In May 2022, spoken word poet Kelvin Maina (aka Maina Mind) released the debut volume of Mainders Mineday, a series of spoken word poetry projects each presenting new intriguing poetry that has attracted hundreds of listeners. He reads these poems so well. Not in the way we hear most poets reading today, nor in a way that contemporary listeners are likely to find easily accessible. As an artist, Kelvin Maina is an amalgamation of social critique, introspection, honesty, and humor. He takes the nuances of the craft that feel esoteric and breaks them down so the average person can engage and enjoy poetry in ways that feel familiar.
When did you start writing?
In 2021, a time when I was at my lowest. So much was going on in my life and I just started to write. Writing poetry became my therapy. One day in the midst of all of that hurt I recorded one of my pieces, posted it online and it blew up! I got such great feedback from people in the comments which surprised me and at the same time made me extremely happy. I wanted to make sure I was writing poems that people could relate to regardless of who they were or what they were going through, it feels amazing that in some ways I have achieved that, and it definitely pushes me to do more content.
Did you face any criticism? And if so, how did you deal with it?
Definitely! I faced a lot of it. There’s a type of way society looks at men and have all these ideas on how men should be and me being vulnerable online made some people mad. I even had a few arguments with some followers because I think at times, they started to question my masculinity. I had to make a decision to be okay with the fact that not everyone would understand me. I think that vulnerability and honesty really resonate and is relatable, but we live in a society where vulnerability in men is seen as a weakness. People will always find ways to criticize what you do. What mattered most was that there are people who love and appreciate what I do. It’s for them that I continue to do it.
What does poetry mean to you?
To me, poetry is an outlet to express your ideas or experiences to others as you wished you could express yourself every time you spoke. To transfer emotion from poet to paper to reader – no easy task but rewarding if accomplished. It is written to express and relieve strong emotion. Poetry is a song from the heart, put into words but it’s the performance of it that I fell in love with… I fell in love with the craft because it was so honest. I felt like if I wasn’t being honest then I was doing a disservice not only to the audience but to myself. Writing poetry formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm. I love every bit of that process.
How do you cope with writer’s block if you experience it?
I think every writer at some point in your creative space you experience writer’s block. The problem is not that you can’t write at all. It’s that you can’t write the way you want to write. It’s like there’s a giant clog blocking your creative flow and in moments when I feel like that, I pray. Talk to God and try again. Listening to some cool soft music helps too. I listen to piano strings every time I write, and it puts me in a state where ideas just flow through me. That’s how I deal with writer’s block and for every writer its different.
Your work addresses love, mental health, and growth. What is your idea of love, life, and death?
Love to me is a gift we freely get and should freely give. It is what is left in the hearts of your loved ones even when you are gone. That is why you should live your life to the fullest because tomorrow is not guaranteed. Death knocks on a door each day, and you never know when that door will be yours. Recently, I have become more aware of it mostly because I lost someone who was so close to me so every day, I remember to give the very best of my self to people I love.
Life in my opinion is present. It’s about living in the moment and being grateful. We live in a society where social media tell us who or what we are supposed to be. There’s so much pressure in living the perfect life when all you need to be is yourself. Life is a journey that doesn’t come with instructions. It doesn’t say do this do that or you must be this and that. Life is a free pass to be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do. You can make mistakes and take risks.
What was the creative process behind Mainders Mineday?
I love to perform, and the Mainders Mineday idea came to me, as a thought. I didn’t, at that time have a full fabric of what the thoughts meant until Abel Mutua, someone I greatly look up to, invited me to one of his live shows. I knew at that moment that I wanted to start my own performance poetry show. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but the journey so far has been amazing and every time I get to learn something new.
Sometimes in life you just must stop thinking about something and do it! That business you want to start, take a risk and do it. Don’t think about, what if it doesn’t happen and instead, think, what if it becomes the best decision I have ever made.
Both. I still have a couple of mentors who have walked with me through this journey. They still mentor me to this day. I make myself available to my poetry community. I have people who call me for advice and questions about publishing or entering a space where they can do poetry full time. I try to make myself available to them just like my mentors have been available to me.
You have so far held 3 Mainders Mineday shows. What was that experience for you?
At first, the first volume was crazy. I had not created a show before so there was a lot I had to learn. You are trying to get things done by yourself get photographers, videographers, do collaborations with other poets…it was extremely overwhelming. But as you continue to do it you become better. I am so proud of what Mainders Mineday has become and every time I surprise myself of how amazing this show has turned out. Now I have a team and I’m aware of how things are done, but I’d say there’s something sort of spiritual in all this work that champions the belief that there’s something beyond the here and now. There’s so much support from my fans, I do not take it for granted, I completely appreciate it.
What poets stand out as your favourites?
Rudy Fransisco. He is one of the greatest spoken word poets I know, and I draw so much inspiration from him. My hope is that someday I get to the heights of performance poetry as he has.
Apart from spoken word poetry what else do you do?
I am an actor. I play a role in a TV show called Single Kiasi. We have shot two seasons and to me it’s a great adventure filled with endless possibilities.
What is your favourite quote?
‘You are more than what you think you are.’ Get out of your own way. The only person capable of preventing you from becoming the absolute best version of yourself is you. You may not always have it all figured out, that’s okay, but keep showing up and working hard. You don’t know where your blessing lies.