Redscar McOdindo K'Oyuga

A statement from The Missing Slate on Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga and his work has emerged and has the Kenyan poetry community abuzz.

It was a big year for Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga the Kenyan poet who was nominated for three poetry competitions; The Okot p’Bitek Poetry Prize, the Babishai Prize for poetry and the inaugural Nyanza Literature Festival poetry section.  From these two, he won The Okot p’Bitek Poetry Prize and Nyanza Literature Festival poetry prize and came third in the Babishai one. This was the next big poet from Kenya and we were all proud.

A statement emerged yesterday from The Missing Slate the journal which featured Redscar’s poem Dua To The Masses as its September poem of the month. In the release, the journal accuses the Kenyan of plagiarism of the poem as well as other poems that he has posted on his poem. They state,

“Unfortunately, subsequent investigations by our editors have left us with little doubt that Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga is a serial plagiarist. In the last month alone, Redscar’s blog has published at least three poems plagiarised (typically with only minor alterations) from the work of other poets. In each case, the original poem belonged to a female writer of colour.”

Please read the whole statement here.

That he specializes in plagiarizing from women first and then of colour really pisses some of us. This blogger is not alone. The word has gone around quickly; the community isn’t the biggest one and there are some angry reactions.

Writer and film maker Akexandar Ikawah; “I can not and will not stand behind such despicable behaviour whether it be from a person I know and consider an acquaintance. Shame on you Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga, shame indeed!!”

Richard Oduor Oduku; The Missing Slate, a reputable journal, has raised serious allegations against one of our foremost, talented, and young poet Redscar. Since it is already public information, that will affect not only the poetry career of Redscar, but that of other poets aspiring to be featured in these reputable literary journals, it means that it has become an issue of public interest. I have to say that I have known Redscar for a long time and been involved with him at length, in his work, for years. I love his work and have talked about it before, in public and private. I made a private comment sometime back, about certain poems, that I was having difficulty with because they closely mirrored those of the poet Redscar was reading, and that there was undue influence, in terms of voice. Because I was reading a lot of his work, I was seeing a trend where his work was being greatly influenced by the poets he was reading, and you could see random stylistic changes in how he was writing every time a new burst of publications appeared. We are all influenced, so this was not really a bother. It is only the degree that matters. I only made this comment a few weeks ago, to a close friend, and haven’t had the chance to speak to Redscar personally since, despite my instinctual knowledge that such mirroring may not have been deliberate. That said, these issues have become public and it would be of interest for Redscar to also address them publicly, to the lovers of his work, to poets who look up to him, to friends, and to himself, and find a way of deflecting the destructive jab of such a statement, and finally, find a way of learning from the concerns raised here – we, all, stumble, and then rise, but only if we face our trials.

Richard Ali: Absolutely terrible news. The psychology of it beats me. Why this? Who gave Redscar K’oyuga the right to feel whatever pressure he felt to be a poet enough to steal the work of others, to bring on himself the weight of achievement acknowledged by others but not earned by sweat and though? Where did this come from?

Having seen both poems, I have no doubt that this was sheer plagiarism. And, I am gutted, for I did think highly of the young man and what have now become “his” poems, his so-called only.

This is sad sad!

– Ra.

When the statement came out, K’Oyuga went onto his Facebook wall and quickly made a statement to the effect that “there will be accusations made but it will all turn out to be a misunderstanding.” I am paraphrasing here as since then visitors to his Facebook will get the following message;

Sorry, this content isn’t available at the moment

The link you followed may have expired, or the Page may only be visible to an audience that you aren’t in.

The alleged poet deleting his Facebook account is disturbing as it could be seen as his admitting to the theft instead of standing up and defending his honour.

With these allegations coming to the light of day the question about the prize winnings. He went home with US$1,000 for the Nyanza competition and Kshs50,000 from the Okot p’Bitek Poetry Prize; will he have to give the money back?

We shall keep you updated on this story as it happens.