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A profile of A Poet: Kiros Yohannes

Some say he is a reincarnation of the late poet Dr. Reesom Haile; others say he is a case of  the student surpassing his teacher. But however you see him, Kiros Yohannes is a talented poet.

He was born in Asmara in 1973.   He completed his elementary schooling at  Amanuel (now called Awet); his 9th and 10th grade education at Halay; his 11th and 12th grade education at Potego (now known as  Ibrahim Sultan), in 1991, the year Eritrea became an independent nation.

After independence, Kiros worked with the Referendum Commission of Eritrea (RCE) at the Akria Zone in Asmara and for the Ministry of Agriculture in Halhal Zone. He was working as a paid civil servant for the first time in Hagaz when the government passed the Eritrean National Service Proclamation in 1995.   Subsequently, he was sent to Sawa for military training with the second round. Six months later, he finished his second part of national service.

Kiros started to become interested in literature and joined a literary club of amateurs. This helped him to be introduced to writers and actors. He was present when Tsigenai (a newspaper closed after the clampdown on the free press in 2001) was established. [The editor of Tsignai, Yusuf Mohammed Ali, is one of many journalists who has been made to disappear at Eira Eiro prison for the last 9 years.)

In 1998, Kiros arrived in the USA and soon enrolled at Indiana University-Bloomington and graduated with a degree in psychology.  He moved to Houston where he got married and now lives with his wife and two children. Next May, Kiros will graduate from Houston University-Clearlake with a masters degree in general psychology.

Kiros doesn’t know exactly when he started to be attracted to literature but, as a child, he read novels by Mussa Aron, Abba Isaac and Araia Belay.   He says, “I was so attracted to the characters in the stories but I didn’t get the courage to pick a pen to boldly write my own until I was assigned to Halhal to do my national service. It could have been the loneliness and the beauty of the environment that forced me to write. Some people encouraged me to share my writing with the public ; but I was not yet convinced my work was of a quality that I could present to the public.”

Kiros also liked to read the Bible in Tigrigna: he says, “I can confidently say that it influenced the way I structure my language [and develop my] skills.”

In 2007, Kiros’s first collection of 78 poems appeared in a book under the title “I am The King Of Myself” (published by Red Sea Press.)  “Though I was always encouraged by my readers to publish the collection, the encouragement of Dr. Bereket Habteselassie gave a boost to my self confidence and I went ahead and published my collection of poems.”

Kiros is a fan of the late Reesom Haile and he regularly contributes to Facebook page that carries the name of the late Dr. Reesom. The page has attracted many Eritrean poets. Kiros’s planned literary works include publishing his book, “Hshukhshukh Riga Mejaneen” (Whispers at the Insane Corner), and others projects.

There is a new generation of Eritrean poets molded by the post-independence Eritrean experience.  Like all artists produced by successive generations, many are mediocre, some are good, and a few are great.  We consider Kiros Yohannes one of the greats, arguably the greatest–at awate, we call him the Dean of Eritrea’s Poets–which makes us particularly proud to announce that, beginning in 2011, Kiros will be a regular contributor to awate.com where his column entitled “Hermet” will appear in our tigrigna pages (http://tigrigna.awate.com/)

Incidentally, for 2011, we have great things planned for the Tigrigna and Arabic pages–but that will be announced by the editors of these pages in due course. For now, please help us in welcoming Kiros Yohannes to awate.com.  Welcome home, Kiros!

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