Over-dramatization of Poetry performance in Kenyan schools

The photo of Graham Nduko Osoro, a student of Friends School Kamusinga in todays(15th Oct,09) Daily Nation, page 8 on his knees on the grass in the name of a poetry solo verse made me cringe with embarrassment.

It is an all too familiar image that seems to become the norm during every year’s Drama Festivals in Kenya(those from other countries, is this the same experience?) This pleading, down on the ground teary image reminded me of why so many young people in schools still hate poetry, yet, Nairobi is now awash with poetry venues and is becoming very popular with the same young people who have to be painfully weaned off this over dramatization, over gesticulation and over shouting to a performance that is in tune with the times.

Stephen Partington, a teacher and published poet whose poems appear weekly  in The East African made these comments on the Kenyan-poetry-catalyst google group,

“Now, he’s undoubtedly a charming young man, but the photo of ‘Graham Nduko Osoro’ on p8 of today’s Nation is further argument in favour of banning poetry in Kenyan schools.

Poor boy looks like he’s squeezing out his post-Visiting Day constipation. And how did his legs sink so deeply into the ground?”

This is what I wrote in response to his email

What do we need to do to change the way students are taught performance poetry in schools, starting with these teachers. That is why most students come out with a very negative attitude towards poetry only to discover that its not the way they were taught.

This is over-dramatization at its worst!! and he was made to do that!
Can I get a sponsor to get some 10 more poets and do an awareness campaign in various schools on the 21st style of poetry performance?

Kevin Waithaka, a poet in the group also commented on this phenomenon by saying,

Just checked it out and I can’t help but agree…The enthusiasim is there(definitely!)and I guess the passion in art is more important than most other things because if you have that the rest can follow.I feel that all he needs is someone to show them.  I was of the same mind wangari,so feel free to call on me if you need a hand(or a poet…)”

It is about time that Kenyan schools desisted from portraying poetry as drab. Instead, let students know that poetry has grown and is still growing not only in form but also in style and appeal.

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Showcasing the best in Kenyan Arts;Music,writing,Poetry,fine art and art reviews as well as info on emerging art trends. “Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite…getting something down.”