Book Review: These Words

Cover page of These Words anthology by Prof. Kivutha Kibwana. DESIGN/One Planet Publishers.
Cover page of These Words anthology by Prof. Kivutha Kibwana. DESIGN/One Planet Publishers.

Title: These Words

Author :  Prof. Kivutha Kibwana

Publisher: One Planet Publishers

Year: 2021

Reviewer: Bonface Otieno

As is customary, it would be disastrous to review this text’s content without introducing to you the person of Kivutha Kibwana. 

Professor Kivutha Kibwana is a resounding name like a thousand jingles bells hung on the necks of savannah herds. 

His name is a song of a symphony as endless as These Words to the worlds around him: native world, distant world.

A Makueni native, Kibwana studied law and theology at the university, served as a law professor, and served his people’s patriotic and political needs for many years thereafter. 

The ardent playwright writes poetry in his dialect, Kikamba, an art that identifies the African man with his identity and culture. 

As a civil society activist, he championed his country’s pro-democracy movement in the 1990s. He later served as a member of parliament, cabinet minister and pioneer governor of his native county, Makueni.

First published in 2021 by One Planet, These Words anthology is a poetry reflection on life’s diversities—poems of societal phenomena and journeys of the old and new. 

These Words are poems of poverty, oppression, political violence, ethnic conflict, deaths, peace and love. In the very first poem, “Mend my Soul” the poet delves into a poetic meditation. 

He seeks a Deity’s intervention through prayer for peace and restoration. A line reads,

Mend my soul,…rain me peace. 

The theme of salvation against tribulations is the poetic prayer for the soul so troubled and every country crooked or battling wickedness.  

Disperse evil

My voice is raised 

Seed my land with sanity

Listen to my country 

Save my country.

In the voice of the prayerful persona, the poet expresses complete submission to God for a divine change. 

Grant us an eternal thirst for change 

Here I am 

Teach us: revolution, like charity, begins at home

Embrace me

Find us the courage to seek martyrdom 

Hear us

Rise us a new struggle.

As an elder, through the memory lenses of the old times, the poet rekindles the lives short-lived in the struggle for a better life, to better a nation, to revolutionize artistry in the light of the struggle for independence and livelihood, friendship, and family. 

Through Lenin’s tribute (1969-1999), just like many victims of life-robbed loved ones, the persona in regrettable grief finds himself in the corner of darkness, rolling down the valley of death like a moving hurricane, clouded with pain for his loyal friend. 

In stanza four, he mourns:


That last rendezvous, I saw you thinking

Your mind crystal clear 

Thirty years rolling before us 

Is the end here

Lonely grave

Goodbye to life

So soon. 

This is coherent with the poem “Life’s Death” a permanent reminder that there is death in life.

Liberty and freedom are like a chronic disease devoid of pleasure in the tongue of the Kenyan poet. 

Through the poem “So Much to Say to Kenya, 1992” and in his voice, the persona decries his confinement and imprisonment into silence while he has so much to say.

Thoughts jailed within him, ideas concealed within him, and cowardice brewing in him for fear of walls eavesdropping. 

I feel unable to redeem my conscience 

To cease gagging my being 

I am dwarfed by freedom

Who shall find me a tongue

Who shall assemble us a community of the liberated? 

For many years, freedom and liberty have been at the verge of downfall. 

Daniel Moi, in 1992, during the late president’s reign, it was a nationwide phenomenon to speak against the government or governance in secret or publicly. 

It was taboo to criticize, rebuke, or loudly advise the president. 

As such, the country’s natives remained confined to their revolutionary thoughts. 

Prof. Kibwana paints this absurd culture, a status quo that saw a revolutionary move of Kenyans to the call for democracy. 

But do we have the democracy our fore-bearers called for? Are we enjoying it? Maybe, just maybeThese Words will find you an answer. 

Maybe when you read the song “Elegy for the Revolution” in page 65 of the anthology, or “A Wish: for Dedan Kimathi Waciuri” on page 89.

In today’s world, within the drastic spat of urbanization, homelessness has become a threatening issue among the bustling population of urban centers. 

In the poem, “Street Child, That’s me”, the poet is enthralled by the hardships, injustice and hopelessness that clouds children in the streets.

The persona does not have a home and feeds on rotting trash full of stench, flies, and maggots but still must have to survive on it.

Comparatively, the persona wonders how animals are better than humans. It is an alarming phenomenon. 

In every country, the backbone of growth and future generations lies within the youthful masses. 

This is extremely vital in order to raise a country’s status quo, maintain its sanity, and enhance growth. 

Unity of the young generation is the peace of a nation, and peace of a nation is patriotism, democracy, and allegiance to the pledges of love, growth, and leadership. 

The poem “Together (for the youth agenda)” is a mind-blowing verse for a hopeful meditation. 

The poem raises disturbing questions. 

Where is my future

A job to nature

And pride


Maybe love

A home

Even being….

In the poem Youth Seed (for the youth of Africa), the poet is sad about the massive Africa’s youth. 

Unschooled, restless, boisterous, uncouth, high voltage


Young people are the eternal reservoir 

For nourishing Africa’s modernity

Kibwana is not just a poet; he is not just a writer of songs but a leader who envisions the future of Kenya and Africa. 

He shares within the futuristic ideologies that are supposed to cause independence, the renaissance of the African continent, and the people of the world. 

His poetry champions the love of peaceful cohesion; it’s a tribute to lost lives, an embodiment of eminent love for family and one’s nation.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Book Review: You’re Born an Original, Don’t Die a Copy

This poetry collection is the inspiration everyone needs; it’s the prophecy, the sympathy everyone’s troubled soul yearns for. 

It’s the encouragement message for conquest against all the battles of life.

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Mr. Otieno is a Literature enthusiast, an English/Literature teacher, a writer, poet, playwright, and novelist. He is the President of the Bleeding Ink Global Writers Society, a detail-oriented columnist, and a literary critic. His contact:


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