A snapshot of the Kistrech International Poetry Festival 2022.

The Kistrech International Poetry Festival 2022 was hosted in several venues around Kenya from October 8 – 14, 2022.

The Kistrech International Poetry Festival was founded to promote poetry and cultural exchange between local and foreign artists by Dr Christopher Okemwa in 2013. The annual festival features spoken-word, rap, song, poetry reading, oral poetry, music instrument-playing, and other performances.

For 2022, the festival had poetry readings and launches hosted over several days in Kisii, Machakos, and Rusinga Island. Taking part were guests from Kenya and across the world which included Cornelius Muthuri, Istvan Turczi (the current Vice President of the World Congress of Poets and Secretary General of the Hungarian PEN Centre),  Bonface Nyamweya, Alfred Nyamwange, Josephat Ndege Mauti, Evans Mecha, Antanas A. Jonynas, Chrys Salt, Caren Jepkogei, Yolanda Castano, John Mugubi, Tony Mochama, Joseph Muleka, Karla Brundage, Prof. Dr. Laksmisree Banerjee, Nicholas Omondi, Tom Odhiambo, Maria Dixen, George Nyandoro, Bwocha Nyagemi, and Ruth Jepkorir Koech.

Here are some of the highlights;

October 8: Machakos

The first event of the festival was a poetry reading which featured readings from the poetry collections Bile of My Face (2022) by Ruth Jepkorir, The Girl of Red Beauty (2022) by Alfred Nyamwange, and Window Into Worlds (2022) by Dr Evans Mecha at the Machakos University. There were spoken word presentations by those who attended as well as speeches by ambassadors and embassy representatives from guest countries.

October 10 – 12: Kisii

Chrys Salt and Istvan Turczi
Chrys Salt and Istvan Turczi

The Kisii leg was the largest chunk of the festival with many activities in the town in Western Kenya. Hosting these events were Kisii University, and schools like Mosando Primary School and Mosando Secondary School. The opening event at the Kisii University had speeches that included one by Vice Chancellor John Akama as well as poetry, spoken word, salsa dancing, and more. It also had a film screening of Skookum Jim and The American Dream by Chrys Salt followed by discussions around it.

Bonface Nyamweya
Bonface Nyamweya

October 14: Rusinga Island

The last leg of the festival was poetry readings as well as spoken word performances on Rusinga Island which is on Lake Victoria.

This post would not have been possible without the kind assistance of poet Bonface Nyamweya. The Pan African Writers Association published his short story, Whose Title Died, in their anthology Voices that Sing behind the Veil (2022). He has also published two novels: Peeling the Cobwebs (2020) and Her Question Pills (2020).