John Cocteau once said that the poet is a liar who speaks the truth. Does that make any sense?
Qui Qarre is one truth speaker whose words have found their way to American soil and largely the global stage. She has been in the game as a poet for about two years now and what started out as a bold step at a street slam event turned out to be the hidden talent she was yet to explore. Her journey is one of love, commitment and hard won victory. She is ranked 29th in the world as a poet according to the Women of The World Poetry Slam 2017 scores. She has been featured on several platforms including NTV’s The Trend back when Larry Madowo was still the host.
I spoke to the very engaging poet and she shared her many lows and highs. Would you manage to live in a foreign country for a month with only Ksh.3,000 as your pocket money? Nevertheless, her successes outweigh what she has been through.
In this interview, she unpacks all that and more for us. Prepare to be inspired like I was.
If you were an addition to a colour box, which colour would you be and why?
Purple because I think I’m loyal and I have royalty in me.
When did you decide that poetry was your thing?
I went to a slam cypher at street poetry event and I performed for the first time. The reception was great and I loved it. I love sharing my thoughts and feelings with people who are lovers of conversations, poems,stories and music. So when I first accomplished that, the stage became my home. I have been around for 2 years now.
Going on stage like that and owning it for the first time is not easy. Weren’t you ever afraid of competition?
I have never been afraid of competition. I only hate loosing so trust I will always give my best.
How did you get to represent Kenya at 2 International Slam Poetry Events in the United States?
In December 2016, I went to Slam Africa at the Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. I was contesting for the Women of Africa Poetry Slam championships. I was fresh into the scene since that was my first ever slam. Even though the competition was tough i managed to win. The winner was to represent Kenya in the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Dallas, Texas 2017 March.
How was it like in Texas and did you have to prepare hard before going on stage?
I had to go for practice for about 6/7 hours a day before that. The fact that there were no funds to take me there or pay for my upkeep while there made it hard. I had to literally do a Harambee (fundraiser) back home where I got like $1000. My ticket was $970. So technically my pocket money was $30 for a whole month in the U.S. I carried with me jewelry so I sold some to support my stay aside from the money I was getting for performances. Apart from that, Texas was fun and I enjoyed performing , sharing my stories and the reception was fantastic. What made it even more amazing is that my 4 minute poem was the first in my bout, with a 29.8/30 score.
But I didn’t make it to finals; that’s why I want to try again this year (2018). Being on a global stage opened up my mind in ways I can’t explain.
What about the second International Poetry Slam Event? How was it?
The Bayou City Women Slam In Houston was also an honour. They only invite 20 poets from across the globe and I was lucky to receive the invite last year. So again trying to get the funds was hard, but I made it there. I had a lot of fun while there thanks to my friends who always host me. I am very grateful to them. I hit a 27.5/30 score.
I’m sure you met lots of amazing people and possibly icons during your time in the U.S . Who did you meet and how was it like?
I have shared stages with people I admire such as Rudy Francisco, Dominique Christina, Ebony Stewart, Mwende Frequency (my coach),
among other awesome performers. Honestly, i can’t even begin to describe how amazing I felt being in their presence and the lessons I learned from them. Mwende Frequency and Loyce Gayo helped me get to the U.S that first time.
So now do you always look at the “what next” or do you at times stop and appreciate the far you’ve come?
I appreciate it…when probably someone reminds me. But honestly on normal days I always feel like I’m back at square one and I need to do more and get better every day.
Why do you think poetry/art is underappreciated in Kenya?
People are not concerned about conscious stuff or feelings or the things we do. A lot of people really just want a club banger or easy lyrics. On that still, poetry is expensive because poetry/spoken word events fees range between Ksh.800-2,000. But it’s worth it if you ask me.
When you meet an aspiring poet, what makes you like them instantly?
I don’t know what word this is in English, kiherehere (boldness). By that l mean the will to redefine self. Art. Society. And spoken word..If they have that, they are my favorites.
Are there hobbies/ activities you partake in that contribute to your creative process?
Travelling. I’m always on the move. I also love conversations. A looooot…
So trust me I’m talking to somebody till 3AM! That gives me inspiration. I also read poems and articles a lot.
If we had a genie in a bottle to give three wishes, one wish you’d like fulfilled?
During my free time I talk to my self (laughs). I have been trying to get a radio station to give me a chance to co-host and it has been hard. I love radio. So normally I talk to my self assuming its radio show (laughs). So getting into radio is my next goal. If a genie would fulfill that for me, I’d be glad.
One secret few people know about you?
I still bite my nails. Oops!
You can read Qui’s poems on her tumblr page. You can also follow her experiences on social media
Instagram: Qui Qarre
Facebook: Qui Qarre
Twitter: Qui Qarre
Find her on YouTube too.
*Photos courtesy of :@Sogallo