Book Review: These Words; An Anthology of Poems by Professor Kivutha Kibwana

Introduction

At first glance, the legal profession and poetry seem like strange bedfellows. One may find it curious that the legal profession and the art of poetry would form a synergistic relationship. Yet, consider the fact that law has strong roots in the world of art and symbols, and poetry can often be, as Professor Kivutha Kibwana, the author of ‘These Words: An Anthology of Poems’ puts it. Because of its brevity and immediacy, poetry occupies a special place in the legal profession movement, which seeks to explore issues of poverty, suffering, nationhood and healing through the lenses of literature, history, philosophy, cultural studies, visual arts, and other humanities. This anthology is a stunning collection that showcases the author’s deep insight into the human experience. Drawing on themes of love, loss, nature, and spirituality, Kibwana’s poetry invites the reader on a journey of self-discovery and reflection.

Some nuggets

Kivutha Kibwana situates his poems in historical and cultural contexts that establish, vindicate and validate the authenticity and credibility of the Kenyan narrative. These allow the reader to understand, at least to some extent, the mindset of the poet and his or her original audience.  It is hardly surprising to find within the pages of any poetry a wealth of humour, insight, and poignant reflections on the fundamental human experiences of life, love, loss, time, and death.

One of the standout features of Kibwana’s poetry is its remarkable sense of empathy. Whether describing the beauty of a sunset or the pain of separation, Kibwana’s words evoke a deep sense of connection with the reader. This is perhaps most evident in works like “Pathway of love,” a haunting tribute to the power of a love that endures beyond the confines of time and space, and “hush child,” a poignant meditation on the bonds that tie us to our loved ones.

But perhaps what is most striking about “These Words” is its universal appeal. While deeply rooted in the author’s Kenyan heritage and personal experiences, Kibwana’s poetry speaks to the fundamental human experiences of love, loss, and longing. Through his words, he reminds us of our shared humanity and our capacity for empathy and connection, even in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Kibwana’s poetry is characterised by its simplicity, clarity and logical and succeeding progression of thoughts and ideas. His poems are written in a conversational style, making them easy to understand and relate to. His employment of different figures of speech and poetic devices such as metaphors, similes and personification makes the collection a memorable read.

They are an embodiment of Kibwana’s commitment to social and political change in Kenya and his belief in the power of words to inspire action and transform society. This he does through confronting uncomfortable themes such as rape, post-election violence, democracy, poverty, extra-judicial murders, and even lighter themes such as love, patriotism and fatherhood. He questions and recognizes major historical happenings such as the murder of Reverend John Kaiser, and the Kiambaa massacre and captures the hope, despair and anguish of the Kenyan people at the time.

He pays homage to individuals, both living and long-dead, whose heroic ideals and actions have contributed positively to the growth and development of Kenya as a society. He recognizes and rightfully confers a place in Kenya’s history to the Chief Justice Emeritus Willy Mutunga, the Late Father Anthony Kaisser, Reverend Timothy Njoya, Dedan Kimathi and his wife Mukami Kimathi.

This Anthology of poems can be described as timely in articulating issues that have constantly bedeviled Kenyan contemporary society. It has adequately captured the current socio-legal and political narratives, a good illustration is the poem Wanjiku accurately depicts the status quo of the common citizen in the wake of the ongoing rising cost of living, insurmountable taxation, and oppression by the ruling class.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Kivutha Kibwana’s poetry is a testament to the power of language to move, inspire, and transform us. His works are a rich tapestry of imagery, emotion, and thought that continue to resonate with readers around the country. Whether exploring the mysteries of the natural world or probing the depths of the human soul, Kibwana’s poetry remains a timeless and enduring masterpiece of the literary canon.

Beth Moraa is a finalist law student at the University of Nairobi. Her research interests include but are not limited to sexual and reproductive health rights, LGBTQI+ rights, children and the law, constitutional law, and human rights. She works as a Project Assistant for SHE SOARS at Nyanza Initiative for Girls Education and Empowerment and writes poetry too. She can be reached at moraamb1921@gmail.com

Miracle Okoth Mudeyi is a finalist law student at the University of Nairobi. His research interests include but are not limited to transformative constitutionalism, mental health law, and public international law, third-world approaches to international law, administrative law, and sexual and reproductive health rights. He currently works as a legal researcher at Chimera and Kamotho Co. Advocates and is a legal volunteer at Justice Defenders Coalition- Kenya. He can be reached via miracleokumu@gmail.com

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