Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Dear Poets, Lovers of Poets and Friends,

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and an even more splendid new year
2012. Thank you for all the support you have shown the BN Poetry Award
since 2008. It has been an enjoyable, painstaking and worthwhile
process. Next year, as we celebrate the 4th poetry award, as a team,
we would like to share with you that there will be a new board of
directors whose first meeting will take place in the first quarter of
2012. The website will also be up and running with regular updates.
Beverley, left in Masai outfit, celebrating the end of the year.
The team is in touch with the agent for Shailja Patel, a renowned poet
and spokesperson of Kenyan and Asian origin. We hope to bring her in
July next year or at least in 2013. Her performances are known
world-wide and we trust that funding will be available for this. The
media have been very supportive and some of the publicity links for
the award are below,
• www.monitor.co.ug/.../A_platform_for_female_poets_90429.shtml- news
article in The Monitor newspaper commenting on poetry award.
• http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/9/31/693948 article
• http://www.wougnet.org/cms/content/view/411/58/
• http://blogspirit.ug/node/14184

The winners of the BN poetry award:-
In 2009-Lillian Aujo, first for her poem, Soft Tonight, Catherine
Kemigisha, second for Better at Dawn and Sophie Alal, third for her
poem, The Rebel Fell.
In 2010, Sophie Alal was first with her poem, Making Modern Love,
second was Regina Asinde for her poem, Fragrance and third was
Nakisanze Segawa for her poem, The Hustler.
In 2011, first was Sanyu Kisaka for her poem A Handswing of Disguised
Depravity, second was Rachel Kunihira for her poem Battling Darkness
and Flavia Zalwango was third for her poem, Beads of Hope. There have
also been annual poetry workshops since 2010 and this will continue.
A great appreciation to the sponsors especially Stitchting Doen the
main sponsor, madandcrazyblogspot, UHMG, Uganda Clays, WordAlive,
Amakula, Bayimba, thanks also to the judges for their patience and
expertise and to the volunteers that run around to put it all
together. The competition runs again early next year and information
shall be placed in several media spaces.
Looking forward to collaborating with you again.

Warm Regards,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Give me room to move my feet-book launch

Hey, Mildred Barya, Ugandan poet living in the US is launching her third poetry collection, Give me room to move my feet on Tuesday 20 December 2011.

The enthralling book above, Give me room to move my feet published by Amalion Publishing House in June 2009.

The book has some of the most heart warming, ludicrous and entertaining poems I have read in a long time. Mildred will be launching her book at Isha's Gallery on Kenneth Dale Drive Kamwokya from 8:00pm during Poetry in Session. You are all invited. The books will be on sale at 40,000/- only. Time to celebrate the end of 2011 with great poetry.

one of the 100 poems published in this book is below, Stormy Heart.

Stormy Heart

A heart like mine
But generous
I welcome him,
We are us.

Shades start to peel
Revealing hwo they are
Once more,
I’ve been deceived.

There are many
Coming through my open door
My sister advises
I should have a selection method
Tight and soundproof
But that way, I tell her
I might block the real thing
Cut the oxygen to my heart
What if there’s nothing left of a heart?
I see splinters.

Another time a friend asks,
Have I any children?
‘I am sure there have been men.’
‘At your age they’ve given you no children?’
‘They’ve given me principles,’
He laughs,
I tell him there’s another thing,
Absent fathers
Missing husbands
Lone mothers
There are too many.

Now I am seated by the ocean
Wind roars,
Waves roll and rock with the shore
Turbulence swells
Just like it is
With my stormy heart.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's all right, it's only Nawal

It’s all right, it’s only Nawal. And what a formidable woman Dr. Sawaadi is. She and Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Laureate 1991, were amongst the unforgettable faces of the 2nd African Women Writers’ Symposium held in November 2011, Johannesburg. On invitation from Department of Art and Culture and Urban Voices Festival, the creative spaces at the various events metamorphosed into a revolution.

Abena (Ghana), Bev )Uganda) and Roshnie, Urban voices

Diane Ferrus signing her poetry collection, I will take you home, from the title of the poem which was instrymental in bringing back the remains of Sarah Baartman.

Sharing from her not really sordid but memorable childhood, Dr. Sawaadi said that as a child, she could feel the sadness in her mother’s eyes because she was born a girl. Reflecting on the unfairness and injustice of the patriarchal and rigid upbringing she had, made her question God, who favoured boys over girls. Her journal entries from the age of ten have led to the extraordinary Nawal, author of 47 books, 26 of which have been translated. Her strength lies not only in writing but during the early 2011 Arab uprising in Egypt, the 70 something year old camped in Tahrir Square, symbolically revolting against a dictatorship that had destroyed education and had brought unspeakabe injustice. Her life is made up of such moments that have built this courageous woman who even after imprisonment, fights even harder now for just causes.
Nawa, leading a meeting

Nadine Gordimer, whose potency runs like still deep waters, and whose 88th birthday we celebrated amongst much aplomb, opened one of her sessions with a statement that echoed differently with everyone.
“I am not a woman writer just as men are not male writers, we are all writers. We are all in this together. I do not accept a biological difference.”
The reactions varied with some women saying that they embrace their womanhood and Africanness with pride while others agreed strongly. That is how the symposium ran, as panel after panel discussion ran on, from the role of the writer, Africa dreaming and the power of the poetic voice and new ways of reading, writing and networking, it was through this we met extraordinary women. I will never forget Karabo Kgoleng, a journalist with SAfm and her take on social networking, how while it may be useful, she is not interested in what people ate for breakfast. Also, her struggle with placing literary reviews in papers.
Tsitsi Dangarembga, award-winning novelist and film maker said that the nature of good writing should be that it opens up spaces for others, during the panel discussion, Writing Freedom: Reclaiming the future.
The amazing talent during the readings and performances were incredible, from Abena Koomson, US based Ghanaian spoken word performer, Napo Masheane, a founder member of Feela Sista! together with Myesha Jenkins. Other performers were Gcina Mhlope, Samira Negrouche and the list is endless. Another poet I was so happy to meet was Michelle Mcgrane, whose blog I am loving. I’m so glad I could make it and even gladder that this is not the end.

Michelle, in center

Nadine's cake

As an outcome of the symposium, another meeting emerged, The African Arab Creative Women’s Movement. Coordinated by Tsitsi Dangarembga and Nawal Al Saadawi, the aim is to bridge the glaring gap between the women writers from the Arab dominated part of the continent and the rest of the African women writers. The idea looks promising and with a tentative meeting scheduled for June in Cairo, we can only wait for another literary revolution.
Lizzy Attree, Caine Prize administrator, Kadija Sesay, founder of Sablelit Mag and Ellen Namhila from Namibia.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, which one are you?

Title of Book: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives
Author: Lola Shoneyin, Nigeria
Publisher: Cassava Republic, Nigeria, 2010

Lola Shoneyin, extreme right, Nadine Gordimer in middle and Ekbal Baraka, extreme left at the 2nd African Women Writers' Symposium, Johannesburg, 2011. Picture by BNN

It’s that much more delightful to meet an author before reading their book which was my extended privilege. During the second African women writers’ Symposium in Johannesburg, 2011, I met the ebullient Lola Shoneyin, who I discovered owns 3 pet dogs. Her book, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, is most underrated in East Africa at least and needs more presence. The over-riding visual of polygamy and the individual lives of the wives is dotted with mind play, sexual power, friendship, enmity and the role of children in families. There are many incidents that set the believable and humorous scenes throughout the story for example, at Dr. Dibia’s hospital room, when the real reason behind the failure to conceive is revealed.
The four wives to Baba Segi, whose lives they revolve around, teach us something about determination, good over evil and evil over good, maternal love and the power of eros. More importantly are the fertility of both the womb and the mind. While a fertile womb can give you children, a fertile mind can give you anything you want, which evident in Bolanle’s character from the beginning to the end.
While it is difficult to empathise with some characters, the flashbacks into their deep and dark tortured pasts can give the reader some feeling of empathy and understanding. Polygamy has been brought to life in an interesting, witty and entertaining way by giving it a personality that can hardly be forgotten. While it is easy sometimes to judge women in certain situations, this book takes that away.

A must read.
Reveiwed by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Off to meet Nadine Gordimer

Guess who is going to meet Nadine Gordimer? Me.I have been invited to attend the second African Women Writers' Symposium in South Africa and I am chuffed to have been selected. So, polishing my poetic voice because we have to read/perform and also my marketing skills because we stay home mums/stay home writers make money from sales of our books. I leave with Doreen Baingana, author of award-winning Tropical Fish, yipppeeee. It is only 4 nights away but those 5 days will change a lot for me. First, because this is in celebration of the African Women's Decade, it is a platform to bring women writers from the continent together, dialogue with the great and greater and make Uganda more recognisable for its writing. I am really looking froward to it, as soon as I get my visa out of the way. Nadine Gordimer, she is turning 88, which means that we can still write at 90 years. I'm certainly not stopping. Oh and unlike when I travelled to Pretoria in July, this time it will be Summer. Summer Summer holiday....
This is like receiving a blank cheque and you have to remember what you need and want and write that amount. It is useless writing down 2,000 US Dollars if you are a long term achiever so , scribble all the zeroes down and enjoy filling in that literary shopping cart.
If Nadine Gordimer is 88 and I am 35, how many years will it take me to celebrate my birthday with poets and writers from all over Africa. Really, it is too gwangamount to even think about , but the again, as writers, I always say, take care of the writing first and the rest will take care of itself.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gadaffi's death and Ozymandias, the poem

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lancaster-the week that was, Summer of 2011.

Where do I even begin to talk about the enriching week at Lancaster during the Summer School? And do I love that we were not in London? Of course. Because here the houses and gardens are more Ugandan style, with flowers, trees, space, water and everything London is not. And do we love that the Professors are so non imposing? Oh yeah. They have huge profiles, award-winning publications and their confidence and self-assurance as writers comes from something deeper than all that.
Lancaster, inanimate, grid-like, empty that Summer so all 16 of us in the class have to create an acceptance of warmth, hugs and listening ears for the week in order to survive in the otherwise quite vacant academic space. Oh yeah, there was a group that had hired a little of the space for a Karate camp and a few Asians there for a pre-English course but pretty much, we only had each other. It was easy for Maria and Shola, whose warmth diffused any tension and whose light heartedness and glows were always welcome. And then, Martin, whose novel could easily, easily win an award.
It had been long since I was in class and my last class was full of Ugandans and a few Kenyans and Tanzanians. This was at a whole new level of a global experience. Lancaster is all into diversity, so it helped that the 4 Africans in the class added to the aesthetics and also enriched the literature discourse. By enriching, I do not mean shouting others down because of a disagreement on Chimamanda’s novel but rather bringing our own experience and ideas to the core of discussions.
On the first day, it took me about 30 minutes to get to my room and not only because I suck at map reading but because the only person who could help was a cyclist we met 15 minutes into the walk who gasped at how far we were from Cartmel college. Everyone complained about the beds but they have never slept in Mary Stuart where you carry your own mattress, duvets, sheets, soap and many students sleep in garages because of the limited accommodation. It is incomparable.
In the evenings, we had readings, first from our tutors and then us. There were always polite nods of approval afterwards, I like the character’s diction, I like your style, oh and I like your humor, and it is very clever the way you delivered the surprise at the end. Most of these comments came from people who were half awake. It is not easy after a four course meal to sit in comfy sofas with a glass of wine in hand and expect to pay full attention to one hour of readings. Isn’t there a law against that kind of thing?
I loved Lancaster, truly I did. I love being with people who take literature seriously and are so engaged where you don’t have to exchange business cards and pretend to be interested but where everyone is really cut out to be a writer.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

And even more pictures...



Third winner, Flavia Kabuye, BNPA 2011


Pendants, chains, accessories
Atop her pedestal
Scissors, wraps, bracelets
Glitter in the night
A ghastly thought crosses her mind
She falters in her stride
Her finger is bare
A gold ring is missing!

“For better, for worse…”
She echoes the friendly words
As she works through the basket of beads
To find a match for her apparel
Silver, polished, African
Coffee brown, lilac, hot pink
Bead by bead she embroiders
Her dream wedding gown

Round, hexagonal, cone shaped beads
Solid, transparent, big and small
Sequins, patterned, assorted
Red and gold, like cherry blossoms
Beads of hope, beads of love
Colour her reverie
Songs of enchantment
Woo her destiny

Like a crown on a tattered mannequin
Similar mental pictures fade away
Quietude, a dazzling light in her dream path
Happiness, the amazing result
She conquers her space once again
Like daffodils, the harbinger of spring
Sees new sprouts in every deadheaded rose
And revivifies immaculate hope beyond seasons

Counting bead after bead
A perpetual smile lights up her face
Holding on to a hope she cannot count
Whispers of ‘congrats’, ‘congrats’
Come through the clouded confusion
She will prevail
With beads of hope!

This poem by Flavia Kabuye won third prize in the 3rd BN annual Poetry ceremony. Her poem had spunk, style and was a fresh version of the theme, Hope. Flavia won 100 US Dollars, an autographed poetry collection and handmade jewellery by ATOO designs. This award was sponsored by Stichting Doen and madandcrazy.blogspot.com.
Congratulations Flavia!

Second winner, Rachel Kunihira, BNPA 2011

Battling darkness
Standing there watching;
Watching the skies darken
With soot and smoke,
Staining Blacker than the crows cawing
In the night surround.
Watching dreams die
In the heat that could be felt
In the mindless screams of men.
Of women. Of despair all around.
Standing there numb,
Numb with disbelief.
As the stall she had:
Had set her heart on,
In the fire burning hot,
Became one with the ground.
Morning dawned:
With lightning streaking the skies,
Thundering with the wailing of sirens
Bringing puny hoses. Expecting
To quench the heat
-The fury- of dying dreams.

Morning dawned:
With the breaking skies Pouring
Forth in torrents of fresh floods. Drenching
The flames. Quenching them. With the clean scents of heaven
Forming splintering rivers kissing her feet,
Bringing her all that she had
In the tin box that remained. It’s charred exterior protecting
Her solid memory of why;
She dreamed, she hoped, she strove.
Sewn on the table cloth passed down two generations
Her mother’s mantra, her heart’s song;
‘From ashes, we shall rise’.
And the sun broke from behind the clouds.


This poem by Rachel Kunihira won second prize in the 3rd BN annual Poetry ceremony. Her poem had spunk, style and was a fresh version of the theme, Hope. Rachel won 150 US Dollars, an autographed poetry collection, and handmade jewellery by ATOO designs. This award was sponsored by Stichting Doen and madandcrazy.blogspot.com.
Congratulations Rachel!



An overtly elated Sanyu Kisaka won this year’s BN poetry award. With her poem Handswing of Disguised Depravity, the judges were impressed by her interpretation of Hope. There were many great poems amongst the many submissions and at the ceremony; Hon. Joyce Mpanga lauded the efforts of founder Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva and the organising committee for pulling off such a grand event.
In second place was Rachel Kunihira with her poem, Battling Darkness and third came Flavia Kabuye with Beads of Hope. Nine people received prizes, the first three got 250 USD, 150USD and 100 USD respectively and all first nine received jewellery and autographed poetry collections.
Sanyu’s poem is below.
A hand swing of disguised depravity

I held tight to a hand that had been kissed by the world and-
Whose coarse grip fronted bliss that disguised depravity.
Where dust and perspiration mingled together and formed lines
That picked at strings rhythmically and released inward emotion
In expressed canto.
I held tight to a hand whose grip spoke words and let known dreams;
Swinging to and fro,
Controlling my feelings and etching a desire on my simple heart.
A hand that had known tears and shivered with fears and felt blood….
I held on to this hand to secure a place of wish.

I held astute watch into those strained and weary morose eyes
For any allusion of vanity in the person whose hand held mine,
Refusing to accept false benevolence.
I held a hand in affectionate appeal to a heart that was once wounded
Swinging to and fro
In attempt to unwind the angst on a crippled soul.
A hand that had known peace and blissful days full of relish able moments
I held tight to this hand to secure a place of contentment.

I held a hand that taut befalling a seraph of mercy
To a chafed and murky soul that shone tacit misery on a day.
A life lived as a lie so that certainty is forgotten amid all its mirth…
I held on to a hand interminably that loved me….liberally;
Swinging to and fro
Securing our perpetual bond.
A hand that gave though it had naught…
I held on to this hand to comprehend the being.

This poem by Sanyu Kisaka, won first prize in the 3rd BN annual Poetry ceremony. Her poem had spunk, style and was a fresh version of the theme, Hope. Sanyu won 250 US Dollars, an autographed poetry collection, and handmade jewelery by ATOO designs. This award was sponsored by Stichting Doen and madandcrazy.blogspot.com.
Congratulations Sanyu!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


3 years down. This is special for me because for three years there are friends of mine, poets, organisations that have said you keep going with this, we’ve got your back. So awed. This year we had more than double of submissions and had to go outside Uganda to get reviews on the poems. The theme, Hope, generated a lot of interesting pieces. Some were downright incredible and others, let’s just say that with poetry, there will usually be one word or mark that make it better.
Tomorrow the ceremony will be at Kati Kati and the guest of honour is Hon Jouyce Mpanga. This lady was at the helm of the Gender Ministry and created the policy. You see, back in the day, Ministers actively participated in the development of the country. (ahem ahem)
I’ m looking forward to it. Susan Kerunen will perform to Okot p Bitek’s Song of Lawino, now that is a must watch. I read his poem again and as I turned each page, I was captivated by the strong use of imagery. And we still get people who do not want to learn from the best.
Beatrice Lamwaka, who was shortlisted for this year’s African Caine Prize will read from her short story, Butterfly Dreams. Sophie alal, last year’s BNPA winner will also give us a little something something. And then we will give out the awards. Thanks so much for all of you who still believe that this award must stand for something. It makes me proud. The sponsors, Stichting Doen, madandcrazyblogspot and Amakula Kampala Cultural Foundation-mwah!
And then Saturday I leave for the Grahamstown Arts festival in South Africa, looking soooooooooooooo forward, also because it will give me my much needed rest.
Bless you all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stormy Heart by Mildred Kiconco Barya

Stormy Heart
A heart like mine
But generous
I welcome him,
We are us.

Shades start to peel
Revealing hwo they are
Once more,
I’ve been deceived.

There are many
Coming through my open door
My sister advises
I should have a selection method
Tight and soundproof
But that way, I tell her
I might block the real thing
Cut the oxygen to my heart
What if there’s nothing left of a heart?
I see splinters.

Another time a friend asks,
Have I any children?
‘I am sure there have been men.’
‘At your age they’ve given you no children?’
‘They’ve given me principles,’
He laughs,
I tell him there’s another thing,
Absent fathers
Missing husbands
Lone mothers
There are too many.

Now I am seated by the ocean
Wind roars,
Waves roll and rock with the shore
Turbulence swells
Just like it is
With my stormy heart.

Published in her third poetry collection, Give me room to move my feet. Amalion Publishing, 2009.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

a few poems

The taxi park is our city’s armpit.
The roads are built like boiled spaghetti
thrown in a higgledy-piggledly pile.

Sipi Falls, North-Eastern Uganda.
Your shadow wets the red coffee berries.
You make Mt. Elgon want to blush,
Women wash their clothes in your tears.

My thumbprint covers Burundi on the map.
Lake Tanganyika’s splashes cool the hot town
Poverty is a boat on Lake Tanganyika,
sailing like a boomerang.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Secrets about Lamwaka of the Caine Prize

L-A-M-W-A-K-A 2011 CAINE!!!!!!!!

She comes from Alokolum in Gulu and studied at Kangole Girls’ Primary School in Karamoja where she fled with her bitutwa (Bitutwa are plaits that look like black maggots) flying in the wind, as a result of the unrest in Gulu. Labeaty, is what her close friends call her. Her first email address was labeaty2001@yahoo.com. Do you remember when we first got email addresses which had years tagged to them? If you got your email address in 2012 then you were seemefly2012@hilarious.com. Labeaty was one of those people.
At FEMRITE, which she joined in 1999, while still an undergraduate at Makerere University, scrimmaging for literary abundance which was in plenty while Goretti still its Coordinator then, would dole out.
So anyway, Labeaty is one of those phlegmatics who does not really prescribe to the template of phlegs and she really likes eating bananas and taking tea with entangawizi. Why am I talking about Beatrice? She was shortlisted for the Caine Prize, she is my dear friend and I am the only interviewer so far who knew that she studied from Kangole Girls, which by the way is on the internet, mbu they used to wear cute short blue sleeveless dresses for uniform. Labeaty says that you pick the uniform from the school and leave them there. (Giggle giggle). So, she has been shortlisted for the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story, Butterfly Dreams which was published in 2010 in the anthology entitled Butterfly Dreams and other stories by CCC press in the UK.
We are certain the prize will come to East Africa again, because others on the short list are from SADC. Raise your glasses as we toast, raise your bananas as we boast, Beatrice Lamwaka.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Obushera-dedicated to Katie and Billy on their Kasiki

Obushera by BNN

I am like the porridge, Obushera.
Uninteresting, cold and limp.
You pour cold water over me
I jerk into semi-lifelessness.
You mix me round and round in your coldness
You mix me with your wooden spoon.
Just a little heat to animate me.
Smiling now, moving, excited.
The heat makes me rise
Up down
Up down
Yes… Yes…
Move me… move me…Higher higher
Faster faster
You stop to taste the Bushera
Not yet ready.
I rise higher
Bubbles of elation burst all over you.
You turn off the heat
I am now ready.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If my father had a chance to walk.....

If my father had a chance, he would most certainly have wanted to walk to work, run with his children and even swim in the lake. Unfortunately, for the last 13 years of his life he was unable to. This was not because the police arrested him for walking to work whenever he had a chance but because he was shot by some merciless army men in the late 1970s, after which he led a sedentary life until his death.
Yesterday, I felt like waking him up to tell him that now I can’t walk. Of course, he would have been concerned...have the buggers done it again? Have they shot you too? But no, dad, I wasn’t shot, nobody shot me, the buggers just arrested me.
“What?” my dad would have said. They arrested you for walking?” Were you trespassing?”
“No, dad, I was just walking to work. I had my laptop on my back and comfortable shoes and the police arrested me, okay not just me, there were a bunch of us.”
“Nambozo were you doing anything illegal?”
“No, dad, it’s just that the fuel prices have really gone up and food is exhorbitant. I’ve even started planting maize and beans at home because I can hardly afford buying from the market anymore.”
“Nambozo, I thought things were better now with this President?”
“Dad, there’s just so much you don’t know. I’ll tell you all about it when we meet, which won’t be soon. Maybe that time, we’ll have a new President, who knows?”
“Dad, when you were young, did Africa still have a problem of leaders not wanting to let go?”
“Ha ha Nambozo, Africans are good at heart but you must understand that when poor people suddenly get a hold of money, they don’t know how to use it wisely and so need more and more because it keeps running out.”
“Okay, Dad now I understand. And money is symbolic for wealth, but also power, right?”
“Yes, dear.”

Friday, April 1, 2011

what's my family doing in the papers?

We were at Uganda Wildlife Education Center in 2009, my brother's birthday.

We are such an average family but in the past two weeks, my mum, sister and myself have appeared in the family. The links are below so if you want to read, rock away.

My sister's is here below

My mum's article is here below,

Well, there was a smal snippet of me telling the world how I did not know that World Poetry Day fell on 21st March-lol.
So all those that submitted for this year's poetry award-thank you, I have got 102 submissions which is more than double the previous' years, now it it time for the judges to get busy.
Good weekend and some recommendations of good books and movies are For Colored girls, the movie, Tourist the movie, Fracture the movie and for books-you must read Cutting for Stone.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

21st March World Poetry Day-Just as surprised as you are!

This is my daughter Zion by the fish tank at China Bowl Restaurant. Children and water are very important elements to me as a writer.
I am a struggling poet, who, after finding it such an upheaval task to write a good sonnet and find at least two readers who will understand my rhyme, then someone tells me it’ s World Poetry Day, March 21st. By the way thanks Ben Oluka. I looked into my overwhelming source of embarrassment at this lack of knowledge but unflinchingly, I convinced myself that I was glad to be learning something new. This is what I have learned thanks to the search engines that have taken over our traditional libraries.
World Poetry Day is on 21 March, and was declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1999. The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout THE WORLD (Wikipedia) It was generally celebrated in October, sometimes on the 25th, but in the latter part of the 18th Century the world community celebrated it on 31 October, the birthday of Virrina rominouse maximus, the Roman epic poet and poet laureate under Augustus. (Wikipedia).
Now that I know that for centuries communities somewhere have been celebrating the teaching of this great art from which eruptions of discussion, argument on its form and structure, contemporary poetry battling it out with traditional forms and so on, I am quite pleased. Discussions of poetry for me make my brain work and appreciate that good art takes great work. Was it one of the Bronte sisters who decided that for a good writer, you either chose the art or the other path of life like marriage and family but you could not have both. Delving into this is like trying to split a mustard seed. Poetry does not come easy. Those who say or think it does are possibly the type of poet whose poem fades away as fast as water washes over a print in the sand. X.J Kennedy said, Poetic fame, like sea-water isn’t worth thirsting for. And also that You don’t need to publish a thousand poems in order o become immortal; you need publish only one poem, if it’s good enough.
Such sentiments make me feel like collecting all the poems I have ever shown anyone and redressing them. Feedback on art is an extremely difficult path because many argue that creativity is suffocated with the rules and regulations and a very good friend told me that if Emily Dickinson had stuck to rules, she would have never been, or that we would have never experienced the romantic era. I can now boldly say this is untrue because further reading brings me to another great quote (do the quotes make me seem academic or just a lazy show off). Anyway, that Poets will sometimes comment that they do not want to be bothered with all that stuff about material and assonance and craft, because it doesn’t come naturally...But once one’s craft becomes second nature, it is not an infringement on one’s natural gift ..if anything, it is an enlargement of them....(William Packard, 1988: 372).
Like I said, getting people to agree on what poetry is and what it should do is like trying to split a mustard seed. So, World Poetry Day is on 21st March. I will certainly read the Monitor newspaper for selfish reasons and finish off The Trial of Dedan Kimathi which I should have but there is this darned series called Criminal Minds and for this week, it has controlled my creative space and I blame it for making me sound like a loony bin. I just love good acting.
For what it’s worth, enjoy World Poetry Day and for poets and lovers of poetry, let the language of poetry take you places you will never forget.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Women’s Day Was Galooooorious

Some of the fashion at the Emin Pasha Women's Day festival.(Photo by Kiya)

Women’s Day was galooooorious. And yes, we do need the world over to be conscious of this day, this event, this moment, this transition, because women are artistes, they create, they give birth to and they are here to stay. I started off at Watoto North church and, under the royal theme of purple, the place was decked with beauts with tales to tell, merchandise to sell, authors with life changing stories, and it was so kool. Little Serukenya (Ken’s sis) led these songs which made us shake our kiwatos and remind ourselves of why we are African because we can daaaance. Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul should come to Watoto North first for pre-auditions. Then there was free breast cancer screening as well-every damsel should run for any opportunity to check their breasts. It is the age of information and education and we can save ourselves a lot of raging within.
After that, was the female artistes bash at Emin Pasha and what an extravaganza. Alliance Française stepped it up and had a string of fantabulous artistes one after the other at the resplendent Emin Pasha. There was Keko, a 20 something Jap and hip hop artiste who can make the furniture dance to her raps. Feminine and fierce and artistic and real, she is the embodiment of musical growth in Uganda. Of course, the sensations like Lillian Mbabazi, Tamba, Elaine Alowo and Ife made the day memorable. The power of words and sound was combined with so much charisma and Ife, Grace and Ann led us along this powerful story making the words win us all. I have never enjoyed the cliché’s of women’s day and was so glad that this was far from it. The fashion show lone with beads, bark cloth, accessorised into fashion fiesta was incredible. You should have been there.
Thanks everyone for making it happen.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is there Rehab for poets?

If you have been following the recent CNN feature on mental health in Kenya, like me you may have had the following reaction in this order. Shock, pity, resignation, amusement, pity, awe at the in-depth coverage, pity. It is very pitiful and outrageous that patients who feel like inmates who cannot afford the fees are made to stay in. This is a mental institution where patients(inmates are caged like the monkeys at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre but with less care and attention, and even when freedom is nigh, a few pennies short of the fee and their fate is capped with a merciless padlock until they pay up.
In response to the question, is there Rehab for poets? We are the Rehabilitation that the world needs. Haven’t you heard people saying that writing saved their life? And they say that without the slightest nudge of melodrama, unflinching like the German Minister who plagiarised his way in and out of PhD stardom. Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise is a poem whose very message creates a bed of music for the parched soul that needs to be redeemed from patriarchal, political pestilence in this world order called life which none of us can avoid. When she says, Still I Rise, she speaks of hope against all hopelessness; she speaks of the train of courage we have witnessed in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt. That train of courage along the railway tracks that gather hope, determination and steed.
This is what poetry and writing do to me. My poem below is called Jail Sentence.
Shackled to shame
Despair in the darkness
The Terror of Treason
A lifetime of Languish

A kaloli bird’s droppings
Embellish the wall
Blop Blop Blop
The music of prison.

Heavy Breathing. My breathing.
Patterns of my punishment
Embellish my mind
I inscribe a song of silence
I inscribe adjectives of agony.
My agony.
Wailing. Waiting. Winning.
Another day.
Another song.
Lines of Liberty
A jail of joy

By the way if the poem doesn’t make sense, please don’t incriminate yourself and tell me how beautiful it sounds and what imagery. I’m an artist not a fool. Love you too. In Ancient Egypt, the walls of the Prison Kingdoms are filled with writings in hieroglyphics because writing is what lifted them from their prison. Many Christians that have been arrested in countries worldwide often inscribed bible verses because they knew that those words would give hope to the next prisoner. Your creativity is the Rehab we all need. There are some young Arab artists now rapping new songs in response to their new found and strangely exciting yet dangerous freedom. It’s all we need.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What do elections mean to me? I'm just a poet.

In 1996, I voted for Dr. Ssemogerere. In 2001, Dr. Besigye. In 2006, Dr. Bwanika. In 2011, it needed no Professor to determine the outcome. Well, I stuffed my room with books and scones just in case a war broke out. In Ntinda, voting went on as usual. My scones ran out and I took pictures of the expectant and constitutionally forward-looking Ugandans staining their fingers symbolically. I know the elections should affect me but unless I write a poem that causes as much national upheaval and news as Wael Ghonim's Egypt's facebook revolution, then...
But what if I did? I mean, the larger population does not appreciate the gravity of poetry but I could make it into a popular rap song. Out with the despot and out with the rot. Let's go to town and create change now. I really do have talent,no? However, since we are not a predominantly muslim nation, there will be no revolutions this season. Let the Arabs tussle it out first. I hear on Tuesday there will be a yellow party in Kololo or is it kampala town? Good for them. They've had it for 24 years, I mean when we get fed up we can always hire the Egyptians, right? I would have worn a rainbow coloured dress on Tuesday but rainbow is no longer the sweet array of colours with the gold at the end of it but synonymous with other divisive elements.
How about you? What colour are you? In Sironko, where I am from, everyone voted FDC, and I mean literally. When Mt. Elgon blushes, it turns blue.
So, what colour are you?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Poetry performance on 12th February

On 12th February, I have what is like my first poetry performance. When I say first, I mean that I have a friend who came back from Boston and resettled here and she started a really great coffee house called Coffee At Last. it is in Makindye. It has a cosy room with sofas, perfect for people who live in Makindye. So she met me and we got talking and we re-lived our high school moments and then like a light bulb, asked me why i don't perform at her coffee house. I admit, i do not perform like Ife Piankhi or Maurice Kirya but I can recite my poems from head and i am a Sunday school teacher with creative ideas. So why not? On February 12th I will be giving a poetry performance. I will be working mainly from my chapbook collection, Unjumping, which, thanks to God, is nor new and improved so I don't have to keep explaining myself every time i am selling it. By the way, I have sold over 200 books in the past month.

That's not my point. My point is; I am excited about this. I've got nothing to lose. I left my 8 to 5 job to enjoy the world of creativity which is more arduous that I thought. I have to think up newer ideas everyday, be nice to strangers, smile at the rain to conjure up some best selling proposal on poetry and well, life goes on. I like it. I also get to watch Boston legal when I have worked hard and also work at my studies when I can. FEMRITE has lots of great resource on poetry which I never realised before. Anyway my point is, I will be giving a performance on 12th February and I have the props set an everything. i will not go all out African with kitenge etc, I will be me. I trust it will go well and when it does, i hope for more performances. I deserve it. I left my 8 to 5 job for this, exactly this.

i would like to say you are welcome but really the target is for residents of Makindye and for people who like to hang at The American Recreation Association, which is just opposite the coffee house where I will be performing.

Kitale-Western Kenya

NB: This is not a picture of Kitale. I just like the pic.
For my first assignment this Lent term of my Masters, I decided to try a go at travel poems. I haven't yet got feedback from my tutor but I'll go with it. Below is a poem that was published in Unjumping, my first chapbook poetry collection. I visited Kitale in 2005. It reminded me a lot of Uganda then because of the landscape, friendliness of people and lots and lots of maize. My friend told me that the people make enough money in December to last the month and they make that money from maize. My husband and I are always looking at ways of investment. just go the way of Kitale-plant maize. It will last us from Christmas to Christmas. Kitale is rural by Kenyan standards but they have huge malls,neat takeaways and the houses in some of the places are very impressive. Anyway, below is the poem I wrote I think two years after the visit.

Kitale-Western Kenya

I took my thoughts for a walk.
The maize stalks swayed in disapproval
Of my forlorn imagination.

Kitale is for people
Not artistes.

The local chatter guided me to the market.
And I laughed as the cowrie shells
Rattled from the shelves

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Poets I love you, but...

I am mortified. I attended the weekly readers-writers club of FEMRITE and I am still reeling with mortification. A young gentleman hands in a poem with the first verse copied word for word from a hip hop song and wants us to glorify his writing. Another lad hands in a poem which is not bad just rather confusing. The problem is not the pieces themselves because we all learn from sharing, it is the attitude of these lads. Why do you submit pieces if you cannot listen to unanimous and honest feedback from the people who have taken time to read your work? Why do you sit and defend a piece of writing and yet it is obvious from the fifteen voices around you that there is need for improvement. It is the attitude that appalls me and while the club is and will always be a brilliant idea, I hold my reservation. The readers-club reminds me how and why I started the BN Poetry Award for women. I find women much easier to communicate with in the world of arts. They are more responsive and teachable in my opinion. When I held a poetry training workshop last year in October and gave feedback to the participants of the award, it was easy to engage with the poets, not so for most men; and so I will not include men in this competition to answer many of your questions. However, men are always welcome in the workshops and other poetry events because I have met some very talented poets.
I have come to realize that poetry is a tough world to live in. Some foreigners to this exotic world think that it is about muse, inspiration and rhyme. Others think that it is about love, sweetness and mushy feelings and still others are convinced that it is about lyrics. The true dwellers, whose faces and minds have been hardened and sharpened from the wisdom that is poetry; know that it is Robert Frost’s Road Less Travelled. They know that it is the beard that shapes Jajja’s face after 5 decades of marriage. The true citizens of poetry land understand the rings around the trunk of the great oak that have weathered the years. Poetry is hard work. It is like selling a ten- year business plan. It is like convincing your child to take vegetables and cod liver oil. The muse and inspiration and feelings are fine. Then there is the research, the editing, the reading and re-reading, the memorizing and placing the words on the page with the right shape. Does the poem sound like a poem? What does it look like? How do I feel after reading it? How do others feel? I will think of all this before I call myself a poet again.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Thinking with my heart not head.

Those two are the Corry boys, sons to my friends. Dear Journalists, take note.

I really do wish u a great year, 2011. I do not with you drastic change because that is superficial and we rarely learn anything from that. I wish you gradual change which enters us and gives us time to learn and grow from it. For those who have wished me well and send me love thank you. I have noticed that some of you who are sending me your undying love and elastic prayers, why is it whenever we go out, I am the one paying? I really hope that changes. I sincerely have a big problem with people who work and never ever offer to pay for a meal or cup of coffee. My sister started earning money from selling jewelry and washing cars while still a secondary school student. You don’t need the money to show heart, you just need the heart.

So dear friends, use your heart this year and I speak to myself. Using my heart this year. I must thank Kampvita press for being such dears and offering to publish the poems of the BN poetry award annual project and also the outstanding ones of the school project. Since I quit my job, I need such news for my heart because this is a year of following the heart. My head doesn’t always give me the right answers.

My recommendations this year. You must watch For coloured girls. No discussion. You must all read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.No discussion there either.