Friday, April 26, 2013

Betty Kituyi, 3rd winner of BN Poetry Award 2012, in an interview.

Betty Kituyi was 3rd in the 2012 BN Poetry Award. BN stands for Babishai Niwe and formerly , was Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award, now in its fifth year. What is your academic and occupational background? (What you do for living). To many of my writing friends I am seen as a writer who marries science and art. I have a strong science background with an MSC in Chemistry and I am now a national coordinator of CafĂ© Scientifique – Uganda. The project targets young people in secondary schools and gives them an opportunity to meet science experts informally at the school to explore interesting and new ideas on science and technology. Before this project, I have taught science subjects at secondary school and university levels. I continuously make a double flow between science and art and my work experience runs from science research, education, public engagement, creative writing, poetry, editorial practices and publishing. When have you been writing poetry and how many poems have you written? My writing journey began as early as 8 years of age when I started writing in my school notebooks about the lessons I was learning about events around me and how I felt about them. My uncle, Malomo, kept a small hard cover red notebook in which he wrote about his brother’s family (our family). In this book, there were records of child births, famine and harvest and other things I do not remember now. This little book became a treasure to our family when we would gather around a paraffin lamp on many nights to read its contents. The book inspired me to keep a record of things. When I grew older and I leafed through the scribbling in my notebooks, I realised that they were poems. But I began seriously writing poetry in 2001 – 2003 when I became a student on the Crossing Borders program by the British Council. This was an extensive online writing program that involved Ugandan writers on a cultural exchange with established writers from the United Kingdom. I developed 60 poems from this scheme but I have written over 100 poems. What other poetry award have you won? Or how else has any of your poems been publicly recognised or used? In 2002 my poems Third World Champion and In Touch were winning daily poems on the BBC Network Africa poetry competition aired on the morning radio broadcast. In 2010 my poem, A place, was published in The Butterfly Dance by Femrite Publications Ltd. In 2009 my poem, Hibiscus, was published in The Painting Voices poetry anthology by Femrite Publications Ltd. I have recited my poetry at different writing forums including the recently held LittWorld 2012 International conference. What draws you to poetry? Is there any a special feature or aspects of poetry that makes you drawn to it? Poetry works for me because I am always attracted to what lines the surface of things. When I look at a burning candle, I am attracted to its dancing flame and its enduring burning wick. It stirs images in my life and where I am standing at that point - whether my candle will keep burning despite the stormy currents surrounding it. The candle therefore carries a strong spiritual symbol for me and it is only poetry that can embody its short lived story for me and that works. What is the story behind your poem FALLING? What lines or a stanza of the poem has a strong bearing on your personal life? Here is Falling: Falling The rain is gently clapping at the rocks outside my kitchen. Its music waters my desert. A new song forms, the sound of raindrops washing my face. The rain is steadily taking me home by twilight. I am learning from the weeping clouds that falling isn’t dying. I wrote this poem when I was down with Migraine and in a lot of pain. The rain just kept pouring steadily and gently the whole of this day and it was perfect weather for my condition. As I stood at my kitchen sink to watch it, I found I liked the way it fell – gently - and how it was received by the rocks. There was music in all that and I liked it. It healed me. Then I heard a knock on the door and Moses my fiancĂ© stood tall before me – the rain had steadily brought him home – I cried. But it is the last stanza that surprised me - ‘I am learning from the weeping clouds that falling isn’t dying’. Those words just came to me after so much editing of the poem and they resonated with me and stood strong and powerful in meaning. Later at the Beverly Nambozo 2012 Awarding ceremony, everybody was talking about Bududa and the rain and the mudslides. Then it occurred to me that my poem was prophetic – as I stood up to give my speech as a third winner, I told the audience that I came from Bududa and they were so surprised. But I also told them, ‘the rain fell in my village and my people died yet my poem said that falling isn’t dying’. At that moment I began to believe that the poem had a personal message for me and my people – ‘May be there was a meaning to this death in my village, may be dying is not the end.’ I told the teary audience. Follow this story here: What made you submit the poem for the competition? Did you entertain any inhibitions as you submitted your work? I looked at the prizes and they were good. The theme was music and my poem had music in it even though it wasn’t obvious. I had done my homework to put every word and every line in its place. So I knew that my poem stood a chance to win. I did not entertain any inhibition whatsoever. Just like a mother lets her child to face the world one day, the moment had come for me to send my poem out there to speak for its self. I had no control over how it would be charged but I had given it a chance to be – a poem - and that worked. What has the success of this poem, FALLING, done to your literary outlook (or attitude to writing)? I have learnt to pay attention to the small moments that happen in my life – my poem which began at the kitchen sink has travelled vast distances across the world and is being read by students and people from all walks of life. This has humbled me and uplifted me at the same time to write and share my work the more. What kinds of writing do you do beside poetry? Any example of writing in any genre? I have written journalistic pieces that have been published. I do thematic writing and currently I am writing around Christian themes: March 2010 How Boys and Girls Think Differently, an article published by the ObserverNewspaper: HYPERLINK "" 2010 My Basuben, a short story on Female Genital Mutulation was published in the Beyond the Dance anthology in by Femrite (Uganda Women Writers Association) Publications Ltd. What motivated you into writing and what factors are propelling this motivation for keeping on writing. I have a thirst for stories – I am always reading books. There was a year when I looked at the volumes of books I had read and decided that I needed to start writing my own books. From that point on, I still read but I also write. Being a member of Femrite (Uganda Women’s Research Association) and Faith Writers Association has helped me to meet other writers who continue to encourage and inspire me to write more. Being part of 2012 LittWorld made it clear for me to write my faith story for Uganda and the world. What challenges do you face in your personal writing life? It is not always easy having to switch from the experimental world of science to the feeling world of poetry and storytelling. The two worlds are completely different. The discipline to sit down and complete a writing project is a challenge for me. As a mother and a wife, how does family life affect, enhance, or diminish your writing? My stories are many times intertwined with my family life – yesterday my eight year old son told me a story about a pencil thief and pencil collector in his class. His description of these two kids were so vivid, I came back to them many times later in the day. I know that this story will find its way in Memoirs of A Son – a book I am writing on my young son’s view of the world. My family life enhances my writing to spring from the heart. What is your role on the Uganda Faith Writers Association and what personal vision do you have for what the Association can become? I am one of the two founder members of the association. Currently I coordinate the association activities. My personal Vision is to see Faith Writers become a home of Christian Writing and Publishing in the Country, where writers’ talent is nurtured and harnessed into concrete books that will tell the Ugandan Christian Faith story to the world and for future generations.

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