Towards a Poetics of Tony Mochama's 'Spoken Word' Poetry: A Study of what if i am a Literary Gangster
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Tony Mochama's poetry, unlike other 'spoken word' poetry in Kenya, has attracted huge and widely divergent critical responses. While many literary critics and scholars have dismissed it, often labeling it 'pseudo/quasi' poetry, others have hailed its freshness and innovation. It is in light of this divergence that this study independently evaluated the literariness and poetics of his only published anthology, What If I Am a Literary Gangster (2007). Since the overall purpose of the research was to objectively establish its literary validity, a highly representative sample of forty-two poems was selected from the entire anthology of eighty poems. This sizeable sample, got through a systematic random sampling technique, was then textually analyzed to reveal not only the inherent thematic concerns but also a stylistic character that eventually informed the generalized appraisal of his poetry. Guided by the new criticism and reader-response theories, the research found out that despite Mochama's transgression from some of the poetic norms, he adheres to the most definitive ones. His ability to integrate various stylistic devices in his fresh articulation of the modem issues in the society was noted. The presence of few obscure and seemingly stylistically weak poems in an anthology of eighty should not be used to wholly discredit him as a poet.