Somewhat belatedly (but again, better late than never) — Tony Mochama’s piece on the return of SLS-Kenya in The Standard (the country’s largest-circulation newspaper):

Tony is an old friend of the program, 5-time SLS participant (St. Petersburg, Kenya), and the most joyously and unselfconsciously exuberant individual yours truly has ever met in his life (and that’s saying something, too, for YT’s life’s road has been long and not exactly void of human presence). He is also the general secretary of PEN-Kenya — general secretary! fun! watercolor memories in the cobwebbed corner of my mind! Brezhnev-Andropov-Chernenko-Gorbachev… and Tony Mochama! — and a naturally, effortlessly gifted prose writer and poet. He writes fast, and he writes a lot. It is that very happy effortlessness of his writing which, in the past, tended on occasion to undermine the overall quality thereof: as someone capable of penning, from beginning to end, a perfectly enjoyable and declaimable poem (typically, of the odic variety) within two minutes of its public delivery, while leaning precariously over the barstand at some smoky overcrowded drinking establishment in the seedier part of Nairobi,  he had, in the past, a certain amount of difficulty grasping the very idea of re-writing as an intrinsic, and perhaps the most essential, component of the creative process. Re-writing, man? Whatever for? Indeed, why would one need, or want, to re-write something that’s already been written? You don’t improve upon a baby already born, no matter how imperfect it could be. The piece of writing is done on the very first go, for better or worse, and then, without a wistful backward glance, it’s on to the next one. Moving on, moving on; nothing to look at here.

But that was in the past. In the last two years, Tony’s had two books out — one of poetry, the other a short-story collection — which evidence a great deal of literary growth on his part. The latter, in particular, can be highly recommended to the international reader. Titled “The Road to Eldoret,” it presents a series of uncommonly vivid fictionalized accounts of the few days and weeks of post-2007-election mayhem in a country brought to the brink (brinkipice, in Tony’s wordsmithing) of disintegration by the sheer direness of inter-tribal resentments which for years had been simmering like swamp fire just beneath the surface of Kenya’s public life. These are powerful, well-crafted, fast-paced stories, filled with an entirely un-Tony-like fear and apprehension, anguish and anger.

Congratulations are in order, Tony. You’re coming into your own as a writer, taking full command of your bright literary gifts.

That having been said, we still urge you to retain as much as you can of your irrepressible, wild, fun-loving, unpredictable, “Smitta Smitten” self. We wish we could enjoy life even to one-tenth of your intensity: who wouldn’t? Your happiness is contagious, man. Rawk on! Mired in the miserable urban snowfields of North-America’s northeast, we bask in the reflected glow of your hyper-charged joie de vivre. Shine on, you crazy diamond. We smile, thinking of you.


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