ART CHECK

New poet shines in the season of love and life

For Nkirote Kinoti, writing is an escape from the rigours of risk rating and reporting

In Summary

• 'Desire' poetry collection author discusses her book and budding career

Poet Nkirote Kinoti
Poet Nkirote Kinoti
Image: COURTESY

Upcoming poet Nkirote Kinoti spoke to our literary reviewer on her background, motivation and creativity.

The Star: This has been a year of poetry even in this season of a global pandemic, at least here in Kenya. You are about the tenth poet being reviewed on this page in the past year. How do you prefer to be known in the circles of poetry in Kenya and beyond?

Poet: I was born Julie Nkirote Kinoti. However, I write, and prefer to be known, as Nkirote Kinoti. It is the name on my debut book of poems entitled, Desire. It was published by the Writers Guild of Kenya in July 2020. 

Tell us more about yourself.

I am a risk management professional, a writer, a poet and a happy, free soul. Moreover, I am a wife and mother of two beautiful children.

What has been your motivation to write over the years?

I have always enjoyed writing, and my English teacher in primary school, a Mrs Anondo helped me realise I have unique writing skills. I take after my late father, Job Kinoti, who was an English enthusiast. He taught English, was a brilliant playwright and had a number of plays feature in drama festivals.

Most poets have always cited their mothers as the primary source of inspiration, especially in their formative years.

This is true of my condition, too. My mother has been a keen source of inspiration over the decades. Mrs Marion Kinoti, is not only an adept mathematician but also has impressive grammar skills, enjoys reading fiction and will not let any crossword puzzle go unsolved. We grew up with a well-stocked library, and played Scrabble and Boggle from the time I could only spell three letter words. This environment helped shape my grammar from early on, even though we spoke fluent ‘Kimeru’ at home.

Tell us more about your career and its influence to your writing.

When I took up risk management as a career, I quickly realised that the very formal and structured risk management reports have no room for my superfluous language and creative itch. I started doodling simple sentences, describing my experiences during the day, and fascinating things I had observed or read about, or even thought about, in a relaxed and contemporary way. On most days, writing was a great escape from the rigours of risk rating and reporting; and on days when I wrote something fantastic, the feeling of pure joy would engulf me for days, spurring me to write again and again.

Tell us about your style.

I experimented with different genres of writing, and realised that I particularly enjoyed the metrical structure of poetry more than writing in prose. I also researched about poetic forms and wrote different types of poems, and this made the writing experience even more enjoyable. Through poetry, you can tell a full story in a few lines or stanzas, complete with literary devices and a combination of writing styles. Over time, I had a collection of 20 poems that had received a hard-hearted review from my younger brother before they could be released to the world.

What is the highlight of your poetry career?

The most gratifying moment was when I sent some of my pieces to Writers Guild - Kenya, for an opinion and advice on what I could do with my words. I got a very encouraging response, and a promise that Writers Guild would help me publish my fist book. For every aspiring creative, it is one thing to have friends and family commend your work and truly satisfying to have a professional endorse your talent. The excitement was channelled to increasing the number of poems so we could publish a normal-sized book instead of a chapbook. This led to the birth of Desire in July 2020.

This is your first book of verse. What can you tell us about it?

Desire is a collection of contemporary poems on love and life, told in a strong woman’s voice. One of the poems, ‘Men Cry’, was accepted for publishing in the second volume of the Looking Glass Anthology: Letters to Our Sons, in January 2021. Looking Glass Anthology is a multi-genre international anthology of art and literature by women around the world.

The book is available from all major bookstores across the country and can also be ordered from The Writers Guild at [email protected]