The road ends, but the journey continues...

October Poet (part one)

Khaya Ronkainen

Khaya Ronkainen, poet

Khaya Ronkainen is a South African-Finnish writer. Her work is largely inspired by nature but often examines the duality of an immigrant life. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Seasons Defined and From the Depth of Darkness, published through her imprint. Some of her work has been anthologized as well as featured in various publications. She is currently at work on her third poetry collection about all things pandemic and political. To learn more or connect with her, visit her blog at

Depending upon which hemispheric season you find yourself occupying – grab a mug of hot cocoa or a tall glass of iced tea, sit back and savor the following (he)art to (he)art conversational interview.

LBL: Very early on in the perusal of your two chapbooks, I realized an intersection of yours and mine outlook on life. First and foremost, it’s the one of understanding, compassion and experience in being displaced with an even further deep desire to be the troubadour sounding the existence and needs of others in various states of being within displaced communities.

The other main intersection is that of our shared birthday month! Your poem, Summer was a real eye-opener as I think there is a natural tendency for us all to relate deeply to one’s birth month and consequent season associated with it.

What would you have me say of you?
Ours is an obscure relationship
You led me believe I was your baby
A summer baby –
Because down south, October simmers
Spring overlapping with summer

What would you have me say of you?
As if immaterial, now you tell me I am
An autumn baby –
Because up north, October teases
Skies weep fearful of winter.

excerpt from Summer by Khaya Ronkainen

I am an October Baby and my favorite season is Fall. You are an October Baby, yet your point of reference is as a Summer Baby.

That particular poem embodies what it means to be fully displaced – by choice or as refugee or for whatever reason. The seasons are a language unto itself and in this case a literal translation brings about a type of confusion!

KHAYA: In our early correspondence, I expressed my delight in learning about our intersection. But I had already suspected that we might share a similar outlook on life. This was probably from a comment you made on my blog about me being a sensitive poet. That comment made me pause because very few people, even in my family, have that perception of me.

I thought: it takes one sensitive poet to see another. 🙂

Your interpretation of displacement communicated in the Summer poem blew me away. Because I don’t know if any readers of my poetry understood or interpreted the poem as you did!

LBL: Let’s explore this a bit further. We share the same birth month and yet we were born into two different seasons. That is a new perspective for me. We are shaped somewhat by when we were born – and imagining myself as a Spring/Summer child is not only foreign to me, but honestly slightly off-putting.

You however seem to have embraced just such a dichotomy – Southern & Northern Hemisphere Seasonal Duality – fully embracing both birthrights. I can’t help but see the symbolism of this playing out in your poetry reflective of your own personal immigrant journey.

KHAYA: Oh, Laura! You made me laugh with the idea of being a Spring/Summer baby being slightly off-putting! I actually find having a claim on both seasons a beautiful contradiction. I guess because it depicts my life.

But you are correct, the dichotomy of seasonal duality is symbolic and plays a huge role in my writing. Poems in Seasons Defined, written over a number of years before being published as a collection, capture this contrast more. They were written from a place of amazement, a sense of awe, not only about love and my second home but I was also seeing my life anew under the microscope of clearly defined Finnish seasons.

I belong to two worlds, and I am at home in both.

Of course, we have four seasons in South Africa but they easily overlap. October, for example, is supposed to be spring but temperatures are already so high that it feels like summer. That’s why I’ve always identified as a summer baby. Then I moved to Finland and what I thought I knew was turned upside down, literally. 🙂

I’ve grown to love autumn, it’s one my favourite seasons. Yet it’s the same season that has the ability to throw me under the bus, if it finds me in a bad mental space. But yes, I’ve embraced it all. I belong to two worlds, and I am at home in both.

to be continued…commenters will be automatically entered into a drawing for a free autographed copy of From the Depths of Darkness


  1. Annika Perry

    Laura, what a treat of an interview with one of my favourite poets! Khaya’s Season’s Defined is very dear to me, some poems I know almost by heart, as with Summer here. Your in-depth conversation is wonderfully intimite and I feel as if I’m listening into your discussion.

    Khaya, I am surprised few people comment or are aware of your sensitivity as a poet – your work reverberates with this. As well as your love of nature there is a sense of displacement and dichotomy of one’s existence, whilst not bad in itself, it can be unsettling. A senstation I can relate to, comprehend.

    I don’t want to leave you both yet and off to read the next two posts …

    • laura bruno lilly

      I can understand your connection to Khaya’s Season’s Defined, Annika. I am so pleased you stopped by and joined our conversation!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      “some poems I know almost by heart”… I’m squealing with delight! And that my writings are very dear to you, I’m both honoured and humbled.

      About sensitivity as a poet, it is a curious thing. I can’t speak for the general public but I’m mostly not a poet to my family…lol! but a wife, godmother, sister, aunt and many other things, and often referred to as strong; a double-edge sword in some respects. But I myself know that I am indeed a contradiction. 😀

      But thank you so much Annika for popping by and reading. I appreciate your kind and encouraging comment, a lot. And yes, Laura has a way with these conversations. I also felt as if I was sitting across the table from her and sipping tea, while we talked.

      • laura bruno lilly

        While I do enjoy teas (especially Darjeeling), a deep dark roast java is more my beverage of choice – perhaps One Day we three might share a fika break…

      • Annika Perry

        You are both two beautiful kindred souls — and an honour to ‘partake’ in the conversation here! ❤️

  2. Lavinia Ross

    I enjoyed reading the interview with Khaya, Laura. I love that excerpt from Khaya’s “Summer” poem! Autumn is also my favorite season. The Earth wears an interesting continuum of climate, and season, doesn’t she? I was also born in the cold months of the northern hemisphere, and I suppose have rooted myself in them as a time of rest of rest and rebirth of sorts, and associate autumn up here with that. I have never visited the southern hemisphere, though I have many blogging friends there. I have sometimes wondered what it would be like to live in some place like New Zealand, and experience seasonal opposites.

    • laura bruno lilly

      It is an interesting nuance to the influences of ‘where and when’ we were born and grew up, isn’t it? New Zealand is definitely on my to-go list – very (he)artistic lifestyle across many demographics of her citizens!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Autumn seems to be a favourite season for many. And like you Lavinia, I view autumn as a time of rest of rest and rebirth of sorts; nature reminding us to breathe. One certainly can’t do much in terms of physical work during late autumn and winter here. Whereas in the southern hemisphere, nature blooms and delights. In fact, Spring is the best time to visit South Africa, if you ever wish to some day!

      • Lavinia Ross

        Some day I may travel and see the world. I will visit.

        • laura bruno lilly

          Me, too! 🙂 Let’s bring our instruments, Lavinia.

  3. stolzyblog

    So odd to hear about October as associated with summer — the world is wide and amazing. (Also an October baby enchanted by the foreboding promise of autumn). Interesting read, thanks.

    • laura bruno lilly

      I always knew the Southern Hemisphere’s seasons were ‘opposite’ to ours…but when I related it to ‘my’ October, that’s when it really sunk in to the differences!
      Thanks for stopping by, stolzyblog.

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Here’s to another October baby! Thank you for reading.

  4. Jennie

    Cheers to October, and all it brings. Lovely poetry, Laura.

  5. cedar51

    It has only been recently I’ve acquired readers of my blog from South Africa who have the same alinement with seasons to my homeland, New Zealand.

    For as long as I can remember, the Northern Hemisphere readers have found my Christmas season to be very strange. Many people have a bbq on the beach or go to their summer holiday home, also usually at a beach. And our health people are reminding us to put on sun block creams and wear a hat – try not to be out in the sun between 10-3pm. And all that guff.

    Our Northern friends are wearing sweaters, have the furnace turned up high and definitely not at the beach.

    I’m not an October baby but spring here waxes and wanes – last week it was snowing in the South Island – I’m in the North Island where is was cold, wet and much hail. But today it’s been gorgeous – not quite summery but plenty of sun….

    • laura bruno lilly

      “Seasonal Alignment” – this sort of thing always intrigues me. Thank you for your take on October in New Zealand, Catherine.

      • cedar51

        I am spelling challenged a lot…especially if my phone doesn’t find the right version of a word…or it assumes I want American spelling!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Lovely to meet you, Catherine. I relate to your point about Northern friends finding Christmas season, in the Southern Hemisphere, strange. Enjoy your Sunday!

  6. Thank you for the introduction to this poet and I really enjoyed this post!

    • laura bruno lilly

      You’re more than welcome, Tierney. Try not to deep dive into that ‘bag jones’ of yours over the weekend – enjoy your mile high October days!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      I’m glad you enjoyed this conversation. Thank you for reading!

  7. zippyquilts

    Hi Laura! Great post, but do not enter me in a drawing! Having just moved, I absolutely do not need one more possession! Cheers!

    • laura bruno lilly

      I hear ya! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Thanks for reading, and all the best in your new home!

  8. Andy

    That bit about being a Spring/Summer child being slightly off-putting. I understand that – we have certain perceptions of ourselves and anything counter to that can be challenging. You remember my preface to Heading North- I’m Northern. I ‘feel’ Northern. Of course it might all be psychological, but in these islands I live in I feel more at home up here among the Pennines and further up in the Scottish Highlands or the Orkneys than when I’m down in our southern capital city.
    And yes I’d still shun the Summer sun for the Autumn rains.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Glad you understand that off-putting business!
      I do relate to that sense of place, too…each time I go back ‘home’ even if just the general area of my western roots, I become one with the space. Something that just happens without conscious effort.

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Oh, no! shunning the Summer sun… 🙂 Hope you’re enjoying the autumn season!

      • Andy

        I know, maybe a bit extreme! But at this time of year I’m in my element, or should that be elements? ?

  9. Marty

    I married an October baby, so there must be something good going on with that. 🙂

    • laura bruno lilly

      Well said, Marty!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      YAY, to another October baby! Thanks Marty for reading.

  10. marissthequilter

    You are remarkable, Laura. Thank you for introducing me to this poet from my homeland. I am ashamed to say that I have not read her work and look forward to the delight of discovering it.
    October is indeed a beautiful month in this part of the world. For me it is also a month which bursts with possibility and growth.
    A happy birthday month to you.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Dear Mariss – I’m pleased to have introduced you to a homeland poet. It’s the least I could do given the myriad of SA musicians I discovered via your links & participation in various homeland festivals featuring quilts and music!
      This October is certainly playing out to be a month bursting with possibility & growth for me personally – so, dear Mariss, on this point we also agree!

      • marissthequilter

        Ah! So very glad to read that this October is smiling on you.
        Another SAn guitarist you might like is Derek Gripper.
        We seem to always agree, dear Laura

        • laura bruno lilly

          Oh yes! I stumbled upon him from one of your latest festival escapades! (read: I think he was a featured performing artist at one of the festivals you linked with in a blog post that I went and tracked down).

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Laura is remarkable, indeed, because I’ve now find you. It’s always lovely to make an acquaintance with a creative from home. I’ll be stalking your blog. 🙂

      • laura bruno lilly

        Khaya, her blog is well worth stalking! She writes poetry to accompany many of her fiber art creations, too.

      • marissthequilter

        Very pleased to meet you Khaya

  11. deborahbrasket

    How interesting! I’m an October baby but probably identify more with deep summer, lush gardens, balmy nights than autumn. Full moons, like the O in October, or the infinity sign in the 8 of October 18, which I share with you, draws me too.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Oh Deborah, I never noticed our ‘8’ as being a form of the infinity sign…something new to ponder for sure!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Hi Deborah, lovely to meet another October baby. And I enjoyed reading poetic tribute to the month. Happy birthday, in advance. 🙂

  12. Laura

    I am like Wendy, in that I haven’t given birth months a whole lot of thought. My birthday is a week before Christmas and, yet, I am a lover of Autumn. I suppose that if I lived in the land down under, then Autumn might not be my favorite season.
    By the way, it snows in April where I live as well (northeastern Washington state, USA). Yes, we need it, but by then, I am anxious to get outside and play in the dirt! 🙂

    • laura bruno lilly

      I know, it’s that new-to-me perspective on seasonal preferences based upon which hemisphere one occupies that grabs me, too!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Autumn, it seems, is a favourite season for most. Thank you for joining the conversation, Laura!

  13. Marie A Bailey

    Laura, I love this conversation between you and Khaya, and I love this quote from Khaya: “I belong to two worlds, and I am at home in both.” If I think only of the natural environment, then I might say I belong to three worlds, and I’m at home in all, because I feel such a pull for my childhood home, my West Coast home, and my current southern home. BTW, I’m a summer baby (born in June), but Fall was my favorite season when I lived in New York and winter was a close second. Although I don’t tolerate cold very well, I love snow and the beauty it brings.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Seasons draw us into the natural world even when we’re not looking to do so.
      BTW: There’s more conversations to follow, so stay tuned!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Hi Marie, you raise a good point about the natural environment. And I relate to its pull. 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind comment. Much appreciated!

  14. piecefulwendy

    How interesting – I’ve never given the idea of how my birth month affects me much thought. I do find myself feeling a kinship with other December babes, though.

    • laura bruno lilly

      I like making these sorts of connections…guess that’s the nerd in me! Thanks for stopping by, Wendy.

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      I hope you find our conversation a food for thought. 🙂

  15. L. Marie

    Laura! Thank you for featuring Khaya! I am enjoying your conversation, so yay for another part to come! I am a late spring child myself. ? But in my area, winter’s grip is tight and long. We’ve had snow in April (my birth month).

    • laura bruno lilly

      I thought only Colorado had those Spring Snows! Maybe we just like them better than you guys do in Chicago because they help with the snowpack in the high country where headwaters need filling to provide water downstream…
      BTW: middle daughter is an April babe, too – I feel the love!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Many thanks to you for joining the conversation, I’m glad to hear you are enjoying it. 🙂 And oh, you had me curious about winter’s tight and long grip in your area. I wonder where are you based, Nordic region or somewhere else?

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