
And you were flustered, dear love
It is because I cared, or so I thought
Let us talk with open minds
Of the flaws, the pitfalls
And mend the broken fences
Bring to an end this silence
And hear your voice again, dear love
As it always came to me.

©Christopher Okemwa

An Old Retired School Teacher

I met an old retired schoolteacher
His coat was faded, his shirt tattered
Wrinkles and crevices filled his forehead
Upon his chin was pasted a grey tuft
Of soil-caked, fluff-filled beard
He tottered along on an empty road
His lips moving, muttering to himself

I stopped to ask him his troubles
Why he was lonely and talking to himself
He said he had seen good old days
And enjoyed every hour of his life
He had taught so many great people
Some of whom held big positions in government
The society as it stood then, he said
Owed it all to his hard work as a teacher
But he shook his head and regretted
That his head carried half the world’s problems
And darkness was engulfing his twilight years.

He said he had retired a year ago
And TSC hadn’t released his pension
His third wife was at Pumwani giving birth
He had not paid dowry for his fifth wife
And to add injury to salt
Neither of his sons-in-law had paid their pride-price

The old man looked at me again
With red eyes that were heavy with sleep
“Son,” he said, “how I long for youth hood!”
He curled his nose and moved his lower lip
Turned and tottered away, muttering to himself.

©Christopher Okemwa

Other Performances

On Tuesday13TH July 2010 I performed my poems at Universidad EAFIT, auditorio Fundadores at 11.ooam. I was with Hector Fagot of Colombia, Udo Kawasser of Austria, Teresa Colom of Andorra and Howard A. Fergus of Monserrat. Teachers and students from the area came to listen to us. The audience was so excited and bubbled with anxiety. After the poetry reading everyone wanted us to autograph the poetry books they had bought from us.

On Wednesday 14th July 2010, I performed at Adida, Teatro Luis Felipe Velez, Poetas Africanos. I performed alongside four poets, who were all from Africa. These were Paul Dekayo from Cameroon, Jean Jacques Sewanou Dabla from Togo and Koumanthio Zeinabou from Guinea.

On Friday16th July 2010, I performed at Parque Obrero del Municipio de Itagui. The poets with whom I performed were ClaudiaTrujillo of Colombia, Erling Kittelsen of Norway, Javier Campos of Chile and Nathalie Handel of Palestine.

On the last day, Saturday 17th July 2010, I was chosen to perform early in the morning before the closing ceremony began in the afternoon. The place where I performed was called Biblioteca del Corregimiento de Palmitas. I was impressed at the small enthusiastic audience in a small village. They asked me to perform an African poem which I did and it was all claps and cheers.

In the evening I attended the closing ceremony where we read a poem each. Thousands of people had gathered. The rain fell but could not scatter the enthusiastic audience. I was amazed at the number of people—young girls and boys, students and old people—who sat, wrapped in plastic rain clothes and who defied the rains. One poet after another was called to read their poems. Finally I heard my name. I took the podium and, with a rose flower on one hand, read my one poem “Valentine’s Day.”