Friday, September 6, 2013

A THOUSAND VOICES RISING: AN ANTHOLOGY BY AFRICAN POETS

This anthology is a collection of personal journeys of Transculture, freeing our literary minds from critical attitudes. It is a summation of many conversations, lots of reading, sharing of dreams and taking risks so that this product would come to be. It is a product of BN Poetry Foundation work. The compilation and editing was done by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva. In 2009, I began an annual poetry award for Ugandan women because I felt sincerely that poetry would change the political, economic and social system in Uganda and corruption would recede with each new verse from well-meaning poets. While there has been significant positive change and growth over the past five years from the award, the system remains the same. We can still however, through poetry, free ourselves from the rigor of this very system. I still believe in art for social change but more profoundly, I believe that poetry ultimately frees individuals. Poetry is borderless, colourless and timeless. It speaks every language and understands every joy and predicament. It is fine literary art. While I do believe in the advantages of discipline and structure from academia, family and tradition, I firmly believe that within that, we can still be free. Members of the writers here were part of the Crossing Borders writing and Radiophonics mentorship programmes which ran from 2001 to 2010. The mentors from Lancaster University used creative virtual discourse to engage the writers. There are poems here from novices, winners of the Caine Prize, Sillerman Book Prize the BN Poetry Award and those shortlisted for Poetry Foundation Ghana prize, the African Poetry Book Fund prize, Short Story Day Africa, those published and unpublished, poems about heartbreak, genocide, love, leadership, inspiration, next door neighbours, money, faith, landscape, personal journeys, family, children and education. There are poems from spoken word poets and from timid poets those who speak English as a second language and have translated their poetry from Luganda, French, Acoli, Runyakitara. Poems from Algeria, Caribbean, The Democratic Republic of Congo Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and poets based in Norway, The U.K and The U.S. That is the essence of this anthology. It is about new life and old life, about every day, the past, the future and the unknown. We have decided to include African Poetry in the title because of many reasons, one of which can be summarized from Tendai Huchu’s essay, The Problem of The African Reader, published in Afro Futures magazine in 2012. He said that while African writers argue that Western writers do not suffer the same limiting label, a large fundamental cause is because African writers can barely exist without the larger Western audience and until more readers emerge from our continent, this problem will remain. I did not help the poets in this anthology to write but merely guided a few in the process and I know that with extensive reading, their literary desires will be met. As Professor Rainer Rilke said in Letters to a Young Poet, “There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.” Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva Founder of the annual BN Poetry Award that coordinates annual poetry competitions for Africans. BN stands for Babishai Niwe, formerly, Beverley Nambozo. http://www.bnpoetryaward.co.ug http://bnpoetryaward.blogspot.com

1 comment: