Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award; Its Genesis




I am called Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva. In 2008, during my first maternity leave, sitting at home with lots of time to churn my mind, I set up the Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award. I established it after thinking of all those closet poets in Uganda who write good poetry and stuff it in their pillows or hide it on their laptops. I thought of all those women and girls who would otherwise be great poets in Uganda but have not got a platform to propel themselves. That is how the award started. I sent out a call to various list serves, targeting Ugandan women who do not have their own book of poetry published as yet. I was targeting the unestablished female poets. Between December 2008 and March 2009, I started to receive a response. This startled me. I am not at all a renowned poet by any means. A few of my poems have been published in various journals and I have been invited to a number of regional festivals. I do not however, consider myself a renowned poet. And so to name a poetry award after myself did not only require faith but an amount of insanity. Well, it worked. A couple of poet friends of mine agreed to be the judges. I approached Dr. Susan Kiguli, published poet and lecturer, Iga Zinunula, poet and critique and Hilda Twongyeirwe, the Coordinator of FEMRITE. It was in March that I also gave my three month notice at EASSI, a regional organization where I was earning a lot of money by any standards, driving a good car and where my husband and I could afford to go for expensive dinners once a week. If it wasn’t Chinese, then Indian or Mexican. Life was good. I sacrificed all this for the greater call of poetry. And also, to spend more time with my baby girl at the time.

In Uganda, it is difficult to explain to people why you left a great job to be home with the baby and to coordinate poetry projects. What is poetry? How do you survive? Don’t you need money? Of course, I need money.

I decided to hold the first award giving ceremony on August 16th at Fang Fang Restaurant. A week towards the event, I still did not have enough money and the sponsors who had promised to be a part were delaying to pay up. Finally, UHMG, Uganda Clays Ltd and WordAlive Publishers gave me 1,000,000/- each. I am so grateful for that but it was far from enough. A week to the event I also did not have a guest of honour for the event and being a first, I needed one. With nothing to lose, I sent a letter to Rt. Hon Rebecca Kadaga., The Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda. In two days, she responded. It was then my belief in miracles was reenacted.

The award giving ceremony was nothing short of spectacular. Almost 200 people attended the event. Rt. Hon Kadaga spoke so highly of it and offered to make it a National event. All I could think of were the butterflies of unexplainable joy and satisfaction. All the hard work and tears; it was all worth it. All of it. It was worth it. I haven’t felt so accomplished as that in a long time. I had started what nobody yet had dared to. I had ventured into greatness and I was not regretting it one tiny bit.

The winner of the first Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award was Lillian Aujo. All the judges unanimously agreed on her. Her poem, Soft Tonight displayed uniqueness and simplicity of language, soothing imagery, and a lot of promise for the poet. Even the physical shape was a mind blower. The poem is below. Lillian won 250 US Dollars, thanks to WordAli Publishers, UHMG and Uganda Clays Limited , the sponsors. FEMRITE offered a lot of moral and coordination support.



Soft tonight


I feel so…
… soft…
tonight…

I feel like…
…butter…
under the sun…

…on hot stone…
spreading out…
melting…

…flowing…
a yellow rivulet…
sliding down that slab…

…towards you…

I hope you catch every
t…r…i…c…k…l…e…of love
I hope you catch every
d…....r…...o…...p…...of me
when I d…r…i…p…intoyourpalms

‘cause I feel so…
…soft…
tonight.



The second winner was Catherine Kemigisha, for her poem, Better at Dawn and Sophie Alal was third for her poem, The Rebel Fell.

1 comment:

  1. Beverly, I crash landed on this on google...and I think it is the bravest thing a young Ugandan writer has done in our generation...putting faith in the craft. This is so strangely brave, kudos

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