'How to Euthanise a Cactus'
rooted in a traumatic moment in
Kenya's history, thIS collection OF POEMS from
Stephen Derwent Partington is optimistic ...
book contains fifty five accessible poems from Stephen Derwent
Partington - a respected Kenyan
poet, poetry editor and judge.
As one reviewer commented:
‘How to Euthanise a Cactus is an
important second collection from one of East Africa’s most
talented poets ... Partington combines political engagement
with highly crafted writing, inviting readers to glimpse the
heady mixture of beauty and violence, humanity and danger
that characterises a nation and a region of the brink of
both catastrophe and hope’
Approximately half of the poems are those that
were written ‘raw’ during Kenya’s widely-publicised
Post-Election Violence (PEV) of early 2008, and which were
circulated within Kenya, especially via a new group of young
writers which formed at the time, ‘Concerned Kenyan Writers’.
These include the popular ‘Praise Poem’.
-- cover of 'How to Euthanise a
Cactus' by Stephen Derwent Partington.
Kenya’s PEV rocked a country that had previously
been known (perhaps naively) as one of the most stable countries on
the continent: possibly thousands were killed; hundreds of thousands
were displaced, and often remain so.
Occasionally journalistic, sometimes angry, sometimes
hopeful, but always powerfully responsible, these PEV poems reflect an
insider-outsider’s experience of that time.
These particular PEV poems are not quoted as part of
this promotional document, at the writer’s request.
Many of the other poems are more personal, but never
fully privatist in that manner which often separates much Western
literature from that of the postcolonial world.
These poems reflect a British immigrant’s process of
hybridising into a new place, Kenya.
They include the impressive ‘Continental Drift’,
which speaks from an out-of-body position about overlaps between
cultures and the possibility of contented hybridity rather than that
traditional ‘alienation’ and ‘schizophrenia’ which was
expressed by earlier generations of immigrants and ‘colonial
subjects’ across the globe.
Here is the first, UK-based verse paragraph of ‘Continental
Drift’, a multi-perspective poem that later screes effortlessly
into East Africa:
The sole of your boot grips a stone, and it begins:
flakes of shale cascading over shale
like swarms of graphite atoms gliding over graphite
as an artist shades a mountain, dark Skiddaw,
that has a figure (rapid scratching showing motion),
slate-grey, almost imperceptible: but squint,
you’ll see he’s screeing down the slope toward the lake.
Other poems that shine in How to Euthanise a Cactus
include the witty ‘Cerebrology’, which uses an extended
metaphor to ridicule certain (pompous?) and knee-jerk myths of poetic
creation, and which deliberately wobbles on the border between light
verse and the (ahem!) profound.
In this poem, a slightly self-important medical
lecturer discourses on a poet’s brain as it is dissected.
The first four lines begin the process:
Place your fingers round the cranium’s equator,
lift, and notice how it neatly tugs away.
The standard image is a walnut, but in cases of
the poet’s brain we choose instead the pecan.
Stephen is a talented young writer, married into
Kenya, who studied at various universities in the UK and Germany,
While in the UK, many of his poems appeared in
respected magazines and journals, including The Rialto, The
New Welsh Review, Smiths Knoll, Verse, Poetry Wales,
Thumbscrew, Iron, Swansea Review, Frogmore Papers, etc.
Since arriving many years ago in Kenya, where
he heads a small rural school, Stephen has: contributed
journalistic articles to the national press on educational and
participated in national radio debates on the
acted as poetry editor to
Kwani?, ‘East Africa’s only literary journal’; published
academic articles in leading journals on Kenyan literature;
writer and poet Stephen Derwent Partington.
published a critically-acclaimed Kenya-based poetry
supported other emerging young poets;
written a ‘critical manifesto’ which focuses on
the new Kenyan poetry, and a postcolonial, post-election study of the
creation of ‘tribe’ in Kenyan literature, both of which are
During the Post-Election Violence in Kenya, he joined,
as a participating member, the young writer-activist group, Concerned
He lives and works near Machakos, Kenya, with his
young family, until such time as he is – say – deported! ?
Stephen’s regular and short author blog can be found
at the ‘inpress online bookshop’ website, where How to Euthanise a
Cactus will also be for sale: www.inpressbooks.co.uk
Euthanise a Cactus. Genre: Poetry,
single-author collection. Author: Stephen Derwent Partington.
Format: Paperback, 216x140 mm, 80 pages. Publisher:
Cinnamon Press, Wales, UK (www.cinnamonpress.com). ISBN:
9781907090165 (1907090169). Cover Price: £7.99.
'96, '97, '98, '99, '00, '01, '02,
'03, '04, '05, '06, '07, 08, 09, 2010.
Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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