9222145527_eb186ec76a_zall cities yield their grammar,
even Nairobi, sixteen years on.
i have learnt the concrete nouns
of places, the conjunctions of fly-overs,
along Thika Road, Jogoo, Uhuru Highway, scattered.
i know the chaos of pronouns
inflecting themselves at bus stops.
i have heard the roaring verbs
conjugating on the suburbs, fluent
in the gin-soaked slang of eastlando,
the vanilla pidgin of ghetto.

i know that life in Nairobi
is lived adverbially,
busily, showily, hopefully. with #hashtags and throwbacks,
double-taps. Nairobi, babel of adjectives,
amorphous, arcane, mercantile, plain,
from terrestrial Korogocho to city’s aquatic illusions.

street by street i have walked its prepositions,
from Koinange across the Muindi Mbingu to Tom Mboya.
i have grown accustomed to the dialect
of houses, the shorthand of scenery.
i have seen the aura of Upper Hill edited
by the sibilant ocean of zeal
and the incessant seduction of posterity
 
yet the city is a theatre of interjections of histories
shackles, sentences, protest, patronage, conviviality, chasm.
dancing sarakasi bodies are broken passages telling its stories best
winding, rhymes, phrases, steps
balances at conjunctions and intersections like between
the pavement and the parliament, like between the street
and the stage. the alleys of this city are paved by idioms that are legacies
from the depth of Africa, the islands and plateaus from several nations
across the oceans. by this i mean replete is this city
with clauses and metaphors that are genealogies
waiting for bodies to tell their stories.
i come as a chronicler
of its carnivals. i arrive as a performer
of its pulse, of its syntax and tapestry.

 

********

Post image by Xiaojun Deng via Flickr.

About the Author

Portrait - RedscarRedscar McOdindo K’Oyuga (@RedscarMcOdindo) is a medic, writer and chaser of dreams. He writes in both Swahili and English. His work has been published in the Mandala Journal, KUT, Jalada, Gnarled Oak, Praxis Magazine, Lawino Magazine, Breaking Silence (a global poetry anthology) and Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation’s Bodaboda Anthem and Other Poems: a Kampala Poetry Anthology, among others. His Swahili poems (mashairi) are published in Taifa Leo and/or Taifa Jumapili, Kenya’s nationwide Swahili Newspaper. He is a winner of the Fern Poetry Prize and contributes to Hivi Sasa Magazine. His work has also appeared, or is forthcoming, in BEST “NEW” AFRICAN POETS 2015 (a poetry anthology), Kwani? Anthology, assorted newspapers and other poetry anthologies.

Tags: , , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

3 Responses to “A Grammar of Nairobi | by Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga | African Poetry” Subscribe

  1. Gathoni wa Wairura 2016/01/05 at 17:24 #

    How so refreshing to read a piece on Nairobi. Thank you Brittle Paper, and thank you Redscar Mc Odindo for taking me back to my city:) You write beautifully. I hope to see more of your work.
    Best regards
    Gathoni

  2. Fred Joiner 2016/10/13 at 10:14 #

    you may want to check that these poems have not been plagiarized.

    http://www.jamesmurua.com/breaking-news-kenyan-poet-redscar-mcodindo-koyuga-accused-plagiarism/

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. throwback – a litany of misdeeds | Let's Tell These Tales - 2016/04/07

    […] A Grammar of Nairobi […]

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

The Reviews Are In! | Namwali Serpell Has High Praise for Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu

Screen-Shot-2017-09-20-at-4.57.42-PM-e1505944728679 copy

Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu is one of the hit novels of 2017. A historical drama, it tells the story of an 18th […]

New Website Collects Everything Binyavanga Wainaina Has Written Since the Late 1990s

A new Website has collected everything published by Binyavanga Wainaina since his writing career began in the late 1990s. The […]

Opportunity for All Writers | Submit to Vanguard Literary Services’ HIV/AIDS Awareness Anthology

To mark the 2017 World HIV/AIDS Day on December 1, Vanguard Literary Services, a bookselling company in Nigeria, has called […]

The Graywolf Press Africa Prize Launches with Igoni A. Barrett as Judge

igoni a. barrett

A new award just dropped: the Graywolf Press Africa Prize, for “a first novel manuscript by an African author primarily residing […]

Nnedi Okorafor Celebrates Everyday African Life in New Superhero Comic

okorafor comics

A little over two years ago, South African Sci-fi writer Lauren Beukes collaborated with D. C. Comics on a Wonder […]

Redemption | Andrew Aondosoo Labe | Poetry

7019805185_c41d073551_o

A Pastor says the devil landed here in ‘77. His broken legs can be seen in the twin-rivers. Three-eyed demons […]