The road ends, but the journey continues...

October Poet (part three, final)

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

Here we come to the third and final part of our (he)art to (he)art interview with Khaya where she elaborates on the universal language of love (part one here, part two here).
Please read on to the end where I reveal who won the free autographed copy of her “From the Depth of Darkness”.

LBL: How many languages do you in fact speak and/or understand?

KHAYA: Hmm…let’s see! I speak and understand five of the eleven South African official languages. I also speak Finnish. I’ve also studied a bit of Swedish and basic Spanish. Out of all these, I only speak four fluently, and dream only in two; Xhosa and English.

I dream in Xhosa

LBL:  There’s a drastic difference between South Africa and Finland! And yet, you seem to have embraced your adopted home. I suspect that connection was due to falling in love with a Finn!? Care to elaborate on what brought you two together?

KHAYA: True, there’s a drastic difference between these two countries. But there’s not much difference between people; we all want the same things in life. Tell me one person, who doesn’t want to be loved! I’m not talking about romantic love now but a universal love – being seen and accepted for who we are.

What brought us together? [Laughs]…Love, of course, is what usually brings people together. It’s that same love that saw me leave my warm and sunny birth country to embrace long, dark and cold Nordic winters. Love transcends everything, doesn’t it?

But what has kept us together and happy all these years is equally important. Our backgrounds, how we were raised, and our way of thinking are quite similar, even though we were born on the opposite sides of the world. We have so many things in common. For instance, the spirit of adventure (taking risks, being open to things we don’t know and learn, embrace the unexpected) is one of the things we share.

And oh, yes! I have the best in-laws ever. They make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world! So, again, the language of love has played a huge role in embracing my adopted home and vice versa.

LBL: You make building and nurturing relationships seem so easy to do. I assume this is how you approach relationship in your writing world as well, not only with readers but fellow writers.

KHAYA: Exactly. I see the reader of my writing as someone I’m having a conversation with. That is, it’s more than just saying come look, see, I wrote a book and now I’d like you to buy it. But it’s an invitation to explore the world I present in the book with me and exchange thoughts, ideas or even letters. My hope is always for the reader to see themselves in the world I share or learn something new or be inspired to share their world, too.

The same applies to relationships with my fellow writers. I value genuine conversations. Perhaps, that’s why blogging is my favoured way of interacting with other writers and writing communities. It allows for depth; learning more about the person behind the avatar. I like learning about how other writers and creatives, at large, navigate their worlds; the sharing of challenges and victories as our words find a home or take off to delight readers, wherever they find them. So, as it’s been said over and over again, “Other writers are not your competition but a source of support.” Because who else fully understands the struggles and joys of the writing life than another writer.

So, in closing, I’d like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to you for this meaningful conversation. I hope you and your readers will enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed answering your questions. Thank you so much. And here’s to October!

LBL: …and to October babies! 🙂

Khaya's chapbooks on shweshwe cloth

And the winner is…L. Marie! Congrats!

Please comment below and I’ll send on your autographed copy of “From the Depths of Darkness” via snail mail shortly.

Note: Fabrics in photo are traditional South African shweshwe cloth – sent to me by a dear SA quilter recently. I thought they added a little something to the display of Khaya’s chapbooks.


  1. Annika Perry

    A wonderful interview, Laura – superb insightful questions and Khaya, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning more about you, your life, love and writing. As for the quilt, Laura – it is beautiful, a precious gift.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thank you for taking the time to follow through to the end of this 3-part conversational interview, Annika. And thanks for remembering ‘Bright Delight’ the quilt you’re referencing…it is special.

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Annika, I am truly touched that you took time to read through to the end. I’m also glad you learned a bit more about me and all these things that make me, me. Much appreciated!

  2. I enjoyed reading the rest of the interview and those fabrics look familiar – ha! I have one from a certain SA quilter too 🙂

    • laura bruno lilly

      Kindred spirits across many states and oceans…

  3. zippyquilts

    Khaya really is an amazing person, and I’m so glad you clarified how she ended up in Finland! It sort of boggles the mind. Thanks for the interview.

    • laura bruno lilly

      You’re more than welcome, Mary. I, too, was intrigued with the hemispheric nature of their journey together a bit more than the cultural aspect.

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Thank you so much to you too, for your kind comment.

  4. Lavinia Ross

    Thank you both for sharing this interview with readers, Laura and Khaya!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Lavinia, thank you for taking the time to catch up with my posts – and commenting, too! I’m thrilled you caught up with the “October Poet” and myself…Hope all is well with you as you prepare for your upcoming winter weather.

      • Lavinia Ross

        We are back in the rainy season and out of fire danger. Life is good!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      YAY, how lovely to see you around here, Lavinia! I appreciate you taking time to read. Thank you!

  5. Khaya Ronkainen

    Laura, you are a gift to a writer. I can’t thank you enough for hosting in your digital home. I’ve enjoyed making acquaintances with other creatives, the members of your community, and the conversations we’ve had. Opportunities like these, unhurried and deep conversations, are gifts I treasure. Thank you, and much appreciated.♥

    Many thanks also to each and everyone one of you for being part of this conversation. I’m truly grateful. I hope to visit your digital homes and slowly catch up on your on your writings and creations. Best of autumn!

    • laura bruno lilly

      This conversational interview with you was deeply satisfying and rewarding for myself as well. Thank you for your willingness to take the time and effort to plumb the depths of the questions and ideas presented therein.
      Perhaps one day I will learn how to ‘dream in Xhosa’.

      • Khaya Ronkainen

        “Perhaps one day I will learn how to ‘dream in Xhosa’” anything is possible! 😀

  6. Jennie

    Lovely! Speaking so many languages is a dream for most people.

    • laura bruno lilly

      I like how you rearranged the words into a defining statement, Ms Teacher!

      • Jennie

        I did… I guess that’s the teacher in me. ?

  7. Andy

    Along the lines of what Khaya said – I love to hear about how creatives create. So thank you Laura and Khaya for this series of posts. And congratulations Linda.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Agreed – process is really a lot of what being a creative is all about!

  8. Cheryl, Gulf Coast Poet

    Thank you, Laura and Khayla, for these interesting interviews. It is always enlightening to learn about life experiences different from your own. Happy birthday to both of you October babies! <3

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thank-you Cheryl for following this three part conversational interview, it was inspirational for myself, too!
      And as for your birthday wishes…I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this month – both on-line and off-line.

  9. Laura

    I dream of scanning packages. Ha, ha! Someday soon I hope to have other dreams.

    I am so glad that you shared about the fabrics in your photo! I noticed them right off and thought how beautiful they are. 🙂

    • laura bruno lilly

      Hilarious, Laura!
      Hmmm will you be adding fiber art to your list of new creative pursuits? (Along with watercolor?) It could happen!!!!

      • Laura

        Never say never!

        Long ago and far away, I did hand paint and dye fabric. I still have the supplies…don’t know if the paint is dried up and the dyes are too weak. Maybe next summer I will poke around in that stuff. Maybe. 🙂

        • laura bruno lilly

          ooooo lotsa fun! I dabbled in Indigo Dyeing over the summer and absolutely loved it! I might set up something in the backyard for a more permanent work station. But you’re right, it’s alot of work setting up etc.

  10. Ally Bean

    I love this line: “I see the reader of my writing as someone I’m having a conversation with.” As a blogger I feel that way, too– but have never seen an author say that. I’m in awe of anyone who can dream in two languages, btw. Amazing

    • laura bruno lilly

      Great insight, Ms Bean.

  11. deborahbrasket

    I enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing, Laura, and all the best to Khala.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Glad to bring a bit of enjoyment to your day, Deborah.

  12. piecefulwendy

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this interview. Thanks for sharing!

    • laura bruno lilly

      You’re more than welcome, Wendy. Thanks for reading through all three parts – I know how tempting it can be to just skim longer posts!

  13. L. Marie

    Yay!!!! Thank you so much, Laura! I was reading the post and had copied one of Khaya’s statements (“I only speak four fluently”) to comment on when I read to the end and saw my name! So yay!!! Can’t wait to read! Anyway, I feel lazy because some days I don’t feel fluent in my native language, let alone Spanish or Mandarin (only know a few phrases in that language). But I see the value in learning about other people and languages, rather than being insular.

    • laura bruno lilly

      That statement struck me too: ‘I ***only*** speak four fluently” !!! However the one that grabbed my (he)art was the one I showcased, “I dream in Xhosa”…unbeknownst to Khaya, that caused me to realize I haven’t dreamt at all much less in any language or color for the past year or so…Which caused me to cry out to the Lord for reawakening such dreams within my soul once again…
      We’re all so interconnected in ways we just don’t comprehend – ya know?

      • Khaya Ronkainen

        Your kind comment is so touching, Laura. ♥♥♥

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      CONGRATS, L. Marie! I assume you are big girl and not afraid of the dark. 🙂 But most importantly I hope these poems meet you where you are. Thank you so much for joining the conversation here, and your encouraging comment. Happy reading!

  14. marissthequilter

    These interviews have moved me — such rich thoughts and views. Thank you both.
    PS lovely photograph!

    • laura bruno lilly

      I find your comment deeply rewarding – thank you, Mariss.
      BTW: I thought you’d like that photo (wink-wink)!

    • Khaya Ronkainen

      Mariss, these fabrics are special. How lovely and significant that they accompany my humble chapbooks, it’s so very thoughtful of Laura! You know I often joke that my only claim to fame is that Mandela and I were born in the same town, Umtata, in the former Transkei. So, this means a lot to me. Thank you so much, and for your kind comment as well.

      • marissthequilter

        Glad you enjoyed seeing the shweshwe fabrics. Clever Laura to pair them with your poetry books. It’s wonderful that you share a birthplace with Mandela. I used to visit sit Umtata often as a child as my grandmother lived there.

        • laura bruno lilly

          Wow, I’m intrigued with these connections between you two!

        • Khaya Ronkainen

          Oh wow, your grandmother lived there! It’s a small world, indeed.

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