BOOK REVIEW: Song of my Dreams & Other Songs

This anthology is set to be launched in March 2023 at St. Andrews Tarabete Secondary School grounds, Naivasha, Nakuru County, Kenya.

The cover and blurb of Song of my Dreams and Other Songs anthology by St. Andrews Creative Writers and Book Club from St. Andrews Tarabete Secondary School, Naivasha. PHOTO/Courtesy.
The cover and blurb of Song of my Dreams and Other Songs anthology by St. Andrews Creative Writers and Book Club from St. Andrews Tarabete Secondary School, Naivasha. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Anthology TitleSong of my Dreams & Other Songs

Anthologists: St. Andrews Creative Writers & Book Club

Selection and EditingBonface Otieno

Contacts: standrewscreativewritersclub@gmail.com, +254 746955316

Cost: KES 500

Reviewer: Benvictor Makau

Publisher & YearAbba Publishers, 2022

In today’s world, music, art, drama, and poetry are among the most scintillating experiences which appeal to and snatch the attention of our emotions, feelings, thoughts, and decisions. 

Of them all, however, poetry calls louder and seeks to, in itself, encompass all the other three.

In his wisdom, the renowned poet Percy Shelley said, “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.”

Listening to a poem is an exhilarating dive into music, art, drama and poetry, all at once.

The very writing of a poem is a psychologically expensive and expansive exposure of the audience to realities and imaginations of the past, present and future, the seen and the unseen, the sweet and the bitter, the true and the untrue, the possible and the impossible, the traditional and the modern, all in a beautifully-crafted presentation.

Its recitation is a charming plunge into the world unknown.

Song of my Dreams & Other Songs, a brand-new anthology of St. Andrews Creative Writers and Book Club, is a collection of handpicked poetic works by students of St. Andrews Tarabete Secondary School, Kenya.

It’s an exquisite epitome of young minds’ ability to think, craft, innovate, and present ideas with ease and complexity, mindfulness and creativity.

Within its pages are splashes of a handful of poems by the chaperon teachers, whose work in producing this book was offering insights, changing perspectives, aligning approaches, and instilling gusto into the young creatives’ minds, bringing out the poems and poets in them.

The quadri-sectioned anthology treats the reader to an entire assortment of poems in section A, offers poetry notes in section B, a Question and Answer segment in Section C, and poems with questions in section D.

In my view, Song of my Dreams & Other Songs anthology is an Encyclopedia of Poetry in a microcosm. It’s a collection you’ll sit down to read and rise up having become a poet, overflowing with the craving to write.

It opens with dreams: of self, peace, and a flashback of a once-accommodative nature turned punitive by humanity and then turns to songs about life, nature, joy, sadness, culture, beliefs, and other aspects of life.

With the care of nature vanishing every day, we have remained with a skeleton of the same and now the persona dream in despair, singing in disparity:

Oh! Mother Nature how cruel!

How cruel to you we became?

To strip your chest bare

That to which your anger escalated.

The dreams are agonizing of a lost reality, a longing for a lofty imagination, a craving for peace, fulfillment, a world of abundance, justice, protection, and thriving.

Copies of the anthology. PHOTO/Courtesy.
Copies of the anthology. PHOTO/Courtesy.

The persona, through the dreams, presents the reader with a heart of resilience and the desire to keep trying and also taking a different path for a different, hopefully, better result.

They also build a sense of hope for life yonder after struggles, failures, pain, despair, and all negative energy, building up a new worldview of possibilities.

In a narrative poem on “Personal Dream” by Teresia Muthoni, the persona narrates about a childhood life and how, all along, has been pursuing a dream hitherto. 

It brings out the need to focus on one’s dreams and resist the urge to be dissolved in the dreams and wishes of the community around them. Decisiveness is key!

While addressing ecological matters such as climate change and the palpable need to care for the planet, which has mothered us, the poetic voices also plunge the reader into paramount contemporary issues like allocation of duties in the family setting, politics, corruption, technology, and crime, and how they have given the world new wings to fly to an unknown destiny.

This anthology speaks to all ears, all genders and all ages, attending to the issues affecting and disturbing society in entirety.

Employing imagery, the young minds breathe life into their characters and give their personas the currency to pass the intended message in an easy-to-identify-with approach, adding to their creativity’s aesthetic value, usability and applicability.

The “Song of the Greedy Hyena” by Bonface Otieno stresses the need for hard work, despising a parasitic attitude of waiting to benefit from others’ efforts.

It encourages a spirit of self-sufficiency, living within one’s standards and embracing fairness.

The collection unearths the aesthetic value of reading and learning from young people’s thoughts, approaches, and creativity, a pure mystery, winning over the reader to appreciate that young-hood is a treasure that society must bank on, nurture and buoy up.

It also presents life in its multifaceted nature, foregrounding the themes of true love, romance and heartbreak, acceptance and rejection, hope and despair, life and death, creation and nature, parenting, academics and politics, beauty and ugliness, friendship and enmity, among many others, all in enchanting spasms. 

Poems like “Hopeful in Love”, “Camouflaged”, “If I Should Die”, “Toxic Trust”, “My Life”, “When I met You”, “Dark Africa”, “I Keep Wondering”, “Sweet Mother” and “Rest in Peace Old Granma”, among numerous others, speak to the reader of mundane daily life issues affecting the society, nation, continent and the whole world, opening the readers’ eyes to a wider worldview from the persona’s tongue.

Diana Agnes’s “Mary’s Plea” is a plea for freedom, a cry to be let alone and be herself. It’s a wake-up call that though we always get tempted to invade others’ space and privacy, we must allow those around us the freedom to be, talk, act, and live them.

Calling to mind that this book homes the thoughts of young students, the poets and poetesses were keen also to praise their current home away from home.

With ecstasy and a sense of anticipated nostalgia, “Our Saint St. Andrews” appreciates the molding, imparting and equipping the institution does to them, forever shaping their future for good.

Many cries have been absorbed

By your silent walls

Yet I know because I met you

My life will not be quite

The same again!

Presenting loyalty as a gem to be embraced and other virtues as bulbs to always be kept lit, the poems also hide not reality from us but surface vices as always lurking around us, ever ready to disrupt all goodness.

Simultaneously, “Education” by Halsey Nganga praises the power of education in changing lives through time management and focus and how within it is the power to become anything in life. So,

If it suits you

Shape our ears to hear

Sharpen our eyes to see

Grace our minds to absorb

Bless our hearts to exceed.

Song of my Dreams & Other Songs book presents the young creatives’ thoughts with unbridled enthusiasm and well-calculated seasons, carrying the readers from past experiences to the present yet driving their thoughts to the future and leaving them held in anticipation.

Through lyric poetry, the creatives express their feelings on different aspects of life, such as love, loneliness, disappointments, fear, and other feelings, riveting the reader all along.

The young minds have tapped on figurative language and employed tons of enjambment, making the poems interestingly complex yet easy to decode, affording an amazing flow of thoughts, and maintaining splashes of tension to keep your eyes open, searching for more.  

Mr. Bonface Otieno (L), Ms. Ruth Gitonga, Kabarak University staff members, and St. Andrews Tarabete Creative Writers and Book Club members after an inspiring creative writing workshop at Kabarak University last year. PHOTO/File.
Mr. Bonface Otieno (L), Ms. Ruth Gitonga, Kabarak University staff members, and St. Andrews Tarabete Creative Writers and Book Club members after an inspiring creative writing workshop at Kabarak University last year. PHOTO/File.

“Harvesting Eve”, a poem by Jacklyne Livale, a Senior English Literature teacher at the institution, brings down the curtain in the first section of the book.

It is a recollection of the joys brought about by harvest season, how nature beautifully responds to the times, and how animals and birds join in the merriment as hunger is bidden goodbye, replaced by abundance and ecstasy. They yearn for more:

And as so they sit, waiting for me

To sing another harvests song. 

Going beyond the poems to explain what they are and tons of other details on poetry, this sums up what students have always been waiting for.

Section B of this Poetry Encyclopedia delves into all aspects you need to know about poetry, from the (hitherto un-datable) origin of poetry to the definition of the same, types of poems, basic to complex features of a poem and poetry, imagery in poetry and its types, styles, and techniques in poetry, types and techniques of poetry, attitude, tone, mood and a guide to diction and language use in poetry.

It’s an extensive spring of knowledge with vital nuggets of knowledge students need to tap from as they study, respond to, analyze, write poems and also answer examination questions about poetry.

Section C of this book checks the learners’ understanding of what they have grasped so far. It has numerous poems with Questions and Answers (Q/A), allowing the learner to practice the knowledge gained.

The tail-end section of this anthology-cum-poetry encyclopedia comprises poems and questions. 

The answers are in the students’ minds and with sufficient information already given in the other sections, Section D is a real test of what the students would have as homework to keep them engaged, refreshed, and well-equipped.

In its entirety, this anthology is a visible witness that young people have all they need to become great creatives, thinkers, solution-givers, opinionists, storytellers and all that is at their disposal to become.

It is a gift to society, a fruit of well-cultured minds, an overflow of correctly-chaperoned youngsters with all potential on their hands, an epitome of what youths can become if well-informed, timely-tapped, and positively-impacted and allowed to become.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: BOOK REVIEW: A Silent Song and Other Stories

It is a blessing to drink from their cistern of ideas.

Dear reader, you deserve a copy. Email bonfaceotieno@gmail.com or call +254 746955316 for some copies ahead of the launch. 

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Mr. Makau holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Linguistics, Media & Communication from Moi University, Kenya. He is a Columnist and Editor with Scholar Media Africa, with a keen interest in Education, Health, Climate Change, and Literature. His contact: b.makau@scholarmedia.africa.

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