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Tête-à-Tête: Kenneth Maswabi

The Wise Owl chats with Dr Kenneth Maswabi who studied medicine from Melbourne University, Australia and practiced medicine for 15 years before he decided to become a Clinical Research Physician in the field of Paediatrics, HIV and Cancer. Dr Maswabi loved poetry as a teenager but did not get a chance to write poetry because of his duties as a practicing physician. He is now settled in Botswana and writes poetry to sustain and nurture his spirit. He recently published a collection of poetry titled ‘Love, Consciousness and Humanity: The Shadowless Dreamer…The illuminated path of Silence’, a book he claims has been inspired by silence of the body, mind and soul.

Dr Maswabi has won several awards for his poetry including the Order of Shakespeare medal and Golden Badge award from Motivational Strips, Poet of the Day Certificate from Pen Wonders International, Poet of the Fortnight from The Avenue of Poets, Poet of the month Certificate of Achievement award from World Spiritual Love & Peace Humanity Literary Foundation and Certificate of Achievement from International Literacy Study Group, among others. Dr Maswabi’s poetry has been featured in various anthologies and magazines, such as World Poetry Tree, An Anthology of Hope, Love, and Peace (2020), Vitrina Europea del Autor Magazine, Bharath Vision Web Magazine, Poetry against terror and Humayun’s Editorial Bangladesh.

Thank you, Dr Maswabi, for chatting with The Wise Owl.

Q. You are a qualified physician and even now are doing Clinical research in Paediatrics, HIV and cancer. Our readers would be eager to know how a man of science, a physician and researcher, turned to poetry. 

A. I am actually a man of silence or stillness (spirit being) who turned to science to explore my outer world and now I am just returning to my inner world (silence & poetry). Silence or stillness is a state of being (body, mind and soul) when I am stripped of my thoughts and feelings and submerged in nothingness. Actually, I didn't choose science, I excelled in science (& mathematics) as a subject and like a river I followed the path of least resistance. Once I reached the peak of scientific discourse (research) I realized that I was missing something - my inner self was not quenched by the academic exercise. Silence is the living water that quenches my spirit and in silence, poetry emerges (at least for me) from the unknown. Just like I didn't choose science, I didn't choose poetry either, I listened to the silence within and poetry flowed from my heart. This is the most satisfying experience...It's the source of all inspirations.

Q. As a doctor you see a lot of pain, suffering and death. Was writing poetry a way to cope with the suffering a doctor sees on a daily basis? Was an alleviation of this suffering the reason why you turned from being a practicing physician to a researcher?

A. I loved being a doctor because it allowed me to interact with people when they are most vulnerable (sick, dying or grieving) . This is the time when ego is at its lowest in them. Pain, suffering and death are our common inheritance and it is through them that our humanity is exposed and strengthened. I wrote poetry because it is one of the most potent ways to tell our story as human beings.

I have come to believe that my life is not necessarily driven by me but an inner force or spirit that wants me to experience certain things and clinical research was one of those things. The door to this area of medicine opened when I was not expecting it and again I followed the path of least resistance. I really enjoyed it and it is one of the most humbling experiences.

Q. What is it about the genre of poetry that attracted you? Do you feel that verse can adequately express your feelings and thoughts?

A. I think that poetry has always been present in me through silence. I didn't realize it for a long time but there were signs. As a teenager, every time I fell in love, poetry would emerge. It was the easiest way to express my thoughts and feelings but it was too powerful and it chased some girls away from me. As an adult, every time I submerge myself in silence, poetry appears. Yes, poetry is the most potent way of expressing my inner being (the sum of all my feelings and thoughts).

Q. You call yourself a spirit poet. For the benefit of our readers please tell us what the term means and what it entails.

A. A Spirit Poet is a person who writes poetry under a certain state of being. For me, it is silence or stillness. In this state, poetry just flows from within and my job is to listen and write. It is not actually my thoughts but an inner force (spirit) that creates these poems. Most poems are written and completed within ten minutes of them appearing on the platform of my being. If I am distracted, I will miss it and I won't write anything. Even the selection of words is done by the spirit, sometimes I will even go to the dictionary to confirm their meaning... It's quite an intense and exciting experience. I am unable to write poetry when I am in my other states of being (busy, excited, sad... etc). I have tried it many times and it has never worked.

Q. You have recently authored a collection of poetry called ‘Love, Consciousness and Humanity: The Shadowless Dreamer…The illuminated path of Silence.’ What is the collection about? What inspired you to write this collection of poems?

A. Like the title, these are poems inspired by the state of silence and they are mainly about the self/being/existence. Silence is a spiritual force that opens the eyes of the spirit within (Consciousness) and helps explore the nakedness of the human spirit (away from the constructed reality). The book covers themes of love, humility, peace, hope, happiness, sorrow, suffering and death. The 'Shadowless Dreamer' is a mystical persona that inhabits my being when I am inside the silence. It depicts an illuminated state of being (Shadowless) and a dream-like (beyond logic) trance (Dreamer). It's called the 'illuminated path of Silence' because these poems reveal the hidden, sacred and secret state of silence.

Q. In your poem ‘Let Me take you back to silence’ you say ‘Silence, stillness is who you are’, ‘silence is the anatomy of the self’ , ‘silence is everything and nothing.’ Could you please enlarge on this for the benefit of our readers? Does this echo your world view?

A. The human being is born out of silence (an emptiness or nothingness of the body, mind and soul - no identities, expectations, attachments or experiences) and from silence (or the unknown). If we remove all our education, experiences, situations and circumstances we find only silence. Now, most people have allowed a temporal constructed reality to be their reality but there is an everlasting reality inside the silence within. In other words, the self cannot be defined by the parameters of space-time. It is the timelessness that lives within us that can best define us. This is the difference between Science and Spirituality.

Q. Our readers would be eager to know if there is any other book you are working on? What is it about?

A. It is called 'The Illuminated Path of Light' and it follows the same themes but now I am more awake to the spirit within. It is basically spiritual poetry and delves deep into the self/being/consciousness and our interactions with each other and the environment.

Q. What advice or tips would you give poet wannabes?

A. Poetry can be studied at school but that kind of poetry is restricted and only available to those who excel in certain subjects. Spirit Poetry is available to everyone regardless of race, geographical location or religion. It is the inner self (spirit) expressing itself. You have to learn to be in a state of silence through meditation or just deliberately practice it. The state of silence is rich in all the spiritual experiences like lucid dreaming, poetry, psychic states...etc. The best poetry is not an academic exercise but a spiritual experience.

Q. Today’s generation does not seem to be very interested in traditional literary forms like poetry. Do you think the heyday of poetry is over or do you think the best is yet to come?

A. As long as human beings exist, poetry will always be present. Now, the excitement about technology is waning because it does not seem to relieve human suffering, conflicts or wars. It does not increase happiness, peace and love. So, poetry as a source of peace, happiness and love and a tool against suffering, conflicts and war will outlive the world of technology. The best is yet to come, as more people are enlightened and become aware of the limits of our outer selves, spirituality will rise and poetry will flourish.

Q. Your poetry rings with a positive cadence. In the poem ‘I am not’ you talk about nursing your wounds and then ‘I will walk away.’ How do you keep this sense of positive assurance, this belief that all will be right with the world?

A. It is not that all will be right with the world, it is rising beyond our personal situations, circumstances, expectations and attachments and looking at the world with the eternal eyes of the spirit. All our problems are temporal and will pass (in the here and now or after death). Most of the time we get stuck in situations or attachments or expectations and we fail to see the beauty of life and nature. To be a spirit being is to be positive in your mindset, to see beyond the horizon into the unforeseeable future.

Thank you, Dr Maswabi, for taking time out to chat with the Wise Owl.  Wishing you the best in your research as well as literary pursuits.

Thank you for shining the light on my poetry. I am humbled and blessed by your amazing spirit, support and encouragement.

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