Brief Notes on Poems, Anti-poems, Sub-poems and Poem-like Things

for Enkare Review’s Poetry Squad

As Enkare Review, we have been working through some growing pains, and it is a mark of pride that we have still prioritized working closely with the artists we feature whenever possible. One challenge we are looking to overcome is that we haven’t made as much work as a collective. We are already changing this (look out for more work from us!). Another is that we haven’t provided enough feedback to the entries we do not proceed with. The submissions are, thankfully, very many, and we are a small (unpaid) family. That said, we are grateful for all the kind and overworked* editors who have provided us (sometimes detailed) notes over the years, and as our team grows, we hope to evolve into those rare breeds.

For those writers who do not make it into whichever round, please keep sharing your work with
Enkare Review. With Jalada Africa. With the Johannesburg Review.With Saraba. With Kikwetu. With Kalahari Review. And so on. Now, as much as always— if not more so— your work is important and necessary.

In the meanwhile, we find that poetry is consistently the genre with the most submissions so here are a few notes from the joys (and terrors) of reading 400+ entries in the brief time that Enkare Review has been curating work.

Less is not always more. More
more is invariably shit.
Given the rise of snappy sub-tweets and truncated tumblr posts aspiring to Confucian-style analects, an unfortunate fraction of our submissions are snippets of a malnourished type of work. A poem does not simply end when you get tired, or bored. And perhaps ‘end’ is the wrong word. Not ‘complete’ either. Let’s say, ‘full’. Poetry that is full to the brim. Overflowing. Occupied poems, that’s what we want. Teeming poetry. Engaging engaged poetry. Square poems. Capacious, expansive poems. Taut poems, bulging, sonorous poems.

We don’t mind unhealthy poems; in fact, we relish in them. We enjoy the company of lazy poems, just not lazy poets. Send us poems that are full. Full of despair, or indignation, or ennui. Full of you, or a question, or the sound right before your child wakes up. Poems that have found the right spot, poems snug in their form, or casual in their bagginess; poems that won’t allow us to spin them in any direction. No more one-liners because you are too afraid to ‘ruin’ a nicely wrought phrase. No more two-liners because you recently Googled ‘epigram’. No more three-liners because you think you’re pithy, and besides, who cares how many syllables there in a haiku anyway? Full poems: send us some.

On the flip side, while we are always hoping a magnificent epic poem will make its way into our inbox, this is rarely the case. 37 pages of stray words do not an epic make. Don’t try to pound us into submission. If the poem has not materialized by page 4, there is a great likelihood that it shan’t make an appearance on page 7 or 40. In other words, keep at it, and please please read the submission guidelines (or, at least, send us your dissertation on Euclidian geometry).

Is that an acrostic?

Alright, so you write about Africa. That don’t impress me much.

We get it. We work out of Kenya (and Nigeria, and Tanzania, and also in the energy pockets beyond these national lines). Our name is Enkare Review. We love African artists. We spend most of our time revelling in their work, fantasizing about it, smelling it, arguing about it, etc. All this is true, sure. We’re still not going to automatically get behind your laboured Mugumo tree metaphor. Harmattan winds. ‘African sun’. Sahara. Savannah-scape from that ‘Out of Africa’ movie, or that weird Taylor Swift video. Drums and somebody’s heart beating in tandem. Bloody baobab.

Here’s the thing. We want to walk with you and your weed guy in the streets of Lusaka. We don’t mind sitting through the longest conference call of your life in St. Louis. We sometimes laugh out of turn but that’s why you want to take us with you to Karamoja. And there’s nothing we love more than finding cheap food in the fancy part of Tunis. We want to know how it felt when your mummy forced you to wear that ugly ugly dress your aunty from Kano sewed to your first adult party. And we want to scream our throats hoarse at that protest, and spend the night in jail with you. We like your grandfather as much as you do, and we will work alongside you on that maize farm for as long as you’ll have us. We wonder also why your cousins had to die in this attack, and we want to sit with you until the question is blunted in your heart. We want to pretend to swim in the Indian Ocean and take cute pictures for the Gram, too.

We want to be where you are, however you are, whoever you are.

We’re your annoying cousin, your nosy uncle, your quiet aunt, your lazy friend, your favourite grandparent.

We are you (sometimes).

So cut the bullshit.

Write us some fucking poetry. Or some fucked up poetry.

Write us something true.

The ‘thinking’ poem requires actual thinking.

Please don’t insert line breaks in your third-rate essay capturing your Big Thoughts™ and send them over. We refuse to put up with faux intellectualism. Thought-less philosophizing does not belong in poetry (we might argue it belongs nowhere, but we are poets, not tyrants).

The ‘feeling’ poem wouldn’t mind a garter.

A caveat to above: you have feelings; we have feelings; your neighbourhood lizard has feelings. The poetry we are looking for upends these feelings, whips them out, ties them up,  lures them out and fattens them up. The poetry we need shelters them, studies them, massages them, interrogates them, cares for them, lives alongside them. The poetry we are looking for is not afraid to yield, but will not be daunted. Spare nothing.

Men who write poetry, listen up.

Men who claim to be poets.

Men who have won poetry awards.

Men whose lovers promise them they’re the next big thing.

Men who quote their own poetry during bar night.

Men who comment on other people’s poems on facebook saying, ati this is a

Men who tell you, have you read this new poetry book by So-and-So, it will help you grow, without realizing you are actually So-and-So.

Men who submit poems and poem-ish things to Enkare Review.

Listen up.

Read poets who don’t write like you. Read poets who don’t like you. Read poets you don’t like, don’t want to sleep with, and you’re too embarrassed to admit you stalked on Twitter. Read old poets. Read new poets who haven’t put out a book. Some of these poets should not be men.


Send us some poetry.

Free verse isn’t cheap and prose poems don’t like you or your quirky bio.

Refer to points above.

And also, read
writers of colour talking about craft. Read African writers talking, or African writers talking with other African writers.

That said, we’ve got nothing against quirky bios!

Do you even poem?

Seriously, do you? Send us your thoughts on poetry to!

About the Writer:

Alex Teyie sings for a secret choir in Nairobi. One of her myriad talents is cutting through the bullshit and making it into a cape. She is Enkare Review’s Keeper of the Keys. Ask her stuff (except where she left her shoes).