“We Did Not Choose The Sea” and other poems by Philo Ikonya


Stone music
When your music rises
from your grave in flower
and some stones quiver
and sing notes musical
I hear your voice
When music pricks the air
from a needle in friction
and touches the first traction
molecule of air kissing your ear
I have memories
When your words attach a molecule
of air to another and in you we
breathe, sing and live in hope
when we cannot forget we rise
I sing my soul your language
Our hair is proud and sings on air
When loving is truly spoken
It is in your ear in seconds
in your heart and mind and soul
Add warmth and fire to it
Your own interpretation original
Your body moves in dance
Still you rise, still you rise, dance
and fall and rise from grave in flower

Weave your joy

With the tips of your fingers
And all of you like the
Orchestra conductor knows that music
Know your body:
Its heart drum
Piano toes…
The epic of weavers undaunted
the road to the market is mine
my head is a carrier of universes
I know my step is in space
and those arrows you see on my cloth
have known many lights…
nights and colors
Recognition that ignites
when that face you see again out of nowhere comes
Suddenly feelings surge
blow and rage a real storm
Heart shaken like a vessel love filled bubbles
Feel every nerve awake
Blood rush blush…
Something lost now
rare since a screen touch keeps
telling where and how you are
Soon surprise will be ancient human feeling…ouch!

trembling dreams

You wake me up each time
but I dream on with hope
You tell me children cannot
eat dreams in a poem
But when I look I see them
only clad in dreams
the only pants they wear
that you cannot tear
I have sat and mended endlessly
and washed with tears
things mention would tear this paper
things surfing in my soul
Come again, enlarge my spirit
into dreams and let me sleepwalk
and stalk in my talk so many ghosts
Until I ring my bell of peace
and you fall out of your fantasy
and see saints sainting without fainting

We did not choose the sea

philo 6.1.2014
When we found them washed ashore
they were barely alive but still breathing
We spoke for the voiceless they
said, many times, and now speak to us
and for us and with us share this breath
We shuddered at life’s turns and twists
when the madding crowd kicked them hard
They slave them again, they do, their voices
deadly drilling the stones so alone intone


Solitary times teach
so loudly that silence
grows so deep and speaks
a new language: And now
Let me see my love, let me
hear my hope, touch my faith
Let me taste our belonging in fragrance
It has been so long and I have
a new alphabet to share with life


You come closest
to my chest and tell
me in my own tongue
that you are my latest thought
the fount sings unending
the ocean rises as the rivers dry
and we see the stones still
washing and washed
Humans never understood
color then, never not in
all those matches in design
Not in all those pastels in
cake and bathroom tiles
Not in all that whiteness
and darkness in the broods of life
We so challenged by the sun
without which we wither
color must be bright
and I know
that we have not understood color
We have not got it in color
We attach to it not the warm sound
that leave our mouths to cut the air
frightened of it we are when it rains
and now we know that sign
like we have worshipped the rainbow
for years

Round the rock

Roots then finding
their way blindly down
trying you
to pass they go this way
and that
through soils find you
and hug you
You sing to them the
song of beginnings you
play for them the sound
of the music of their birth
the sign of life
Do not be sad you are
not in a foreign land you tell
them as they move
falling finds those still
thrusting roots
Yours of stone
you have them
and the roots of a tree
carrying generations into
this other freedom so hidden from
our eyes
that the place of gray we think
but we never understood
Here to go everyone has a visa
given by the first cry, you life and
friction before in your forbearers
Here to go everyone is in song
Hug us rock and break us
as we broke you, break our wood
and if we are ashes, kiss us rock
and let your hardness be the crook
of Our Mother’s arm, so soft
We Did Not Choose The Sea and other poems are © Philo Ikonya

downloadPhilo Ikonya is a writer, lecturer and human rights activist. She is the President of PEN Kenya. She taught semiotics at Tangaza College and Spanish at the United States International University in Nairobi. She graduated in Literature and Linguistics (The University of Nairobi) before reading philosophy in Spain and Italy. She worked as an editor for Oxford University Press (Eastern Africa). Born in Kenya, Philo speaks Kiswahili, Gikuyu, English, Spanish and some Norsk. She has a grasp of Italian and French. Philo is a mother of one. She is currently living in exile in Norway.
Her fiction includes two novels, Leading the Night and Kenya, will you marry me? She has published three poetry anthologies: This Bread of Peace, (Lapwing) Belfast, Ireland, and Out of Prison- Love Songs translated into German (Aus dem Gefangnis Liebesgesange). Philo is a Pan-Africanist.
-from PEN: http://www.pen-international.org/who-we-are/board/philo-ikonya/#sthash.tasg0SKN.dpuf

‘Aluine’s Gardens’ by C. Murray

Aluine’s Gardens

Before the house
behind the sea,
a garden.

Before the mountain
behind the house,
a circuit of trees.

Before the small house
behind the grey sea,
A strip of lawn enclosed with box.

Before the tall mountain
behind those six white walls of house,
rows of young alders a circuit make.

Before the house of three steps up
behind the rocky strand down to the sea,
a wild field conceals her garden’s bloom.

Before that shadow the reek casts onto green fields
behind the grass rolling and tumbling to rocky beach,
her lawn encloses varieties of bees.

Before Croagh Patrick,
the Reek,
a mazed world wherein shadows flit.

Before the house where grasses tumble to rocky shore,
behind the sound where gather the gulls, a small ingress,
a light step to rose’s bloom, lawn of green.

Before the cloud-shrouded reek
behind the house with fish in the windows,
there is a forest of trees, a flitting child.

Before the small house where wind’s flute and bassoon
mocks the squake of gulls,
a strip of lawn to where butterflies play.

Before the sheltering reek
and behind this small house of gardens,
a simple circuit of trees.

Birds sing there.

© C Murray, all rights reserved.

With thanks to Anora McGaha who first published the poem on the Books by Women website http://booksbywomen.org/aluines-gardens-a-poem-by-c-murray/

With thanks to the PIWCC who published the poem on the Diversity blog of the PEN International Women Writers Committee, http://www.diversity.org.mk/index.php?option=com_multicategories&view=article&id=41%3Amurraychris&catid=33%3Awomen-writers&Itemid=38&lang=en

The diversity site, a PEN Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee project

The idea that advised this poetry blog was and is the dissemination of literature, specifically poetic literature, in non-traditional formats such as web-formatted publication.  The reader can find the kernel of this  idea discussed here.  There are links on the Poethead about page to the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights (Barcelona 1996) and to UBUWEB.  The above links comprise the foundation of the blog, and advise the main thrust of the blog’s themes: the importance of translation, and the sharing of ideas in poetry. Poetry is always going to lend itself to derivations including in translation,  film, musical, and theatrical adaptations , to name but a few.

In 2011, I wrote a piece about the wealth of work that is available online for the discerning reader of poetry and of literature. In my view literary writing is undergoing a vast renaissance which is a result of avant-garde web-usage.  This fact appears to annoy the more traditional purveyor of literature who is up against it because publishing houses, poetic-foundations , and avant-gardeists are very embracing of their new audiences, and they are putting time and money into developing tech to reach new readers.

PEN International operates through volunteerism and through committee, the Diversity blog is a project of the PEN International Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee.  The importance of translation in literature was set out again in 2011 in the form of the Girona Manifesto ,which I am linking here .

Genres in the new TLRC  Diversity blog include , Essays, Poetry and Fiction.  Translators and readers are invited to contact the Committee with questions and submissions. I am adding here the link to Women Writers, as it is a special area of concern for me.  It is good to see that the International PEN Women Writer’s Committee is very active in the design and editorship of the blog, Lucina Kathmann and Marija Simokovic were very involved in the creation and launch of the women’s pages. Thanks to both women for their work and for publishing Aluine’s Gardens on Diversity.

The Diversity site

PEN International Endorses Irish PEN Centre’s Campaign Against Ireland’s Blasphemy Laws

27 April 2011 : from  The Irish PEN website

PEN International strongly supports the repeal of Ireland’s Defamation Act of 2009 and an amendment to the Irish Constitution‘s requirement that blasphemy be prohibited under Irish law.

PEN is an organization whose members pledge to promote good understanding and mutual respect between nations and to do their utmost to dispel race, class and national hatreds. We deplore the distrust, disparagement or denigration of any individual based on her or his religious beliefs. We condemn discrimination, threats, harassment, or violence against individuals based on their religion and support national and international prohibitions against such actions. PEN and its member centers are engaged in activities and programs around the globe aimed at reducing religious hatreds and suspicions in the post-September 11, 2001 world.

“We are adamantly opposed to criminalizing speech considered insulting or offensive to religions,” states PEN International President, John Ralston Saul. “Religions are systems of ideas, embodied in institutions and sometimes states. As such, they cannot lie outside the bounds of questioning, criticism and description – the whole terrain of free expression“. Insult and blasphemy laws such as Ireland’s Defamation Act of 2009 clearly run counter to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and other international free expression protections. Moreover, they do little to advance the goal of promoting respect. “

Archive for the ‘Blasphemies’ Category

Related Links here


Article on Irish Blasphemy Laws Via the WiPC