What an amazing festival we had this year! What a life, a joy, a laughter and an excitement it was! The 2023 edition is simply indescribable and amazingly beyond words and explanation. I have never experienced and organized such a festival for the last ten years. This edition was special, immensely successful, and unique in its own rights, coming at a time when the festival is celebrating its 10th year anniversary. It was all songs and ululations, drums and dances, with laughter, love and joy intermingled with exchange of culture, art and literature. Since the festival ended, I have put my head in my palms and thought deeply about what exactly brought joy and made it all hilarious. And the answer I get points to the guest-poets. This year’s guest poets were people held in great respect, of great standing, of utter integrity, esteemed and above reproach. That is not enough; they were also people who carried with them their hearts and humanity to Kenya. A big shout out to them all -- peace and love!

These poets I am talking about are, and we are proud of them and we sincerely hold them in high esteem: Lucilla Trapazzo (Switzerland), Andrea Grieder (Switzerland), Nora Atalla (Canada), Mattia Scarpulla (Canada), Manfred Chobot (Austria), Bengt O Björklund (Sweden), Fatemeh Ekhtesari (Norway), Erlend Wichne (Norway), Kevin Dublin (USA), Hassanal Abdullah (USA), Peggy Morrison (USA), Karla Brundage (USA), Salim Abdali (Denmark), and Winston Farrell (Barbados). Kenyan poets included: Dr. Christopher Okemwa, Dr. Miriam Musonye, Dr. Evans Mecha, Bonface Nyamweya and Ruth Koech.

Other special guests during the festival included Dagmar Chobot (Austria) partner to the poet Manfred Chobot, Gertrude Nilsson Björklund (Sweden) wife to the poet Bengt O Björklund, and Petra Klimaszyk (Denmark) wife to the poet Salim Abdali.

Most poets arrived before and on Friday 6th October 2023. On the first day of the festival, Saturday 7th October 2023, the ceremony started with opening speeches from the MC, Dr. Matunda Nyanchama, director of the festival, Dr. Christopher Okemwa, Loice Robi Mwita, and Swiss Embassy Deputy Ambassador, Dr. Steve Tharakan. A mention was made of Kevin Dublin (USA) and Karla Brundage (USA) who this year volunteered to work with Kistrech Poetry Festival (How amazing it feels when international poets decide to join the festival to work as volunteers!). This was followed by poetry readings and a series of performances by Swiss poets, Andrea Grieder & Trucilla Trapazzo, who accompanied their poetry with obokano, a traditional 8-string instrument, played by Mr. Wilfred Ombiro Mose, a famous griot of the Abagusii people of Kenya. This took one hour. This was followed by Norwegian Poetry, presented by Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Erlend Wichne. Morning session was brought to an end by poetry from America, read to us by Peggy Morrison, Kevin Dublin and Hassanal Addullah. After lunch break we listened to poetry by Kenyan poets: Bonface Nyamweya and Dr. Miriam Musonye. Closing the first day of the festival were three poets, Manfred Chobot (Austria), Bengt O Björklund (Sweden) and Salim Abdali (Denmark).

On Sunday 8th October 2023, poets, in three mini-buses, travelled to Kisii, 7 hours away from the city of Nairobi. On the way, we made stop-overs to see the Rift valley escarpment, monkeys, zebras, and Maasai traditional people. Upon arriving in Kisi town, we checked into Dallas Premier Hotel in the evening.

On Monday 9th October 2023, the festival tok place in Dallas hall and was opened by the Vice-Chancellor of Kisii University, Prof. Dr. Nathan Oyori Ogechi. This was followed by poetry readings by American poets: Peggy Morrison and Hassanal Abdullah. After which we had Canadian poetry by Nora Atalla & Mattia Scarpulla. The morning session was closed by poetry readings from the Austrian Poet, Manfred Chobot, and Swedish Poet, Bengt O Björklund.

In the afternoon of the same day, we had the session, Black-Rootedness, during which we had poetry reading by students-poets, including Hylet Akinyi, Ruth Jepkorir Koech, Bonface Nyamweya, Nancy Bosibori, Winnievah Gesare, Rodgers Otieno. Kezziah Chepteek Kipkorom and Maleen Juma. During that time, other poets read their poetry, including Mattia Scarpulla, Nora Atalla, Fatemeh Ekhtesari, Erlend Wichne, Lucilla Trapazzo, Andrea Grieder, Bengt O Björklund and Hassanal Abdullah. This was followed by talks by Karla Brundage (USA), Kevin Dublin (USA) & Salim Abdali (Denmark). The session was crowned by “Bus Man” poem by Winston Farrell (Barbados) and Salsa dance presented by Kisii University students.

On Tuesday 10th October 2023, the poets visited the village of Bogiakumu, half an hour away from Kisii town. Poets visited families and ate traditional foods and drank traditional brews and made contacts with local families. They participated in a village festival where they shared their poetry and participated in the village dances and songs.

On Wednesday 11th October 2023, the poets visited Mosando Secondary and Primary school where they donated books, pencils, balls, geometrical sets and calculators, to students. They read their poems to students and also listened to students’ poetry in Swahili and indigenous languages. Poets donated to the students’ scholarship for poor students. Many students were glad to land on some of the scholarships for their education. This scholarship is a brain child of Karla Brundage (USA) and Kevin Dublin (USA) who thought it wise to start such a small scholarship to help with needy students at Kisii University and in Mosando Secondary School. Since then the scholarship has seen many students, especially girls, acquire education and realizing their dreams. Kevin Dublin is planning a fundraising project for this scholarship, while many other poets who have been here before are also sending donations.

On this day, the poet, Hassanal Abdullah (USA) started another scholarship called Shabdaguchha/Kistrech Small Scholarship which supports and will be supporting needy student at Kisii University and Mosando Secondary School. He has already started paying school fees for two students at Kisii University.

In the afternoon on the same day we held student-poetry workshops which were facilitated by: Group 1: Nora Atalla (Canada); Group 2: Mattia Scarpulla (Canada); Group 3: Peggy  Morrison (USA); Group 4: Hassanal Abdullah (USA); Group 5: Manfred Chobot (Austria); Group 6: Bengt O Björklund (Sweden); Group 7: Lucilla Trapazzo (Switzerland); Group 8: Dr. Andrea Grieder (Switzerland); Group 9: Fatemeh Ekhtesari (Norway); and Group 10: Erlend Wichne (Norway).

On Thursday 12th October 2023, poets visited Maasai Mara Game Reserve where they watched animals and came face to face with the traditional Maasai people in their shukas. This is the most memorable activity to some poets.

On Friday 13th October 2023, poets departed.