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    Live Your Best Life!

    A Civil Engineer by profession, I am an East African girl (from Kenya, Africa) of many interests. I have had an interest in photography for as long as I can remember. I also started writing poems at the age of 14, and I love to travel and explore the world of Art & Culture. I blog about my Travels, my Photography and Poems, Art & Culture on this corner of the internet to inspire others to live deeply and extensively, and every once in a while, I throw in a lifestyle post from lessons learnt. I update on Wednesdays and/or Saturdays. Never miss a post by subscribing for free email notifications at the footer of this blog. I am glad you are here, thank you & welcome. (Image: I am on the far right, right centre is Lola Shoneyin, Nigerian author and poet, and those two on the left are friends of mine, Nairobi 2017.)


    There are friends who grow on us like an ivy - slowly but surely. We look back after a couple of years and we find that their name covers more than just a few memories. They were there for you on lazy afternoons in uni, and during the interesting and difficult times and they were there when you fell for someone so hard and they saw you go the full length of a range of emotions - from being intrigued, to fantasy, to being whipped aka swept off your feet, to losing the blinders and seeing that maybe that interest was not all you made them out to be, to healing and moving on and doing the whole thing over and over until you outgrow the outraging passions of being a young adult and settle into a mold that you like. 






    That is the type of friendship that we have shared with Ivy - she and I are less of peas in a pod, and more like different blooms - true to our names, she is an ivy, and I a daisy. She is the calm composed rational one, and I am the daisy - the vibrant, dramatic, intense and impulsive one. Her existential beliefs, her background, her interests are quite largely different from mine, and she reads my poems as a placebo editor as should friends of poets though I know she would rather not on a  normal day. Once I invited her for Mass, and after I asked her how was it, and she told me - honestly, it was very ritualistic. And that was that. though she did like the disposition of the priest and the community of faith I belong to at large.



       


     She studied mechanical engineering, and I civil engineering in the same uni, and that is how we met. I do not recall the instant we met, but she was the roommate of a former high-school mate of mine, and we shared mutual acquaintances, and some classes and somewhere between class and the hostels, a friendship blossomed and still continues to blossom more than 6 years later.







    Now that life is becoming divergent after uni, and it becomes harder and harder to keep up with our friends like we would when we had the advantage of proximity in thought and distance, making time to see those who matter to me has become top priority. I like to squeeze as much as I can from the time I get to spend with those I love. So when I was in Nairobi for the holidays, the same evening after going to the Murumbi Art Gallery, running some errands, and spending some time at Garden City Mall with my family, I went for a sleepover at hers, and the next day, we went for a nature walk close to where she lives, where there is an old railway line and a planted forest of considerable size. The most interesting thing is that she was not even aware of the rail track though it is less than 20 meters away from where she lives, and I really enjoyed exploring the planted forest-of -sorts and we had to pass through a hole in a barbed fence (aka trespass but there was no "do not trespass" sign) and we went and went until we came upon old dilapidated  houses, and a clearing that had remnants of demolished houses and that is where we took these shots. 




    We then went further, and Ivy decided that we should not tempt fate when we felt the hairs at the back of our necks stand the further we went and we came upon houses that seemed like they had occupants. I agreed with her when a couple of young men passed us in silence, and we felt like we should definitely turn back. 

    What seemed to come out of a horror movie is when an old lady stood at the opening we used to get into the fenced forest - she stood still, and we did too in turn, while asking ourselves if she was looking at us or going on about her business. The standstill came to a halt, when we saw two young boys join her and they came into the clearing, and we took that as cue from the universe to leave. And leave we did, with these amazing shots, the memory of a morning well spent bonding and enjoying the morning sun, and discovering the less known parts of a town that had brought us together. 







    To book a portrait session, email me at simplymoraa@gmail.com
    . Feb 14, 2018 .

    popular posts

    . Feb 7, 2018 .



    We all know the pillars that accompany money talk when we ask about how to grow our money – spend less and save more, or start saving if you haven’t, find an alternative source of income and invest. So why are we still broke? Why are we still living from hand to mouth month after month? Why are we grappling with poverty? This is an interesting question for me seeing as our parents’ generation worked their lives off, and while some have something to show for it, most do not. So what is missing – what is this thing that our parents did, that we are also doing that is preventing us from progressing towards financial independence and gain?
    I do not claim to have the answer, but from my assessment – the missing ingredient is financial literacy and self-discipline. This does not mean that the sacrifices our parents made or we are making to sustain life were bad financial decisions, but some of them could have been handled better.
    Take for instance, say you have been working for 2 or 3 years now since you graduated, how much do you have in your savings that could sustain you for a couple of months if day you lost your job? Do you have an emergency fund? Do you have an insurance cover? Have you started considering a side hustle? Do you debts that you need to clear off, say HELB, and how are you clearing it away? What is your target of being HELB – loan free? Or do you have other debts that could have been avoided – say you borrowed money because you did not want your friends to know that you are broke so that you can attend yet another restaurant opening or baby shower or trip out of town? If the answers to these questions are tending toward the negative, it is time for you to buckle up your financial seat belt and start safe driving, because where you are headed is toward financial ruin and you need to remedy that.
    As with all ailments, financial ill health starts small. And the sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner and the faster it can be healed. Having bad finances is like growing a tumor, the earlier it is taken out, the earlier you can heal, and your wallet can start smiling again.
    So what are the basics before we plunge into the pillars of save more, spend less, and invest?
    Personally I feel that the points below are well suited to lay a foundation for better financial independence/ gain. 

    First. Know Your Money
    Take a sheet of paper and write down your debts, your income earners and an estimate (more on this later) of how much you spend each month. See of you are living below or above your means. If below, you are in the green. If above, you are in the red and that is something that needs to be remedied.
    The importance of this step is that we often make money calculations in our head and just assume that all things will eventually fall into place, but that is not the case. An incidence that made this point clear occurred last year. I was at home, and my mother asked me to help her create an expenditure account for a family function that has occurred as she was the treasurer. She had Mpesa messages of how the money came in and went out, and so we made the expenditure sheet. In the end, there was an over-spend of 7k, and it was from her pocket. The most interesting this is that she had initially been aware that she had probably put in some extra amount from her pocket, but had not been aware that it was that much. 7k is not little money (unless you are Chris Kirubi, and am sure he is careful about his money). Since that day, I decided that I will be writing down my expenses weekly so that I can know where what goes. Sometimes, I fail in discipline and do not this, and so I am not aware when I overspend. I have to say, keeping up those weekly expenses helped me open my eyes to see where my back hole of spending is. So it is very important to make this step.

    Second. Make a Budget, and Keep Track of It
    The first step is important, but not just by itself. Use it as a springboard from which you make a budget on how you will be spending monthly. This will let you know how much is allocated for debt repayment, for savings, for expenditure, for buying that piece of furniture, clothing or pair of shoes or curtains that you want to acquire and how much for having a good time.
    The importance of a budget is to be like a guideline on how to spend. For sure, sometimes emergencies come up etcetera. But you cannot have emergencies from month to month otherwise you will never grow. The guideline helps you to say no to yourself so that you can stick to your financial goals.

    Third. Have Financial Goals.
    When we do not have goals, any dream we have of financial independence or how to spend our money is just that, a dream. A goal is usually specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time specific. Instead of saying you want to save a lot more this year (a vague dream), say you want to save KES 100000 this year, and if you break it down to 12 months that will be KES 8334 a month (assuming you started in January) or 10000KES if you are to start next month or you want to reach the target in 10 months instead of 12.
    Also, having a financial goal will help motivate you. Because you know this money will be for travelling, or for paying for your education net year or for your retirement plan. 

    Fourth. Educate yourself.
    There is a lot that schools teach us, but they barely teach us how to use the money we make and how to grow it. So it is up to you to teach yourself this. Read books that will enhance your financial literacy, read how the business giants/moguls have done it, read anything you can lay your hands on that has to do with financial literacy. Lifestyle magazine usually have a section towards the end that cover finances (I do not why it is almost at the back. The good thing about education is that it compounds over time, and the more you know, the better it is for you. Read, read, and read. If you cannot find the books, there is the internet that is an open source library, if you know where to look.

    These are my top 4 basics on how to begin the journey to financial freedom, and the good thing is, is that I have directly benefited from doing them, and that’s why I am sharing. What other basics could you add to these that have helped you gain financial rein over your finances?
    . Jan 24, 2018 .


    THANK YOU!
    When I made the last post on this platform, I was nervous because I was sharing something that is personal and that would show the underlying turbulent currents that I have experienced in my life. I also was not sure if people would connect with it. But guess what? The response was amazing. I was overwhelmed with the feedback. I am very grateful for all those who reached out and told me that they could relate to what I had shared - some even told me that it renewed their hope, it made them want to go on facing their realities because they just like me, were at a point where they were doubting their abilities and the credibility of some of the career choices they have made.
    As I write this, the post on my becoming a civil engineer is the most read.
    For that, I want to say thank you - to all who read, and shared, and commented on this platform and got back to me through Facebook and private messaging.

    SOME NEWS
    While my blog readers took hope from the post, what I realized in this week in between is that people connect to posts that bring value to them. For instance, the post on Internet Finds and Conversation Starters has received positive feedback on the second section - the Lifestyle and Finance section. People wrote me and said - they liked the second part (the Finance Section) because they would like to know how to spend their money right, or that they would like to get more resources on how to make money or spend money.

    Or when I talk to friends, and we speak about travel, it always seems like something that has been set aside for later, when they have loads and loads of money to travel and live large. Instead, what I know from experience is that you can travel even within your budget. For instance, the entry charges for locals to the Murumbi Art Gallery is 150 KES for locals. The entry charges to most of our national parks and museums for locals does not exceed 500KES.

    Also, severally, even when I was not serious about my blogging, some would tell me that they also have the dream/vision to start blog, or do photography or write, and they do not know how to start or they have started and do not know how to proceed or become better at it, and I would send them links that I had found useful to me. And this still happens to date. Two weeks ago someone asked me if I can be of assistance in helping them set up a blog.

    And what I am getting from this - from the feedback and from talking to people is what has made me rethink the direction I want this blog to take. People want to know how they can live large and well and contented within their means. People want a message of hope. People want added value when they visit a site/blog and I want to be someone who creates and gives that added value.

    When I started blogging again 10 months ago, I said that the focus of my blog will be what my blog readers will enjoy reading or benefit from when reading, and I want to keep my end of the bargain. For that reason, this blog will take a slightly different trajectory. I had wanted to focus on literature and the arts, but I will be sharing more career and finance and lifestyle posts that show how we as young adults can be better with our money, can travel more, can live more deeply and extensively. My innate desire has always been to uplift others and that's exactly what I hope to do by sharing my life lessons and experiences while sharing and learning with all my blog readers as we go along - living, experimenting and learning.

    The whole essence of blogging is to connect with others, and I would be unjust to not listen to what my blog readers have to say. And most of my blog readers are young adults who are working, or about to join the corporate life, who want to travel and read more and work well and wear nice clothes and be happy. So this past week since my last post I have been thinking of how to bring all these things together - my photography side hustle, my travel experiences, my two cents on career and finance, and while I still am working on the road-map to take, I know what direction I want us to go, and I would be delighted if you come with me on this blogging journey!

    Thank you for being part of the journey thus far!
    . Jan 17, 2018 .


    I will be honest and admit that I do anticipate, and have come to like the shock that I see registering on people's faces when they realize that a petite and young woman like me is a civil engineer by profession. It almost always comes as a surprise as the engineering world is predominantly a male dominated field. Like last Friday, on the way home after a long day of work, crammed in a Probox with other counterparts ( the damn thing was overloaded because we work in a hardship area - there are practically no Nissan matatus or buses, the roads are terrible and the Toyota Probox means of transport is a sorry state that needs to be addressed) when the driver asked me - who among these ones is an engineer, and I told him - they are, and I also am. And he had to look at me twice to confirm I was not joking, and then he proceeded to ask some questions about a road under construction and I answered him patiently, and the two villagers seated next to me were just gawking at me; impressed and in shock. So yes, being a female engineer is still a thing to be gawked at and I relish every minute of it even though there are more of us now that there were in previous decades. 
    So how did it come to be that a lady interested in literature and the arts is waist deep in a technical field? I could lie and say that I knew I wanted be an engineer since I was 5 but that would be far from the truth. When teachers asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I mostly said a doctor, and that is what I would have applied to study had it not been that my father, who pushed me to excel, who believed in me, who danced and danced with the music system at full volume in late March when he and my mother threw me  a small party for getting an A of 81 points, perished in a road accident one Sunday afternoon, a month before the selection period. The trauma of seeing him stitched back after an autopsy at the morgue, a cold room with shelves and shelves of steel holding the chill of death, made me rethink how much I wanted to accompany and stay with people when their bodies are ailing and failing them, when they are one step close to the grave, when even I cannot stand the sight of blood and needles and dis-ease. The trauma stayed with me so much so that when I walked into University of Nairobi in October 2010, my mind was already set under the consultation and guidance of my newly widowed mother that I would try this thing called civil engineering, and that she would support me through it all. We figured an additional year from to the normal 4 university years is such a small time sacrifice for a sure career.

    The other loose idea that I had, that I swept under the rug during the selection period and that would later become a nag, was that since I had started being interested in literature in high school, and by the time my mother came to help me carry my things home - mattress, suitcase and all other high school paraphernalia - was that maybe I could study literature for my undergraduate. That did not come to pass. Instead, we made a wild gamble that has paid off in ways we could never have imagined. 


    What we also did not imagine when we were filled with excitement when I received my letter of admission to Jkuat was what the next years in campus held in store for me. I had always been a present student - I did my school work and adhered to school rules with ease. However, the unexpected exposure (on my end) to different mindsets, cultures, religions and ways of life did a number on me. Up until then my education was primarily Catholic - born in a Catholic home, always went to a Catholic Church (still do), had Catholic friends, went to Catholic schools. That kind of exposure was useful for me, and also harmful. Harmful in that combined with the grief I was carrying around like a shadow, combined with questions of existential meaning ( at that point I was riddled with the Question- why live, if after all you will die?), and trying to find a footing in my young adult life - still girl, not yet woman - it became a potent combination that spiraled me into an identity crisis. It is from this period of my life that my 10 piece poem series "Hours" sprung up. The interesting thing is that on the outside, I appeared to be doing well, while on the inside, I was barely holding up.

    I dwelt so much on the meaning of my life, on the fact that I felt I was betraying my innate literature oriented abilities by studying engineering while there were others to whom engineering came naturally. (An engineering class is full of competing number-one kids and top-five-in-class kids by the way, and no matter how much you led the pack in primary and high-school, there are some who flawlessly outperform you academically with minimal effort).  By the time I hit 21, my identity crisis was full blown and I was having such intense and continuous bouts of depression that I could not bring myself to attend all classes, and I missed them sporadically. I remember once I could not leave the bed no matter how I tried. Another time we had a Soil Mechanics CAT the next day, and no matter how much I read, nothing was registering. I read and reread a page severally, and by the time I got to the bottom, I had forgotten all I had read before. It was as frustrating as it was bewildering. I had a colossal (very private) meltdown, and that evening, I called my mother and said - I am quitting this thing. And she listened to me, and encouraged me to stay put, to keep on, to rest if I must, but to go on.














    Go on and keep on I did. And I am glad I did. It was also about that time that I met friends who stayed with me, as I was, and accepted me for who I am and who really were very instrumental in helping me regain my sense of self, my happiness, my reason for being. For someone who had not known colossal failure before, whose sense of self was quite largely pegged on performance, I was happy to see that I could be loved by others without being the excellent one. (This is a perspective that has stayed with me, so much so, that I am first and foremost myself before I am anything else. So that if I was to lose my career, or my other interests, I would still be me and content, with the mere fact that my "I", my person still has an intrinsic and infinite value no matter what.)

    I was also happy for the poetry community that other comrades like Sanya (Mechatronix Engineering), Annette (Financial Engineering), The Okelo (Electrical Engineering) and Irauka (Financial Engineering) and I and others had created to quell our creative side while in a technical school. We were successful in our own small project that we had the chance to meet people like Dorphan Mutuma, Dante, Ngartia etc. And as it turns out, I did not lose my creative side after all. I still write, and the compounded experience of getting into life and living hands on has added flavor to my life and to my writing.

    In late 2016, I graduated... By then I was happier, more gratuitous for the chances life has given me, for the friendships that sustained me, more empathetic and understanding to others because of the existential pain I had endured and the failure I had experienced and bounced back from, that prior to uni had been a foreign concept. Graduation felt less about the papers and more about coming to. 

    As I look back, I am very grateful for the 6 months period between my 4th year and 5th year that I worked for an NGO that deals with vocational training. Prior to that, it had not occurred to me with full gravity that there are some for whom KCPE or KCSE was the end of their education. I was aware of the fact, but not acutely concerned. Working for that NGO, seeing how youth my age or younger were struggling to get placements in vocational institutes (that deal with mechanics training, electricians, plumbers, welders, cooks, hairdressers) and struggling to get work for meager pay made me appreciate the chances I have gotten in life. Even the mere fact that I can comprehend calculus calculations while there are some to whom LCM and GCD is a problem at that stage of their life ignited my appreciation for life, for my course at uni so much so that when I resumed school for my fifth year, I was so eager to learn and to collaborate with other students. I will forever be grateful for the that period of my life.

    In late 2016, I graduated with the class that I joined in fifth year, the one that came after us because that's how life is. You plan, but life shows you another path. But by then I was happier, more gratuitous for the chances life has given me, for the friendships that sustained me, more empathetic and understanding to others because of the existential pain I had endured and the failure I had experienced and bounced back from that prior to uni had been a foreign concept. Graduation felt less about the papers and more about coming to.

    With my Mum on Graduation Day at JKUAT, Juja, November 2016






    It is now more than an year since I cleared uni and graduated, and I must admit, that these months have been full of challenges. I even shared some of the lessons I learnt 7 months after I cleared. My first job, which I got the week prior to Graduation in the construction of a Gated Community in Lower Runda ended abruptly after 8 months for almost everyone in the company when the company went under. And those Business lessons from High School about the lack of work security in the private sector finally sank in. I am currently on my second one in Nakuru County for the controversial Itare Dam Project. I have had to move thrice since graduation, I have had to become penny wise as now I sort out all my bills, and have come to terms that the engineering life is nomadic and one has to be psychologically adept to relocation. I am now living in a small town that I had never even dreamt of visiting.

    Now that I am on the corporate side of the career, a young graduate working her way up, I would like to tell you that engineering as a career has been fulfilling to me. I cannot imagine what other career I would fit my character so well. I love the technical field visits, it is interesting to see a project start as an idea and improve people’s lives – and since my current job has less fieldwork and more paper work, I am constantly learning on what makes or breaks companies in the construction sector.

    I am still very young in my career, and I have a lot to learn and unlearn. However, I am sharing my story to inspire anyone who could be stuck in a rut in uni, going through the motions, doubtful of the career choice they took, bewildered at the magnitude and intensity of their existential/identity crisis. Maybe like me someone is in engineering school, wondering whether they will get to the finish line. Trust me, it gets better, and you will get through it because you are stronger than you think. I am living proof of that. Hang in there, and fight for sunnier days. Brighter days are coming. 

    I am writing this to tell my peers stuck in a department doing a job they do not like what Alfredo Scarfone, former manager of HP Italia, told us when he came to Kenya a few years ago and gave me and some friends a career talk.  He said every job you take is like a pearl you add to your necklace, and the more pearls you have on your necklace, the more beautiful it is when you wear it and any skill or technical know how you gain is useful for your career in the long run. I know of many of my peers who have not gotten jobs up to now while some got jobs even before we finished the coursework. Some are being paid handsomely, while others not so much. And what I am picking from this tree called life is that everybody’s life is uniquely different.

    I would like to finish by saying that the engineering career is not as glamourous as people imagine it to be – it takes hard work to go through uni and to graduate, and even more work to climb up the corporate ladder. The start is not so smooth, and the pay could be better, but as someone who has gotten an easy start compared to many others who are in the unemployment circle, and who has fallen in love with a career that she took a wild swing at, I would say keep on. You are doing great. 

    * * *
    Graduation Photo by CLIFF ONDERI, 
    Work Photos by JAMES MUTHONI
    ***
    To contact me, send email to simplymoraa@gmail.com
    ***
    Update: People are sending me private msgs telling me how much they needed to hear something like this. So, if you are courageous and can relate to this post, you can comment below, to let someone else know/see that they are not alone. Thank you.  

    . Jan 13, 2018 .

    FYI, as I write this post, there are more than 1.3 billion websites online on the internet since the first was  published in 1991 in Switzerland, a little less than 27 years ago. What that means is that the internet is constantly being updated with information (and nonsense) everyday, and while the average person gets to access only a very-very-very small fraction of the data on the internet, the amount of information they come across is still a lot. Thus the rabbit hole of the internet is familiar to most of us. You open a tab, see something interesting, and as you read there is an embedded link that leads you to another site, and on and on and on it goes, and by the time you take your eyes off the screen you realize you have spent 10x the amount of time you intended to spend on the net. And the worst part is that you were laughing off at cat memes and sites like Mo Farah Running Away From Things and One Tiny Hand. Thus the rabbit hole, as you find yourself hopping from one site to another, just like Alice In Wonderland.  

    "...the internet is constantly being updated with information (and nonsense) everyday...thus the rabbit hole of the internet is familiar to most of us. You open a tab, see something interesting... that leads you to another site, and on and on and on it goes, and by the time you take your eyes off the screen you realize you have spent 10x the amount of time you intended to spend on the net."

    One of the reasons for this type of behavior is that the internet offers instant gratification. The other is that people are naturally and instinctively prone to time wasting, even better if it is in a way that is pleasurable, and if there wasn't the internet, we would probably be watching and cheering on a street cock fight or in an arena watching gladiators go at each other Roman style in a ring somewhere. That is the natural disposition of human beings - gratification by some means within their environment, and the internet seems to do just that at the touch of a button. And that is why I believe it is one of the best inventions of the previous millennium/ 20th century. The Internet is an amazing resource system if you learn how to avoid its time sucking void dimension. And my intention for starting this segment "Internet Finds & Conversation Starters" is just that, to share with you sites and articles in Art & Culture, and Finance & Lifestyle that I find interesting and useful so that you can spend your time online in a more meaningful way gaining knowledge and accumulating amazing Conversation Starters. 


    Art & Culture

    Want to read more African Literature online? Try Brittle Paper, Jalada Magazine and Enkare Review.

    There are also a ton of high quality online literature magazines out there from other continents. Some of my favorites are Granta (the short stories section), The Paris Review (the interviews section) and 3 Am Magazine (whose site tagline - Whatever It Is, We're Against It - had me from the get go).

    One more thing, there is this lady I know, they call her Anyiko Woko, who is an amazing PR agent in the music scene in Africa, and I have been reading her blog circa 2012, and this month, just last week, I was able to meet her in her hometown Molo, Kenya and her blog has gems of the who, the what and the where in the African Art & Culture scene. Have a read.

    Supplement this by reading about a little known exotic and very interesting Art Gallery in the heart of Nairobi.



    Lifestyle & Finance 

    Would you like to enjoy your life more in this (new) year? Guess what? How you spend your time and money will determine if you will ace that intention. How to spend money and time are two things that are barely taught in school, so I am delighted to share these free online resources with you. 

    Joshua Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus cracked the code on how less is more, and they help you gain insight on how to clear clutter on their blog, The Minimalists, and Joshua Becker will hold your hand to if you do ever decide to Becoming Minimalist by getting rid of unnecessary clutter in your material and digital life. And they are not the only ones in this journey, there is a whole tribe blogging about living more intentionally on a blog with No Sidebar.

    Living with less means buying less, means having more money to spend on what you care about. But that is hard to do if you are in your twenties or thirties, and have no or little clue on how to pay off your student loans, or debts, or how to save and invest. Try moneyunder30.com even if you are over 30 and you could learn a thing or two about how to pay off debts and how and why you should invest

    I know the holidays are over, but you could still use these 10 frugal ways to spend your leisure time in a meaningful way. 

    ***
    Photos by Lorraine Wangari, Edits by Daisy Moraa, Location- Garden City Mall.
    Just in case it eluded you, Links are in CAPS so hover your mouse over them and click. Thank you for reading & remember to share this with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and elsewhere! 
    Until next time! Bye!



    . Jan 10, 2018 .


    I discovered the sweetness of poetry when I was in class 6 or 7, at about the age 11 or 12, when on one holiday break, I came across Ecclesiastes 12 at the back of one of my brother's books. Back then, I did not know that the text could be classified as poetry, and than in fact the chapter of Scripture itself, is a poem as it is loaded with imagery and metaphor. It was not until high school that I properly became acquainted with poetry, and by then, I had already became one at form one at the age of 14 - how that came about is a story for another day that I will tell in due time, but by the time I was done with high school, The Grass will Grow by Jonathan Kiariara was one of the poems I loved tp read and reread for its sheer simplicity and gravity. 

    The gap year between high school and uni saw me reading through anything and everything that I could lay my hands on, and this was the time I discovered Facebook and the Internet, and watched the phenomenal film "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, an adaptation from Ntonzake Shange's book that goes by the same title . My reading nature and socializing with other people in the Kenyan literature scene through my years in uni was instrumental in introducing me to other poets like Emily Dickinson, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Dennis Brutus, Kadish Morris, Indigo Williams, Charles Bukowski, Tupac Shakur, Stacey Ann Chin just to cut short the list and their poetry. 

    I have continually discovered poems and poetry houses, like 3am Magazine, Granta, the Paris Review and thus my scope of poetry and literary understanding of the same has grown as such. Some Kenyan poets, like Ngawtilo Mawiyoo and Clifton Gachagua whose poetry I enjoy reading may not make it to this list, but still, they are interesting to me. In no way does this list extensively cover all the poems I have enjoyed, but the ones in this list  are the ones I keep going back to, time after time, as they struck a cord so deep in me that I see myself in them, see others in them, see the world in them, and they are to me works of literary genius. The poems are listed in no particular order in the hierarchy of my liking them. 

    Note: This will be a long read, as I have shared 10 whole poems here and linked the 2 longest to my Tumblr page, and written short notes on why I like them. Therefore, if you are in the comforts of your home, it would be best if you grabbed a cup of something, made yourself cozy and then dive right in. Or if you are commuting, this will be a worthy companion, so dive in all the same.


    POEMS ABOUT THE STATE OF BEING ALIVE 

    Love After Love  by Derek Walcott
    "The time will come
    when, with elation,
    you will greet yourself arriving
    at your own door, in your own mirror,
    and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

    and say, sit here. Eat.
    You will love again the stranger who was your self.
    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

    all your life, whom you ignored
    for another, who knows you by heart.
    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

    the photographs, the desperate notes,
    peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life."

    Note:
    I love this poem for the fact that it speaks of self care in the face of loving another person, in the reality of how broken and distraught we can become when we are rejected or when our love is not met by the same intensity and magnitude that we give it. To love, we must first be able to love ourselves. And by no means is how another human being loves us the measure with which we should calibrate our value. Derek Walcott's (1948-1984) poem is like a warm hug from a friend who holds you as you come to this realization.

    i carry your heart in my heart by ee cummings 
    "i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
    my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
    i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                          i fear
    no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
    no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
    and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you

    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
    higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

    i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)"

    Note:
    I love this poem from the depths of my heart, and ee cummings (1894-1962) was a love poem genius.

    The Second Coming  by W B Yeats 
    "Turning and turning in the widening gyre  
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere  
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst  
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.  
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out  
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert  
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,  
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,  
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it  
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.  
    The darkness drops again; but now I know  
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,  
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,  
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

    Note:
    I often turn to this poem when there are political upheavals in my home country or in the international scene. For instance, Trump or the aggressive tribalism we experience every few years even among the educated population is "mere anarchy loosed upon the world." I find that in most social cases, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst /Are full of passionate intensity." This poem was introduced to me by Chinua Achebe's foreword on how he came about the Title " Things Fall Apart" on the book that catapulted him to literary fame in the 1950s and 1960s.


    POEMS ABOUT LOVE &/OR ITS LACK THEREOF

    For Women Who Are Difficult to Love by Warsan Shire
    "you are a horse running alone
    and he tries to tame you
    compares you to an impossible highway
    to a burning house
    says you are blinding him
    that he could never leave you
    forget you
    want anything but you
    you dizzy him, you are unbearable
    every woman before or after you
    is doused in your name
    you fill his mouth
    his teeth ache with memory of taste
    his body just a long shadow seeking yours
    but you are always too intense
    frightening in the way you want him
    unashamed and sacrificial
    he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
    lives in your head
    and you tried to change didn't you?
    closed your mouth more
    tried to be softer
    prettier
    less volatile, less awake
    but even when sleeping you could feel
    him travelling away from you in his dreams
    so what did you want to do love
    split his head open?
    you can't make homes out of human beings
    someone should have already told you that
    and if he wants to leave
    then let him leave
    you are terrifying
    and strange and beautiful
    something not everyone knows how to love.”

    Note:
    Often men come up to me and tell me that my assertion and character is like that of a man- that is to say, I am assertive, I refuse to be pushed around, I refuse to receive less than I should get, I choose to not be bridled by patriarchal societal norms. As if that is that something I should apologize for. To  this I respond with a quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.”

    Questions for the Woman I was last night by Warsan Shire
    “how far have you walked for men who’ve never held your feet in their laps?
    how often have you bartered with bone, only to sell yourself short?
    why do you find the unavailable so alluring?
    where did it begin? what went wrong? and who made you feel so worthless?
    if they wanted you, wouldn’t they have chosen you?
    all this time, you were begging for love silently,
    thinking they couldn’t hear you, but they smelt it on you,
    you must have known that they could taste the desperate on your skin?
    and what about the others that would do anything for you,
    why did you make them love you until you could not stand it?
    how are you both of these women, both flighty and needful?
    where did you learn this, to want what does not want you?
    where did you learn this, to leave those that want to stay?”

    Note:
    We all have that one person that we cannot un-leave no matter how much they do not want us. It happens even to the best of us, and this is what this poem is about. 

    The Unbearable Weight of Staying by Warsan Shire 
    "I don’t know when love became elusive
    What I know, is that no one I know has it.

    My father's arms around my mother's neck,
    Fruit too ripe to eat, a door half way open.
    When your name is a just a hand I can never hold,
    everything I have ever believed in, becomes magic.

    I think of lovers as trees, growing to and
    from one another, searching for the same light.
    My mother's laughter in a dark room,
    a photograph greying under my touch.
    This is all I know how to do, carry loss around until
    I begin to resemble every bad memory,
    every terrible fear,
    every nightmare anyone has ever had.

    I ask, did you ever love me?
    You say of course, of course so quickly
    that you sound like someone else
    I ask are you made of steel? are you made of iron?
    You cry on the phone, my stomach hurts

    I let you leave, I need someone who knows how to stay."

    Note: 
    Domestic violence, the lack thereof of love where it should be, the intricate complex nature of what we call love, love as we have seen it in our families, as we have experienced it, is all summarized in this short poem by Somali Kenyan born (1988) Warsan Shire.

    Warsan Shire's poems, not just the above mentioned, are the poems that have brought me a lot of healing when I have undergone emotional turbulence in my personal life.


    POEMS ABOUT ABUSE, SELF CARE, MENTAL HEALTH & RACE

    Dark Phrases  by Ntonzake Shange from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, 1975
    "dark phrases of womanhood
    of never havin been a girl
    half-notes scattered
    without rhythm/ no tune
    distraught laughter fallin
    over a black girl's shoulder
    it's funny/ it's hysterical
    the melody-less-ness of her dance
    don't tell nobody don't tell a soul
    she's dancin on beer cans & shingles
    this must be the spook house
    another song with no singers
    lyrics/no voices
    & interrupted solos
    unseen performances
    are we ghouls?
    children of horror?
    the joke?
    don't tell nobody don't tell a soul
    are we animals? have we gone crazy?
    i can't hear anythin
    but maddening screams
    & the soft strains of death
    & you promised me
    you promised me...
    somebody/anybody
    sing a black girl's song
    bring her out
    to know herself
    to know you
    but sing her rhythms
    carin/struggle/hard times

    sing her song of life
    she's been dead so long
    closed in silence so long
    she doesn't know the sound
    of her own voice
    her infinite beauty
    she's half-notes scattered
    without rhythm/no tune
    sing her sighs
    sing the song of her possibilities
    sing a righteous gospel
    the makin of a melody
    let her be born
    let her be born
    & handled warmly."

    Note:
    "Dark phrases of womanhood/ of never havin been a girl/ half-notes scattered/ without rhythm/ no tune/ distraught laughter fallin/ over a black girl's shoulder/ it's funny/ it's hysterical/ the melody-less-ness of her dance" need I say more about why I love this poem. I am an African Girl, and I feel very privileged to be educated and well into my twenties. Most girls are not as lucky - some experience early childhood marriage, FGM, beading, lip plating, ear stretching, some get raped repeatedly by their relatives. For instance, girls from the age of 14-22 attend the Reed dance in Swaziland, and one, who catches the eye of the king will get married off to him no matter her age. The sheer fact that it happens in this day and age is something that infuriates and saddens me. By no means should the efforts to emancipate the girl child and to free women from generational oppression ever stop. We have got a lot of work to do.

    Sorry by Ntonzake Shange from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, 1975
    "one thing i don't need
    is any more apologies
    i got sorry greetin me at my front door
    you can keep yrs
    i don't know what to do wit em
    they dont open doors
    or bring the sun back
    they dont make me happy
    or get a mornin paper
    didnt nobody stop usin my tears to wash cars
    cuz a sorry

    i am simply tired
    of collectin
    i didnt know
    i was so important toyou
    i'm gonna haveta throw some away
    i cant get to the clothes in my closet
    for alla the sorries
    i'm gonna tack a sign to my door
    leave a message by the phone
    'if you called
    to say yr sorry
    call somebody
    else
    i dont use em anymore'
    i let sorry/ didnt meanta/ & how cd i know abt that
    take a walk down a dark & musty street in brooklyn
    i'm gonna do exactly what i want to
    & i wont be sorry for none of it
    letta sorry soothe yr soul/ i'm gonna soothe mine

    you were always inconsistent
    doin somethin & then bein sorry
    beatin my heart to death
    talkin bout you sorry
    well
    i will not call
    i'm not goin to be nice
    i will raise my voice
    & scream & holler
    & break things & race the engine
    & tell all yr secrets bout yrself to yr face
    & i will list in detail everyone of my wonderful lovers
    & their ways
    i will play oliver lake
    loud
    & i wont be sorry for none of it

    i loved you on purpose
    i was open on purpose
    i still crave vulnerability & close talk
    & i'm not even sorry bout you bein sorry
    you can carry all the guilt & grime ya wanna
    just dont give it to me
    i cant use another sorry
    next time
    you should admit
    you're mean/ low-down/ triflin/ & no count straight out
    steada bein sorry alla the time
    enjoy bein yrself"

    Note:
    When sorry loses meaning, when the word has been abused and used as an excuse, apologies seem like a mockery. There are some who abuse the love and affection that they receive and assume that sorry is the fixing glue that patches all and makes things alright. The continual distortion of trust is painful, and there comes a time when one needs to break away to lead a more fulfilling life.


    Ellen  West by Frank Bidart
    "...On the third day of being home she is as if transformed. At breakfast she eats butter and sugar, at noon she eats so much that—for the first time in thirteen years!—she is satisfied by her food and gets really full. At afternoon coffee she eats chocolate creams and Easter eggs. She takes a walk with her husband, reads poems, listens to recordings, is in a positively festive mood, and all heaviness seems to have fallen away from her. She writes letters, the last one a letter to the fellow patient here to whom she had become so attached. In the evening she takes a lethal dose of poison, and on the following morning she is dead. “She looked as she had never looked in life—calm and happy and peaceful.


    Note:
    This poem is about Ellen West's eating disorder and her eventual death. I felt so much empathy for the character, and was grateful for Frank Bidart (1939- ) who brought the real life of Ellen West, (1888 -1921) who committed suicide at the age of 33 by poisoning as she suffered from anorexia. The emotional pull in this poem is so strong, and I like the slow patient manner in which it is written. 


    POEMS ABOUT THE FRAGILITY OF LIFE/MORTALITY

    The Grass Will Grow by Jonathan Kariara
    "If you should take my child Lord
    Give my hands strength to dig his grave
    cover him with earth
    Lord send a little rain
    For grass will grow

    If my house should burn down
    So that the ashes sting the nostrils
    Making the eyes weep
    Then Lord send a little rain
    For grass will grow

    But Lord do not send me
    Madness
    I ask for tears
    Do not send me moon hard madness
    To lodge snug in my skull

    I would you sent me hordes of horses
    Galloping
    Crushing
    But do not break
    The yolk of the moon on me."

    Note:
    The simplicity and the usage of phrases like "moon hard madness" are what pulled me in. Jonathan (1935-1993) understood that there are things in this life that can break a person, things beyond human power, things like death and calamity and mental illness. And for this reason, he asks that in this lifetime he be spared mental illness, for it is a calamity that is like a thousand daily deaths, the insane one goes on living without really living, and carries an illness for which there is no known cure.


    Ecclesiastes 12 from The H. Bible
    1 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"--
    2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;
    3 when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim;
    4 when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint;
    5 when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.
    6 Remember him--before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well,
    7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

    8 "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Everything is meaningless!"

    Note:
    Like earlier said, this was my first real read of poetry, and I love it now just as I love it then. The imagery used speaks about the condition of human life, and how the body degenerates in old age. For instance, the verse "when the grinders cease because they are few," the wise man is talking about losing teeth, and the difficulty in chewing, and when he speaks of "those looking through the windows grow dim", he is talking about how eyes lose their strength. "the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint" because of the gradual loss of hearing. My favorite lines, that I understood much later, and whose imagery is very powerful talk about the shatter that accompanies death and they are "Remember him--before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well.."
    A timeless piece, less known, but very accurate on the nature of life.


    The Love Song of J Prufrock by T.S Eliot
    "...And indeed there will be time

    For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
    Rubbing its back upon the window panes;       
    There will be time, there will be time
    To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
    There will be time to murder and create,
    And time for all the works and days of hands
    That lift and drop a question on your plate;       
    Time for you and time for me,
    And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
    And for a hundred visions and revisions,
    Before the taking of a toast and tea.

    In the room the women come and go       
    Talking of Michelangelo.



    Note:
    Reading this poem is like coming home, and finding an old friend, who knows you, and who will understand what you have lived even without much being said. T. S Eliot (1888-1965) got this published at the age of 27 but he was very much an old soul in a young body. He sees human life for what it is, a passage though time, and he does not reduce any of it, not even how smoke lingers upon pools of water as it leaves the fireplace and dissolves into the air.
    The poem is written in simple language,, but requires concentration and a keen mind to go deeper.


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    What poems have you liked most in this list & why? What are some of your favorite poems?
    Thank you for reading!