On 18th February 2020, Esther Syombua sat down with Nyasili Atetwe and they talked stuff writing.
NYASILI: Welcome Esther Syombua, how are you?
SYOMBUA: Thank you Nyasili
NYASILI: I am going excited to host you this evening.
SYOMBUA: Am fine, thank you!
NYASILI: How was your day?
SYOMBUA: My day was fine. How was yours?
NYASILI: Good good, just super busy.
SYOMBUA: Sorry for that. Make sure you get a good rest then
NYASILI: I will. So let’s begin from the beginning. Most of us know you as Miss Dimples. In as few words as it can take to tell. What don’t we know about you?
SYOMBUA: Wow, okey. So miss dimples is just a nickname someone got for me and before I know it everyone is using it. My real name is Esther Syombua. A pure kamba from Kitui…but haturogi watu(we do not bewitch people). But I stay in mombasa
NYASILI: Wow! What do you do for a living?
SYOMBUA: Well, for now is kinda hard to answer that question.
NYASILI: You still a student?
SYOMBUA: No. I graduated in 2019.
NYASILI: Being a coastorian I imagine Swahili is your lingua franca in writing is Swahili…
SYOMBUA: Not really. Actually have never considered it ,maybe just for fan. I prefer English
NYASILI: What kind of writing do you do? Poetry or prose?
SYOMBUA: I do poetry
NYASILI: There are many poets in this space per square centimeter. Why do you write poetry
SYOMBUA: I am working on personal development at the moment as I seek for a job. Yeah lots of them.
NYASILI: Okay. That’s great.
SYOMBUA: It is just great. It amazes me how you can bring out a theme perfectly in just a few stanzas and lines.
NYASILI: I have met poets here who have specialized on particular themes. For instance , Mish calls herself an ecopoet. Do you have an specialization yourself
SYOMBUA: No. I can do any theme. Apart from love unless someone has requested.
NYASILI: Good. I kind of feel that you poets need to produce more as compared to prose writers. Does it take as much effort to produce a poem
SYOMBUA: Unless it is a theme that requires abit of research for me it isn’t that hard
NYASILI: Then you poets need to churn out stuff in crazy volumes I bet
NYASILI: It is not happening though. Are poets lazy then?
SYOMBUA: I may say somehow.(laughs)Or unless we poets are writing and keeping the work to ourselves.
NYASILI: Mmmm! Iron sharpens iron. So does writers learn from other writers. How does this apply to you poets or you as a poet?
SYOMBUA: Yeah we learn from other writers. As for me, it has helped me a lot. When I started writing poems, I did not know there are things one needs to learn, apart from the ones we learnt I high school of course. Poets have different styles of writing I may say. When you interact with different poets am sure one will learn something from them.
NYASILI: Who are some of your favorite poets, the ones you have read?
SYOMBUA: I will start form here. The ones have read so far are great and include but not limited to Mukonya Mukonya, Benny Wanjohi, Ann pendo, Nancy Mutheu and Faith Chepchumba.
NYASILI: Who are classical poets that tickle your fancy?
SYOMBUA: Have also read some work of Robert Frost and he is great.
NYASILI: Robert Frost, ‘The Road’
SYOMBUA: Yeah. (Wow’d) You have read his work?
NYASILI: Yes, I think some. There are many online platforms that have emerged which are publishing poets. How are they important in promoting the genre currently?
SYOMBUA: Poetry is as important just as other genres. I think this platforms mostly are helping the upcoming poets. They open a platform where ones work is open to the world and that means they are in a way creating a connection where authors can interact. And they also help in marketing of the genre as a whole.
NYASILI: What is your writing process as a poet
SYOMBUA: My process is just easy. Sometimes I maybe sitted, then an idea pops in my head; the type of poems one can write in a minute. Then there are others where I can choose a certain theme, think or research it then from there I write.
NYASILI: Many poets I have interacted with are not yet published. Do you think poets are taking advantage of the opportunities?
SYOMBUA: Maybe most poets are not aware of the platforms. Still it depends if they want to publish or not. Have met some who just write poems for fun, just to relieve their mind with no intention of getting published.
NYASILI: Interesting. I bet to them writing poetry is merely therapeutic. How many rewrites do you do to be satisfied with a piece?
SYOMBUA: It depends with a theme for me sometimes I can do upto 5 rewrites.
NYASILI: But could the lack of interest to publish also be attributed with the fear of rejection?
SYOMBUA: Yeah you are right. Well there is rejection plus harsh critiques.
NYASILI: How do you handle rejection yourself
SYOMBUA: (laughing shyly). Have I even published? But considering it soon.
NYASILI: You have not been rejected yet ever.
SYOMBUA: But rejection, for me, I may say does not mean you cannot write. It is just another chance to do your best again. Yeah I have not.
NYASILI: Lets talk about harsh criticism or review. Is it about malice or the truth?
SYOMBUA: Truth. But there is way you can put it and instead of helping, it crushes someone.
NYASILI: How does positive criticism or review look like then?
SYOMBUA: Pointing out areas of corrections and still acknowledging the piece. This is in a way that the writer will not lose interest.
NYASILI: I agree. As a writer, we all aim at having a body of work; published or unpublished. In your body of work, how many poems have you generated so far?
SYOMBUA: Am not sure how many but they about 40 plus.
NYASILI: That’s quite an impressive effort. Did you begin writing with poetry?
SYOMBUA: No. I started with diary writing. Took a course in script writing but I have never finished it.
NYASILI: Tell me more about writing diary.
SYOMBUA: Well, I started way back in highschool. Many times, I could hold conversations in my head about everything that was happening be it small or unnecessary. So, I thought, why not just write it down! With time, I found it easy writing than holding a conversation with a person. Not that I could not share but writing everything down was relatively easier.
NYASILI: What prompted the transition to poetry?
SYOMBUA: After I joined WSA. Those were the first times I tried poetry. This was after Faith Chepchumba pushed me to try it out and I ended up loving it.
NYASILI: Do you still do diaries?
SYOMBUA: Yeah once in a while.
NYASILI: What did you do at the varsity?
SYOMBUA: Bachelor’s degree in International Tourism Management.
NYASILI: Interesting. Does it feed into your poetry in any way?
SYOMBUA: Currently NO. It does not.
NYASILI: For how long have you been on the space?
SYOMBUA: I think from 2018. During the late Wakini’s time.
NYASILI: How has this space helped you grow as a poet?
SYOMBUA: I have met people who have had a positive impact in my writing. Plus it is a free space where everyone can express anything without any judgements and have enjoyed reading other genres too. So far it has been great.
NYASILI: Are there ways we can improve our interactions over here?
SYOMBUA: So far its great. But I think we can come up with ways or a schedule maybe of how we can post our works for critiques and everyone to participate.
NYASILI: I hope stakeholders are noting. What are your dreams about writing poetry?
SYOMBUA: That it won’t just be a mere thoughts and emotions written. That the words may impact everyone who sets their eyes on work.
NYASILI: What would you consider your greatest achievement?
SYOMBUA: Being interviewed by you, attending a poetry mentorship program and being featured in WSA-K magazine.
NYASILI: Have you thought of publishing. An anthology perhaps?
SYOMBUA: Ooh yeah I have. Well, there was a time In 2017 was featured in a certain anthology- Si(gh)lent Night by Fumnminyi Isaac)
NYASILI: Awesome. (jokingly) Since you are living at the coast, you’ve written poetry on jinis I guess
SYOMBUA: (laughs) No I have not. But if I meet one I will write about it.
NYASILI: Do you have have a blog?
SYOMBUA: Not yet but I’m thinking about having one.
NYASILI: What’s your parting shot. Thanks Miss Dimples for giving us your time this evening. I feel honored to host you.
SYOMBUA: There is nothing great then being a writer. Share you work for critiques that way we will grow. Am happy to be in the midst of such great minds. Pleasure was all mine.
NYASILI: Thanks again Essy
By the contributing editor Paul Wambua