Donreed Murila goes by the penname FAINT PAINT KE. He sat down with Nyasili Atetwe on 11th of February 2021 and here is things went down.
NYASILI: Karibu sana Murila, the Faint Pen KE
FAINT PEN: Asante. Good evening.
NYASILI: How are you today?
FAINT PEN: My day was pretty good. How about yours?
NYASILI: Mine was fine, just the normal grinding that makes life worth its while.
FAINT PEN: That’s great buddy. Keep grinding.
NYASILI: Your pen name is Faint Pen KE; such a curious and interesting name
FAINT PEN: It is. I had to find something unique and interesting.
NYASILI: So, why Faint Pen? And not bold pen or sharp pen?
FAINT PEN: The way I write is unique. The name Faint Pen is kinda a cliche of the picture my writings reflect. I thought of, let me call myself faint even though what I write is bold.
NYASILI: What kind of writings does your faint pen do?
FAINT PEN: I do write prose poetry as my major focus. I also do short stories and poems.
NYASILI: what do you mean prose poetry
FAINT PEN: My poetry is written in prose form instead of verse form.
NYASILI: Okay. Is that a way of freeing yourself from conventions of poetry such as rhyme, stanzas and the likes.
FAINT PEN: Not really. After a series of trial and error with my writings. Prose poetry was an easy way to express my ideas as compared to the normal poetry. The natural flow of speech gives me the freedom to express myself better.
NYASILI: I want to believe that spoken word artists are also prose poets, only that they go further and recite theirs.
FAINT PEN: Spoken word artist employ the technique of prose to help in recitation. Though I have never tried reciting poetry. I always admire the authenticity in it.
NYASILI: What are you heavy on? Poetry or short story writing?
FAINTPEN: Prose poetry. I have been reading and learning on how to better myself as a short story writer. It is a work in progress.
NYASILI: I was in a writers workshop some years back. Our moderator of the day, Yvonne Owuor started us by asking a question that I would also like to ask you. Why do you write? I mean why must you?
FAINT PEN: I write to be free. Writing is therapeutic. I happen not to be good at opening up. Writing is the outlet that allows me to speak without having any fear or worry. Also, writing ended up being my way to freedom. Which is also what I do as part of my work. I have to. Without it, my mind will be like a closed house without an outlet to let in some fresh air.
NYASILI: That is quite a mouthful. Do you feel you are writing as much as you should?
FAINT PEN: Currently I have not been writing that much. I hope to overcome the procrastination and get back to writing and do it as much as I can.
NYASILI: There is a joke bandied amongst writers. A writer walks into a room full of other writers. He introduces himself “I am Murila, and am a writer!” One of the writer asks him “ooo you are a writer? what is your procrastination strategy? (casually laughs).
FAINT PEN: (laughs) This is true. I once introduced myself as a writer, and everyone was kinda surprised if that is even a career. But the truth is, writing is a career like any other.
NYASILI: What is stopping you from writing as much as you want?
FAINT PEN: Writing needs planning, time and proper organisation. I always fall short of time especially when I’m struggling to draft my work.
NYASILI: I thought a poem one is struck by a thought, take a page, sit down and boom -you have your first draft. It surely cannot be as intensive as writing a short story.
FAINT PEN: I would not say I have something in particular that stops me from writing as much I want. I always work with a plan. One thing that has been holding me back, is lack of enough feedback from my writing. That’s how it works. Sometimes, a conflict in thoughts can hinder you from coming up with that poem. Also, if I find that I’m thinking a lot to write a poem, then that is not the right time to work on the poem.
NYASILI: Okay. How critical do you think feedback is to the growth and development of a writer?
FAINT PEN: Feedback to a writer is an important element. Without it, growth cannot occur as it should. We learn from the mistakes we make. When a writer does not get that, you are left in a quagmire whether what you are doing is right or wrong.
NYASILI: And I agree with you. But there are people out here who are scared of giving feedback because their criticism will be taken negatively. There is so much emotional investment in a piece of work that we do. Do you think we are ever ready to be told ‘this work is trash‘ because it is trash.
FAINT PEN: That happens a lot. My take is, we can create a culture where we exchange ideas and feedback without holding that much. The more we get to interact, the more we get open to sharing ideas within ourselves. When a writer receives feedback, we should not see it as something negative. Always focus on the criticism that is demanding you to level up on your writing. I was never open to that, but it has greatly improved my writing. Emotional investment means the writing is originating from a personal experience. As a writer, we can learn how to balance with how much emotions we invest in the writings to avoid diluting the sauce. When told a piece is ‘trash’ take time and reflect it from several perspective. The only way to be better in terms of growth and development is to open our ourselves for constructive criticism.
NYASILI: Sure. I like your positive approach towards this issue because it is killing us as writers. How long have you been writing?
FAINT PEN: I started writing while in high school. That will be around 8 years ago.
NYASILI: Wow. 2002 or thereabout. What are some of the subjects that fascinate you as a writer?
FAINT PEN: Social issues, health and environment.
NYASILI: Our life experiences provide us with the raw material for our craft; how have you life experiences found their way into your writing?
FAINT PEN: Most of the writings have a piece of my personal experience. They give us first hand info which is responsible for originality in our writings.
NYASILI: Has a women ever inspired you to write a poem?
FAINT PEN: (coyly laughing). They always do. They are the heartbeat to everything.
NYASILI: (heartily laughing) I bet in most of them the persona is lamenting about something? kuachwa(behind dumped), kulengwa, (detested), kuchezwa(played), kukuliwa fare (fare inconveniences)
FAINT PEN: (laughs) Not entirely. Majority is about that. But there is more good than kuachwa na kukula fare. We can also write when she says amefika stage, (alighted at the stagepoint)
NYASILI: (laughs)The female people are always an inspiration. There was a debate here on whether poetry should be straight forward or whether it should written in a manner in which only some prophets can discern. Perhaps you would like to weigh in on the argument
FAINT PEN: They are the S.I unit for writing.
NYASILI: (laughs). I like that – SI unit for writing.
FAINT PEN: A writer has to find their voice. And be themselves when it comes to writing. I will go for making it a little bit simple for the essence of readability to the public.
NYASILI: I remember you telling us that you were teaching English Literature in some school in western. Are you still teaching?
FAINT PEN: I did some teaching nikiwa attachment. The experience was one of a kind. Currently I am not doing that.
NYASILI: What are you doing?
FAINT PEN: I am a freelancer. I do academic writing
NYASILI: Okay. How was your experience teaching poetry. I remember being taught poetry in high school, half a century ago, man that thing was a recipe for snoring – no matter the time of the day. Was it poetry or was it the teacher or was it the students?
FAINT PEN: I taught history. Though writing was what made me feel home. I played a crucial role in mentoring the writers and poets in the school. The kids needed someone to guide, direct and empower them. Which I was part of.
NYASILI: Music can be termed as poetry in motion? Do you write your poems while listening to music? Does music inspire you to write or is it a distraction?
FAINT PEN: Life without music would be a mess. I mostly pick a phrase from a song, and make a poem out of it. It provides the right atmosphere to write. Music speaks from within and that goes hand in hand with writing
NYASILI: What do you think is the future of poetry in Kenya?
FAINT PEN: The future is bright. Recently, we have platforms uniting poets and empowering them. Which provides the right momentum to take poetry to the next level.
NYASILI: Do you think spoken word poets have stolen your show -you written word poets?
FAINT PEN: Spoken word artists are the face of poetry. I would not conclude that they have stolen the show since most of them write as well. They just have an upper hand as compared to the latter.
NYASILI: Should written word artists therefore consider, transitioning to spoken word as well?
FAINT PEN: If you can. That will be an added advantage. No pressure.
NYASILI: Do you have any works you have published?
FAINT PEN: I have only managed to produce one in soft copy.
NYASILI: Congratulations for this achievement
FAINT PEN: Thank you.
NYASILI: Without pre-empting much, what is Dear Titi all about
FAINT PEN: Dear Titi is a collection of letters addressed to the one and only Titi. Dear readers, if you ask me today who I am? I will say more than my name. I am a man in love. In between the sentences, I will talk of Titi. To the woman of valor, now that the world is reading your tales, I hope for once, I can do my crying in the rain and let down for the very last time. The letters talk about the thin line between hate and love. Emotions that are bottled up when in a relationship. Titi is a fictional character, and I happen to tell her story as it is!
NYASILI: Wow. It must be quite a read
FAINT PEN: Yes it is.
NYASILI: Is it already in circulaton?
Faint Pen: It is.
NYASILI: Is it on sale?
FAINT PEN: I just wanted to taste the waters and see the feedback I’ll receive on my work before publishing
NYASILI: Do you have a blog?
FAINT PEN: Yes I do. (murilajnrke.wordpress.com)
NYASILI: Thank you for giving us your evening today
FAINT PEN: Pleasure is all mine too. Thank you for also giving me the opportunity to share with the rest.
By contributing editor, Paul Wambua.