Wednesday, November 21, 2018

MY NAME IS SANYA NOEL:ENGINEER BY DAY AND POET BY NIGHT



My name is Sanya Noel and I’m a poet living in Nairobi. I work as a mechatronic engineer during the day and get back home in the evening to read and write, though that is getting a little harder with time. I’m an editor at Enkare Review, which is a Nairobi based literary magazine that I joined in in 2016. I love some running, it helps clear up my mind and I do a lot of thinking while at it.  I graduated from engineering school in 2015.

Photo credit: Prophix studios




1.        What have you been up to since you won in 2016?
I joined a literary magazine, Enkare Review, in 2016, and in the two years since then, I’ve lived a whole literary life. I’ve been an editor, copy editor, at the back organizing things, researching for interviews of writers I like, and many others for the lit-mag. I put my literary production on hold for a while running the lit-mag and it’s only recently that I got the energy to get back to it. There was something I read about Orwell, a period when he worked in a bookshop. For a while later, Orwell couldn’t read. He just didn’t enjoy it anymore. One of my favorite editors is Mary Norris of the New Yorker, and I must have read something related to her editing in her Between You and Me, how she just couldn’t enjoy reading after becoming a copy-ed. at the New Yorker. It must have been the same with me. By getting involved in a high energy lit-mag, it was like seeing how sausages are made. It became almost impossible for me to read. I was always on the edge, my editor mode activated as I looked for imperfections that writers and editors of the works I was reading had missed. But it’s gone now, that active mode. At least most of it. I’m settling back to enjoying a good old honest poem and writing one myself. And a once in a while short story and that occasional essay or non-fiction piece.



Award-giving at the #Babishai2016 poetry festival in Kampala. Photo credit: Prophix studios
2.        You’ve been writing for a while. What can Kenya and the region look forward to in the next three years?
A friend and mentor reached out to me and offered a good deal. He was publishing, and I was to publish along with him. He’s an experienced writer and a person I look up to. I took it up, but the works have been in the doldrums for a while now. But three years is a long time for me to be too terrified of committing now, isn’t it? Definitely a chapbook in the very least. Perhaps a full length collection by then. I’m just getting back to the work and starting from scratch while at it. It will take me some time to get back to full flight here, but I have that chapbook ready, it has been ready for years, and I think it’s damned good. I have a good feeling about it, though in Kiswahili, we say mavi ya kale hayanuki (Old droppings do not stink.) Old poems may not excite me that much, and I may have to do an overhaul. That is if my friend doesn’t like them. I hope he does though.

3.        We know that you’ll be coming for our tenth anniversary. What do you hope to see?
It’s the poetry. I’d like to meet some of the past winners and see their work, or their contributions. I think prizes are like blocks in running. They help you to take off at the starting line in a race. There is a recognition that comes with winning a prize and the money is important too. I want to meet and read the poets who won the prize before me and those after. And I just want conversations too. One of the things I’ve learned about old poets is their sense of community, and it’s not just among the poets. I’m thinking of musicians like Freshlei Mwamburi and how they had this sense of community with others like.

4.        Of the winners in the haiku and poetry categories of our prizes, are there any whose works you follow to-date?
I have followed Lillian Aujo’s work and wished she put out poems more often. I think she’s a brilliant poet. I also keep checking on Orimoloye Moyosore and what he’s been doing at Agbowo, another online lit-mag. The change to haiku threw me a little off-guard, it’s not a form I’ve looked that thoroughly into.
6.       How has African poetry changed in the past five years?
Mentioning African Poetry almost always brings to mind the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) and the Brunel Prize for African Poetry. Perhaps it’s the money that attracts attention to these prizes, or the models they use. Brunel accepts a body of work, ten poems, as APBF’s Sillerman Prize, which accepts a full length collection. In 2013, I was an engineering student at Jomo Kenyatta University (JKUAT) who spent nearly all his time reading and writing poems, and I looked up to the poets at APBF. I liked them. Clifton Gachagua had just won the Sillerman Prize and Brunel was coming up. Interesting. 

 I'm wary of poets becoming pretentious though, over time. It happens sometimes. I also long for more accessibility of African poets on the continent. It's disheartening when some of these poets' works are inaccessible to us living on the continent and when some prizes seem to favour Western based African poets over our own African based poets.
On the continent here, I’ve seen poets become quite solid. We have created spaces here, and these have made poets work more. Visibility is really important. Kalahari Review, Enkare Review, Jalada Africa, Kikwetu Journal,Expound Magazine, these spaces have in a way inspired many to keep doing it. My discomfort is with the styles we may have inspired. Taking stock at Enkare Review, it suddenly hit me that the poetry we have published in our issues has been of one particular style, and one that I’d criticize for being too abstract, though abstract is alright. But a once in a while direct poem is a beauty too. We need those more often.

7.       Which African poet do you find yourself reading over and over again? Why?
It’s got to be Chris Abani. A friend introduced me to his Sanctificum about a year ago and I keep going back. There’s a mix of solidity and nuance to Abani’s poetry that just draws you in. I think I’m going to spend a good amount of my money on his books at the end of this year. I’ve got some book-mules coming over from America and it’s time to become poor again, for Abani. I like his simplicity. I sometimes compare writing poetry to walking in a  pool of water. If the water level is low, your weight exerts some force on the floor and you have some grip. I like that, some grip to the poem. With the water increasing, your become buoyant and lose that grip. You can’t walk or run anymore, and now you’ve got to swim, but it’s not high enough to swim well enough. I like some familiarity. Poems are supposed to be clever, but not too clever while at it. Otherwise, we lose the plot. Abani brings all these things in a poem.

There is also something about Jonathan Kariara and Marjorie Oludhe Magcoye that keeps drawing me back to them. It’s perhaps their references in their works. Oludhe wrote direct poems in such a lovely way. Kariara was sophisticated in a way that was ahead of his time.

8.       What do you want to see in African poetry in the next five years?
It is publishing houses set up here. In Nigeria, Richard Ali has set up Konya Shamsruni, which I believe would be an equivalent of Copper Canyon Press. In Kenya, we have had long conversations about the same. I think we need to publish more poets here and distribute the work on the continent. This will inspire more poets.
But it’s not just publishing houses. We need quality too. I’m imagining if we put together a chapbook series that had Richard Oduor Oduku, Michelle Angwenyi, Harriet Anena, Lillian Aujo, Lydia Kasese, Saba El Lazim and Mariel Awendit. Wouldn’t that be something now? Let’s say we are publishing bi-annually. Seven East African poets. Two years later, we have another round of fresh poets, say a mix of the experienced ones and bring in the younger ones: Phyllis Muthoni, Taban Lo Liyong, Alexis Teyie...  And we keep this going such that these poets actually earn their royalties and that the publishing houses become self-sustaining. I would love to see that, publications that sustain themselves while producing good quality work.

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Join Sanya Noel for our tenth anniversary celebrations in Kabale by Lake Bunyonyi, from 21-24 March 2019.
Details here:
BABISHAI@10 ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS

Saturday, November 3, 2018

BABISHAI SEEKS A SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT MANAGER AND GRAPHICS DESIGNER


3 November 2018

BABISHAI SEEKS A SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT MANAGER AND GRAPHICS DESIGNER

The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, based in Kampala, has been promoting African poetry since 2009, through annual poetry competitions, poetry publications and annual poetry festivals.  We have identified and worked with over a hundred African poets, published three anthologies and held four highly successful annual poetry festivals. In 2019, our tenth anniversary celebrations will be held in Kabale (South-Westsern Uganda) and Kampala. In order to manifest substantial achievements, we seek a professional and qualified personnel for the following position.

SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT MANAGER AND GRAPHICS DESIGNER

Below are the desirable qualifications:-
*      Understands or is willing to follow the vision of Babishai: A Society Immersed in Poetry
*      Is teachable, loyal and respectful
*      Knowledgeable of artists, establishments and events surrounding poetry, spoken word and performance especially in Kampala, the rest of Uganda, East Africa, Africa and sometimes, globally
*      Ability to compose content for social media that is compelling and noteworthy
*      Capacity to create large followings and healthy discussions on social media
*      Easy access to the internet, a tablet or computer and a camera with excellent knowledge of their usage
*      Ability to design e- versions of posters, flyers, using appropriate web-based or computer packages
*      Understands and applies appropriately the differences between the following:-
                                i.            Its and It’s
                              ii.            Their and There
                            iii.            I’m as opposed to Am
*      Based in Kampala, Uganda
*      Available from November 20, 2018.

Those interested in this opportunity, kindly email your three-page CV, including referees, an application letter in PDF, to babishainiwe@babishainiwe.com by 15 November, 2018.
Do not hesitate to contact us with any inquiry. We invite you to read our website for more information on our work; www.babishainiwe.com.

Note: This is a paid position.
           This position has a three-month probation period.
          



Yours Sincerely,



Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva
Director

CC: Nambozo Daniella
CC: Andrew Ssebaggala
CC: George Kiwanuka

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

GEORGE GUMIKIRIZA FROM UGANDA: #BABISHAI2018


GEORGE GUMIKIRIZA EMERGED THIRD IN THE #BABISHAI2018 POETRY PRIZE: INTRODUCING...
George Gumikiriza Obyaga is my name.
Alias: Sir_Wootridge
George and Remi at Sipi Falls: #Babishai2018 Festival


I'm a 21 year old Ugandan currently in my 3rd year at Makerere University doing a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with a great passion for art and creativity. I like photography but I bleed poetry for it's therapy to the mind.
I started doing poetry around mid 2016 when I joined a group of poets that were organizing a show to fundraise for the cancer patients called "Poetry for Cancer.
If I remember well none of my poems was selected for the show because they weren't good enough. And if you asked me, I would say this was the time I started writing poetry and gave time to every piece I wrote till I was obsessed with it. 
I hardly performed but kept sharing short poems on my Instagram (@sir_wootridge.writes) and sharing them in different WhatsApp groups. Day after day, people kept liking and commenting positively and this gave me the motivation to take it further.
I remember for about a month or two, people kept asking me where I got sir_wootridge's pieces from since they had googled and found nothing about him, till I told them it was me.

2. Process of writing the poem, Hymns of a Broken Symphony.
It took me about a fortnight to place ink on paper since I had been asked by a friend to write about their orphaned friend who was going through a tough time so I had to wait till the mise was ripe. So I kept thinking about my parents and imagined how I would feel if I lost them. 

3. Poetry to me
Poetry is life to me. I literally bleed, think and breathe it. Every time I see something, I'm always thinking on the half empty side of the bottle. Generally I derive depth from small things.

4. 5 year goals
First and foremost I would like to have released a book and create my own poetry firm to mainly help the fellow young writers and mainly the deep poets. Because I've realized most "would be" deep poets end up doing spoken word which they actually aren't good at.
So mainly I want to make a difference, become a certified poet and able to perform all over the world.
And mainly I would like to have a standing writes company to help writers all over Easy Africa and keep growing.

5. African Poets I Read:-
Chinua Achebe
Jayson Ntaro

6. Challenges I face:
The fact that I can't survive on poetry alone but need a certain job to cater for my bills. Which means I have to divide my time to cater for the two which I feel is cheating my talent.
Plus not many Ugandan actually understand the art so it's kind of a hard time explaining from scratch.

7. Advice to Literature Teachers:
Literature teachers should get their students more involved in the art, do more original writings than dwelling on the assigned books for a year or term. It's a very big thing what I have in mind for this and my fingers could get tired typing

Monday, August 6, 2018

CELEBRATING MARIAL AWENDIT: #BABISHAI2018 WINNER


Marial Awendit, from South Sudan, was declared the winner of the #Babishai2018 Poetry Prize, on Sunday 5 August at Starlight Hotel, Mbale. The winning poem 38 Photographs of Depression, was selected amongst thousands of submissions. The Chief Judge, Prof Rem Raj, also a Babishai board member, acknowledged, on behalf of the Judging team (Alfred Msadala from Malawi and Rehema Nanfuka from Uganda), that his poem was potent, highly imaginative and brimming with originality. The #Babishai2018 award-giving ceremony was held at Starlight Hotel in Mbale, owned by renowned poet and author, Professor Timothy Wangusa.
The winner receives $700 and publication of a chapbook poetry collection.



Marial Awendit, on receiving the news of his win.

In second place was Grace Sharra from Malawi. Unable to attend, she delivered her acceptance speech on phone and said she was still dazed.

Grace Sharra

In third place, from Uganda, was George Gumikiriza. A young poet studying for his degree in Mechanical Engineering at Makerere University, with a passion for art and creativity.



Award-giving ceremony


Guests at Starlight Hotel, Mbale.

The #Babishai2018 Poetry Festival took place from 3-6 August in Kapchorwa, Sipi Falls and Mbale. Organised by the teams of the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation and Rhythm City Mbale, Babishai Founder, Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva, says that the Babishai Poetry Foundation has grown in extraordinary measures; especially by reaching out to  young poets from Africa, who would possibly have never been discovered or published. This year, the festival drew guests from Botswana, Nigeria, The United States, Rwanda and Uganda.


Poets at Sipi Falls: #Babishai2018 Poetry Festival.

In 2019, Babishai will celebrate ten years of promoting poetry through the annual award, publications and annual festivals. Follow us on Twitter @BNPoetryAward and on Instagram at babishai.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

YAKEEB: #BABISHAI2018 SHORTLIST



 Yakeeb is a writer resident in Lagos, Nigeria. His work has appeared and is forthcoming in a number of literary journals including Ynaija, Arts & Africa and others, and he collaborates with other creatives on various projects across genres. He is currently looking to publish his completed chapbook manuscript. 
Courtesy photo



 Q:        What was the process of writing your particular poem, Unholy Sermon Notes?
 A:        It is one of those poems that drops on you like bird poop, maybe in this case, it was a gift from God. The poem was written during a Sunday service that I felt very disconnected from.

Q:         What does poetry mean to you?
A:            Poetry for me is a portal to alternate universes, you can be in yours or get lost in someone else's. That encapsulates it all for me. To dig deeper is to examine the process and the emotions, I'll leave that to the academics.

Q:    What are your five year goals with your poetry?
 A:            Mastery of the art form, enough to teach it. A chapbook and a full-length collection that is special to nearly everyone who comes across them. Also, I intend to travel more so I'm able to write from a wider range of perspectives.

Q:         Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A:            I'm playing catch up at the moment in regards to poetry written by Africans, but I've spent some time reading Dami Ajayi & Efe Paul's poetry and I really like the themes they explore. I recently came across poems by Niyi Osundare, Gbenga Adesina, Bernard Binlin DadiĆ© and Jonathan Kariara. I intend to gradually delve deeper and I'm excited about what I'm yet to discover.

Q:    What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
A:            As a reader, there are times when I wrestle with the patience of taking it all in. There's also the issue of insight, you want to be sure you're in tune with what was expressed by the writer of the poem. As a writer, sometimes, the words that come to mind while writing or attempting to write do not genuinely describe what I feel. Also, navigating the layers of vulnerability can be tedious.

Q:         Is there anything of importance you would like to share with literature teachers, who are reading this?
A:         From a general point of view, passion is enticing. I think you're very likely to bring the best out of students when you teach with love. I recommend watching Dead Poets Society, a 1989 movie directed by Peter Weir.

Q: Any parting remark?
A: I'm thankful to The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation for providing a platform that promotes literature in Africa. I'm honoured to be on this list alongside these wonderful poets.

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You may read the shortlisted poems here:
#BABISHAI2018 SHORTLIST

The #Babishai2018 poetry festival details are here:
#BABISHAI2018 POETRY FESTIVAL


Monday, July 30, 2018

#BABISHAI2018 SHORTLIST: STEPHEN OGUNFOWORIN

Courtesy photo

 Stephen Ogunfoworin is a fourth year Law student in University of Ibadan. His poem, "The Women", won the 2017 Okigbo Inter-university Poetry Prize. When he is not reading or writing poetry, he does public speaking and journalism. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.



Q:  What was the process of writing your particular poem, On Sons Who 
Hate Their Fathers?

Growing up, I had a bit of an apprehensive relationship with my father, who was the embodiment of the typical Yoruba father: strict, uncompromising, and hardly ever reluctant to use the cane. None of that mattered very much back then though, he was my hero. But in my senior years in secondary school, our relationship became a strained one, and I was hardly ever comfortable around him. During this same period, I found out from listening to some of my close friends in boarding school that I wasn't the only young man who didn't know how to act or what to say around his father. I wasn't the only one who could not stay ten minutes in a room with his father without inventing a reason to leave. About three years later, I was in my first year in university and my relationship with my father was completely in the doghouse. I was angry with him. I was very angry. So I barely talked to him, and saw him even less. Some of my anger with him seeped into a few of my other relationships, now that I think about it. And right in the middle of this phase, I started to notice some things that I did almost exactly the same way he did them. I began to catch myself doing some of the things I didn't like that he did. This bothered me a lot. I didn't want to imagine a world where I had a son who would one day be as angry with his father as I was with mine. So, "On Sons Who Hate Their Fathers" was written. It was a bit difficult to write, because I was trying to write a deeply personal poem while trying my hardest to use as little of my own story as possible. I should add that my father and I are now on very good terms.

Q:
    What does poetry mean to you?

I started writing poetry in 2015, after my mother died. It was purely a coping mechanism for me, and almost everything I wrote back then was about grief. Now, I think I may have come some distance from that time. Poetry to me is the purest way for a person to share their emotions, exactly how those emotions are felt. With poetry, you can use your words to share your thoughts in the most accurate ways, and make your reader feel very close to what you're feeling. I don't think there could possibly be a more authentic mode of communication. It is also a vital tool in talking about important issues in the society, and I think every poet has a duty to use this function of poetry. If your work has an audience, you have to use it, at least a little bit, to talk about issues that some of your audience may not be paying enough attention to. It's good to write poetry about love, loss, grief, beauty, and pain. But it's also important to write about inequality, child abuse, drug abuse, and poverty. Lastly, poetry, other than making it easy to share your thoughts with others, makes it even easier to listen to theirs. I think good poets have to be attentive. I think I'm a lot more interested in people, their stories, their emotions, and their actions, because of my poetry.

Q: What are your five year goals with your poetry?

My five year goals. I want my poetry to keep getting recognition. I want to write more, and keep getting better. In five years, I intend to have gotten a postgraduate degree in Creative Writing, I intend have a full-length collection of poems, or two. I hope that in five years, I will have become something of a household name in African Poetry. Honestly, in five years, I just want to have several absolutely beautiful poems I can be proud of.

Q:  African poets are you keen on reading?

Ah. African poets. Definitely Warsan Shire. Sometimes, my friend Chinedu Arinze (who is also a brilliant poet) and I spend hours on the phone, talking about her poems. I think she's brilliant. I don't think there's anything written by Yrsa Daley-Ward that I'm not absolutely in love with. Ijeoma Umebinyuo's poetry is fierce and beautiful. I used Niyi Osundare's poetry collection for a course I took two years ago, and he's a genius. And I find Nayyirah Waheed's poetry soothing. Jane Dennis, my friend, writes beautiful poetry too. 

Q:    What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?

I'm not sure if this is the situation for other African poets, but where I come from, a lot of people still do not take poetry seriously. There are people who think a man has no business writing poetry, and there are people who think poetry is usually just a few fancy words strung together, with no real meaning. Someone I love once told me that they thought it was odd that I wrote poetry, which in their opinion, was a complete waste of my time. I struggled with my poetry for several months afterwards. Personally, I have two challenges with my own poetry: I never think anything I write is any good, ever. I am always editing my poems. And I don't spend as much time as I wish I could on my poetry. I'm working on the latter these days.

Q:     Is there anything of importance you would like to share with 

literature teachers, who are reading this?


I think that it is important for people, literature teachers and learners alike, to understand that literature is dynamic. I have had discussions with a few people who are thoroughly convinced that poetry must be in some exact form, to qualify as poetry. To these people, if your poetry does not follow some rules, then you are not really a poet. I disagree strongly with this line of thinking. My friend, Chimdinma Onwukwe, who has helped me improve my poetry over the years, once told me that the only thing a poem needs to be a poem is that the poet calls it a poem. I think it's okay to let many of the rules that guided poetry in the past change, to let the art form evolve. So, as far as poetry is concerned, I think all anyone should need is that the poet calls their work a poem. That's what makes it a poem. I want literature teachers to know this. 

Q: Any parting remark?
I am immensely grateful to the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation for this opportunity, and the judges for validating my poetry. I did not think that this poem would make the longlist, and I certainly did not think that it would make the shortlist, but I am elated that the judges deemed it worthy both times. I do not take this for granted. Thank you. And to the other poets on the shortlist, I have read your poems, I have even stalked some of you a little on social media, and I cannot stop gawking at the sheer talent in your work. I wish you all success in your journey through poetry, and I hope you never tire of writing the beautiful things that you write. 


The #Babishai2018 shortlisted poems can be read here:

Details about our #Babishai2018 poetry festival are here:


Sunday, July 29, 2018

#BABISHAI2018 SHORTLIST: MARIAL AWENDIT (SOUTH SUDAN)



Marial Awendit is a poet, satirist, fine artist and a songwriter, from South Sudan.



 His poems have been published in the Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, African writer, Praxis Magazine Online, Best New African Poets 2016 Anthology and elsewhere. He won the 2016 South Sudan Talent Youth award for Best Poet. He writes from his hometown, Yerul, Eastern Lakes State, where he works with Caritas-D.o.R -a humanitarian aid organization.


Q: What was the process of writing your particular poem, 38 Photographs of Depression?
A: I had fallen in deep grief after my brother was killed by a kinsman on 28th March, 2014 and the resultant death of my father on 4th November, 2014. I could not at all see anything worthwhile in a world that I will have to walk through for the rest of my life. My body had dimmed against my will. I was depressed, I was told. In 2015, I had this thought of wanting to purge myself of the night inside me, through poetry, but didn’t. I actualized that on 28th March of 2017, explaining what I feel while being honest to myself and the Universe, but it was then just 28 Photographs of Depression. I kept it intact in my case until I made it to 38 Photographs of Depression one good afternoon in September of 2017.
Q: What does poetry mean to you?
A: (Giggles). I am in deep gratitude for poetry. I am not sure now if what I breathe in is poetry or oxygen. Poetry is the boat that ferries this half-dead body housing a living soul through the world. My hammer for crafting and finding pleasure. I get resurrected in a poem when dead in the world.
Q: What are your five year goals with your poetry?
A: I am devotedly aiming at having 3 poetry collections and 2 chapbooks out before the end of 2021, Inshallah. All aimed at achieving complete beauty.

Q:        Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A: I believe Africa is blessed with beautiful poets. I find peace in reading J.K. Anowe (my favorite), Warsan Shire, Leila Chatti, Sahro Ali, Romeo Oriogun and Safia Elhillo.

Q: What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
A: I lack a writing space and time. Where I live, I have to balance writing and a tight job. Sometimes in writing from my unique social context as mine, I feel alienated by the literary world, depicting poetry to me as unappreciative of certain contexts. I also have a very hard time keeping my works safe. On 17th May, 2016, I lost 150 poems to a close conspirator. Hitherto, I have either recovered or restructured only a hundred poems.
Q: Is there anything of importance you would share with the literature teachers, who are reading this?
A: Teachers of literature ought to identify a talent in writing and nurture that talent. Poetry taught should be a curative form of expression so it can be a tool for social change. I have experienced that effective. Look, the poem on this shortlist was intended to cure me. You can easily explain now how much I got cured making it to the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award shortlist with a poem that was meant to only heal me.
Q:        Any parting remarks?
A:        Gawd! The works on that shortlist are fireworks but I probably would not have seen them if the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation never thought of a poetry prize, just like I would have not been here. Poetry is creation, BNPA is creation! Thank you Babishai Niwe! Thank you Africa!

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The #Babishai2018 shortlist can be read here: