On Encountering Sorrow by Gathu Wahome Book Review

download-3Among the best and heartwarming poetry books I have had the pleasure to read in quite some time, On Encountering Sorrow by Gathu Wahome is a collection of creatively woven poems that tackle heartily themes including happiness, love, loss, comradeship, war and death among other ideas. The poet has used rich, authentic language with deep vivid descriptions of the plots, settings and characters, and though the main theme of the book is sorrow, as the title suggests, and has seemingly debauched devoid complaisant characters, it has an in depth coverage of other ostensibly unrelated thesis such as oppression and freedom.

The book has some poems written in Gikuyu backed up by English translations of the same by the poet, thereby capturing the true meaning as intended by the artist. It is often hard to find poetry books that have a linear flow of themes and ideas, but this book is an exception, as it appears the poet has written the poems in such an awful attractive symmetry with different voices and crescendo like in a story, yet the poems were written in a span of many years with some dating as far back as teenage years. This is something that takes a certain genius to achieve and to master the craft.

img_1145Sorrow as a Memory in On Encountering Sorrow by Gathu Wahome

The one thing that stuck me in this jewel of well compounded thoughts is that sorrow is not an end; rather it is a means to something profound, to a celebration. It is not an end to death, rather to life, it is an epiphany to happiness, and it should not be perceived as something deathly. When we lose something for instance a broken relationship, we should not mourn and get into depression; rather we should be happy that we still hold those moments in memory. We should be cognizant and appreciate that once in our lives we had something good going on. We should, above all, treasure the present as it is the only thing that exists. The future and the past do not exist apart from our minds, our thoughts; they are mere illusions. We can only plan and recollect, but these things are dependent on the present.

We play draft and chess

By the pool deep green is the grass

We notice not time fly

At the horizon the dusk sun is shy

We play draft and chess

And although idle we enjoy ourselves nonetheless…..

We should live by the moment. We should get lost in it and care of nothing else apart from that single moment. We should hold life at the palm of our hand and live in it to the fullest. Why care whether time moves or not, yet when one moment is gone, is lost to the sands of memory.

When our loved ones leave us, as they surely will one time maybe from death or otherwise breakup, we should be in high spirits as now we can move on to other things; now we can share the experience with others: now we can finally be free. Now we can take that sorrow and create happiness, mould a new life, take a new form – seek after a new joy. This should surely make us contented, after all nothing lasts forever, the bird must perch, the corn must dry.

Why do we live if not to encounter sorrow, but what action do we take when we do? Do we go for the window, drown ourselves, or celebrate everything that we have been fortunate enough to experience be it war, poverty, heartbreaks, riches or happiness? What meaning should we fathom from our suffering and sorrow? What should we do when all that is important to us fails and we are left empty and void? One thing is clear, we should not give up: sorrow can give birth to pleasure, from recollections, from sitting down and washing everything down with a drink.

5163dvyye2l-_sy346_War, Brotherhood, and Love in on Encountering Sorrow by Gathu Wahome

Gathu Wahome has a way with words, the clear description of the countryside, war, friendship; despair and regret have been beautifully and clearly thought of.

Depressed from pressing cares I sit on bed and hum to a


The midnight cold thrills me with pain

Long hours of sleeplessness have worn me with bitter


His corpse lay far away in the sighing rain

Gulping cup on cup still brings no relief

At the doorstep, young flowers are weeping away

Try as I may, I cannot forget companion of my younger


Oh! My sorrow will last forever

Reading this poem brings tears to the eyes; the poet has ingeniously used symbolism to bring out the loss of a friend. There are such many examples I can cite from the book. It appears the most prevalent themes that spring up all over the poems is friendship, the persona in most of the poems recalls of his past friends, who have left either by death or separated by distance and circumstances. He also recollects of his sweetheart or encounters with the opposite sex in random places including brothels, often times when drunk.  The love for the bottle cannot be avoided, as the character in some of the poems sits idly enjoying drinks with his friends or other times alone, and in a flash, past recollections spent in merry smoking and drinking, pass through him as if in a trance.

The imagery of both the capital and the countryside is painted well in the poems with clear description of both the city and nature hand in hand. The poet has also gone back in history to examine events as they unfolded paying tribute to fallen heroes during the Great War that our forefathers had to engage to gain independence of our country. This is backed up with actual facts citing even the location and the actual names of the fighters with the kind of weaponry that they used, and the struggle they had to endure to get rid of the enemy. The poet pays tributes to our heroes, but he does not also fail to chasten the traitors who led to the massacre of our heroes.

This is truly a fascinating read!




Hi, Thank You for Reading. Please Leave a Reply