Call for Poetry Submissions: Kwani? Poetry Anthology


Call for Poetry Submissions: Kwani? Poetry Anthology


Due to the proliferation of Kenyan poetry groups and the diversity of poetic voices on the stage and page, the time has come for a forward-looking publisher to gather any such willing voices into a single, generation-defining poetry anthology. Practising poets Phyllis Muthoni, Clifton Gachagua and Stephen Derwent Partington (SDP) will together edit this new anthology, which will be published by Kwani?

The anthology will seek to gather verse written in Kenya/by Kenyans (both those ‘in place' and those in the diaspora) since 2003, the post-Moi era. It will seek to balance performance/spoken word and ‘from the page' poetry, giving equal weight and respect to each tradition. It will also feature, it is hoped, the innovative work of Kenyan poets who stretch the oral and community traditions into the present. Writers may be from any age group, but the verse included in the final anthology will always be that written post-2003. Divergent styles and voices will be promoted, and the anthology will be constructed on the understanding that it is only through respecting the diversity of current Kenyan poetic production that we can hope, as a community of poets, to contribute towards Kenya's own wider endeavour to create sociopolitical respect between individuals in our population.

The intention is that this anthology will be a major literary event in Kenya.

We would like you to submit your verse for consideration. But, we should come clean as editors: much of the poetry for the anthology has already been selected from the work of published writers. We are well aware, however, that huge amounts of (often young) poetic talent exists in Kenya, which has never been published, often as a consequence of the local publishing climate. Much of our most thrillingly exciting poetry exists in self-published chapbooks, blogs or other online forums, videos or the ephemeral stage. This poetry also needs an audience and needs to be presented by editors who respect and understand these new trends. We are inviting you to contribute PREDOMINANTLY ANGLOPHONE poetry in any style you feel is relevant for a ‘new generation/era' anthology.

Another caveat: the editors fully reserve the right to publish only what they feel ‘fits'. This is not necessarily a criticism at all of the work that doesn't make it into the anthology. Also, only those whose verse makes it into the anthology will be contacted, and no correspondence whatsoever will be entered into. Finally, the editors reserve the right to return certain poems that interest them to the writers with recommended changes, which the writers may or may not wish to make; either way, there is no guarantee that revised work will be accepted.

While this book will have editors and a publisher whose job it is to do the usual, the motivation behind this anthology is to promote a wide range of talented new Kenyan writers - to this end, we will work, when the book is completed, to mobilize the wider poetry community of Kenya to help make this work visible.

How to Submit
Please read these clear guidelines very closely. Poetry that is not submitted in this manner may well be rejected, unread:

  • Poems submitted for consideration should be 40 lines long, maximum (or extracts of up to 40 lines from longer poems)
  • Only five poems, maximum, should be submitted by any poet; three copies of each poem
  • All poems should be in ‘Word' format, and submitted as HARD COPY, either posted to ‘Stephen Derwent Partington, Lukenya Academy, P.O.Box 619, Athi River 00204' or deposited in an envelope with this same ‘Stephen Derwent Partington' information on at: Sears Chemist, behind the blue I&M Building in the CBD, off Koinange Street; a SOFT COPY (‘Microsoft Word' only) should be sent, also, to, as an attachment, with the subject line ‘KWANI? POETRY ANTHOLOGY SUBMISSION'. Ideally, members of workshops/groups/clubs should submit via your coordinators/admin
  • For those submitting from Nairobi, poems should be on white A4 paper, on one side of this only, in black ink, and in a very clear font style of 12 point, with spacing of 1 or 1.5 between lines. (If your poem requires more than one font style, or a special font style, please somehow indicate this)
  • The poet's full REAL name, telephone number and email address should appear on every page as a header or footer. Noms-de-plume (pen names) or ‘aka's are fine as an additional, if written in brackets; such pen names will only be used in any final publication if this seems necessary/is explicitly requested by the poet
  • Indicate on each poem if the poem is ‘published' or ‘unpublished'. If previously published (this is not a problem), please indicate WHERE it was previously published. But don't post it openly on Facebook, for example, and expect us to use it
  • Submit the poems in the manner outlined above, but also please complete (and send by the same ‘hard copy' and ‘soft copy' routes) a copy of the ‘Poet Submission Form', typed or in clear handwriting in a dark blue or black pen

ADDITIONAL HINTS, TIPS AND REQUESTS (For group/workshop members)
While we want you to write in the style you feel best suits your inclinations, using language in creative ways of your own devising, there are certain things we'd advise upon, in order that you submit work that you are proud of and that we can seriously consider. You have a right to know what's worth submitting:

  • Let your ‘themes'/issues/topics be various:
    • yes, we like love and sex, but remember that a bad love poem isn't going to make love seem the worthwhile thing you believe it to be, and that a bad sex poem is probably less enjoyable than bad sex;
    • politics, yes, but be interesting and say things (even if age-old politicial truths) in new, Kenya-relevant ways;
    • body and soul;
    • conflict and/or peace;
    • the natural world and our place in it - ecopoetry;
    • death, birth, various forms of joy;
    • whatever - just don't bore the reader
  • And as for ‘tone', well: be happy if you wish; angry, if you wish; sad, if it takes your fancy; again, whatever
  • this is a broadly Anglophone collection - while we respect and admire poetry in other languages, this is, we repeat, a broadly Anglophone collection
  • don't lecture the reader or browbeat her/him into submission, obliging him to fully accept your fixed, uncompromising view of an issue - treat them like your intellectual equal
  • write your poem, and redraft it - there and then, or after leaving it for a short while. No-one wants to read something that you haven't been willing to properly work at. Whether you believe poetry to be an art or a craft, or whatever, there is something that we can agree on: it shouldn't be something we just whizz down idly, like a shopping list. Before submitting, reflect on your poem in the cold light of day (or after consulting folk you trust to make useful and honest comments rather than just ‘Wow!'), and only then submit
  • English may or may not be your first language - if it isn't, SO WHAT!? It is often the idiosyncrasy of ‘Kenyan English' that makes it fun, different, interesting, real… BUT: whether you are writing in Standard English or a variant that we might as well call ‘Kenyan English', take the time to…
  • punctuate properly (if your poem needs punctuation). No-one wants to read pointless commas at the end of every line, if they're not needed. If you don't want your poem to have formal punctuation, that's fine, so long as the reason for its absence is pretty obvious. You might not want any punctuation - and I'm not your parent to say ‘No!' But if it's to be used, use it well
  • work out where and why you want line breaks at a particular point
  • if you have rhyme, don't let it dictate your meaning, and avoid very heavy END-of-line rhyme unless there's a clear reason for it (in some spoken word verse, for example, there is)
  • try to communicate clearly what you mean to say; or, if your writing is not of the traditional ‘simple language of communication' type, and is indeed cut-up and experimental for whatever reason, at least CONSIDER THE READER and how s/he might make SOMETHING of it or, the very least, understand why s/he can't! ;-)
  • avoid excessive numbers of adjectives
  • don't centre/centre-align your poem unless there's a need to
  • twee ‘inspirational' or ‘motivational' stuff is not of great interest to us, neither is some gushingly trite waft of philosophical/religious musings
  • here's another poetry journal's submission guidelines, and know that we agree with them: ‘Our taste is eclectic. We want poems that move us, a strong sense of imagery, emotion, with interesting and surprising use of language, words that resonate. We want fresh. We want voice. Established and new poets are encouraged to submit. Experimental poetry is fine, randomness is fine also. However, we do not want experimental and random just for the sake of calling it such.'
  • avoid capital letters at the beginning of every line, unless you have a reason to use them
  • avoid pointlessly old fashioned or consciously ‘purple poetic' words and word order. For example, don't throw in a thousand ‘O great bard of wherever' nonsense, or use ‘Thou' or ‘o'er' or write ‘Tired I am' instead of ‘I am tired'. We are not the slaves of the dead, so don't speak like them unless there's good reason
  • avoid cliché - just avoid cliché
  • even if your poetry is ‘from the page', let's respect and follow the lead of the spoken worders and BEFORE SUBMITTING READ YOUR POEM ALOUD TO YOURSELF FROM THE PAGE, to see if it flows; if it doesn't then redraft it
  • if your writing is in the ‘Africa is messed up, has been treated badly and is going nowhere because we're all rubbish' mould, you'll need to do one of two things: a) submit elsewhere, rather than to us; or, b) reshape this old tune for the present day
  • if your poems are sexist, racist, in any way chauvinist, xenophobic, homophobic, or in any other way likely to be considered hateful, let alone illegal, please don't even bother sending them
  • you might wish to read other contemporary poetry, online: Kenyan, wider continental, or from other cultures and traditions - I'll not point you to where; do it yourself
  • don't EVER plagiarise even a single line of someone else's verse, or we'll hunt you down
  • remember: Kenya has a strong history of post-colonial poetry in English. At the very least, be aware of it
  • finally: new and young does not necessarily mean ‘only urban' or Nairobian. Kenya is a big place, encompassing much. Don't feel restricted by anything except the hints and tips above

Again, the core things to submit together, summarised:

  • five poems, maximum, each of up to 40 lines
  • a completed ‘Poet Submission Form'
  • send these as hard AND soft copy
  • only successful submissions will be responded to

Good luck, and enjoy your writing. And know that we'll enjoy reading what you send, whether or not it is used; and that we admire you for your poetic efforts.

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