Friday, November 29, 2013


The Judges: Joanne Arnott, Kgafela oa Magogodi and Richard Ali BN POETRY AWARD 2014

THE WINNER WILL RECEIVE 1,000 US DOLLARS Submissions to be received from January 6th to May 5th 2014 midday, East African Time. Guidelines for submissions:

• It is open to ALL African poets who will not have published a full-length collection of poetry by May 2014

• Submissions should be original, in English and not more than 40 lines. Times New Roman or Arial, single-spaced and size 12. Local languages are accepted only if English translations are sent alongside them

• Send a maximum of three poems and a minimum of one poem to as a word attachment. DO NOT include your name or contact details on the poem itself

• The subject line should read, “BNPA 2014”

• Include your name, email address, country or birth and country of permanent residence, telephone number and the titles of your poems in the body of the email

• The submissions will be accepted from January 6th to May 5th 2014

• More details on the face book page, Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, on the blog and website

The judges Kgafela oa Magogodi: South African poet, director and musician. He is currently completing a co-writing project for a musical stage play, The Book Of REBELATIONS . Published books include Thy Condom Come (2000) and Outspoken (2004).

Joanne Arnott: Award-winning Canadian poet and writer. Her first book of poetry, Wiles of Girlhood (1991) won the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry (1992). Her newest publication of poetry is, A Night for the Lady (Ronsdale, fall 2013)

Richard Ali: Author of City of Memories, Chief Operations Officer of Parrésia Publishers Ltd and Publicity Secretary [North] of Association of Nigerian Authors. Richard is also Editor-in-Chief of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine and was a runner-up at the 2008 John la Rose Short Story Competition.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Face Like Mine, second place BN Poetry Award 2013

A face like mine

I lie in a hospital bed No name to my face Abandoned babe, Small and skinny, Disease infested Death knocking- You stop Stare Move on. But I doubt you’ll forget a face like mine.

I sit at a busy street; Six year old beggar, Runny nose, Lice infested, Swollen belly, Hunger biting- You stare Walk by. But I doubt you’ll forget a face like mine.

I stand at the roadside; Twelve years I’ll make tonight, Too small my clothes, Skinny body, freezing cold Eyes popping n all, Scared of the male prowlers You walk by- Pity and jeer. But I doubt you’ll forget a face like mine.

I squat in a seemingly abandoned toilet; Eighteen years last week, Metallic hunger down myself, Little foetus bleeding out- You see me, Call the police, Not the doctors! Gang up Beat me. But I doubt you’ll forget a face like mine.

I sit outside my slum; Twenty four years old last month, A limp in my walk, Broken bones n scars, Our kids’ hiding- He’s back home, Their father! You whisper, Point fingers But I doubt you’ll forget a face like mine.

I am running away now; Thirty two years old two months ago My children with me Nowhere to go But am leaving The streets my friend… You despise me, Family wrecker, But I am leaving- And I doubt you’ll ever forget a face like mine.

I am lying on my death bed; Forty five years of age last November, My face too old for my age My body too frail to fathom My grandchildren- The few that approach me They love me! It’s all that matters. I am dying content I made peace with my God And now- you may forget a face like mine.

Pamela Orogot This poem emerged second in the 5th BN Poetry Award

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fragrance, poem by Regina Asinde, second place, BN Poetry Award 2010


It’s the fragrance, mother; the intoxicating crispy fragrance of colored newly mint coinage. Sometimes the shimmering glitter of gold or silver. It matters not mother what figures are imprinted on, just the fragrance!

The fragrance that drives me to plunder my core, to pillage my country to nothing, squandering it to desolation.

The fragrance that possesses me to bare my nakedness to them, to vend my soul’s worth, to trade my country’s worth!

The fragrance that devours me and sparks hunger pangs, coercing me to crave and covet theirs staining my hands with blood !

It’s the fragrance mother; the musky musty odor of old and used notes, sometimes the dull hue of coinage that quenches my thirst and ardor!

It matters not mother what figures are imprinted on Just the fragrance mother! Just the fragrance.

Regina Asinde This poem emerged second in the 2010 BN Poetry Award

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ouidah by Peter Akinlabi

Ouidah by Peter Akinlabi (p>I have come here face first, and furtive as air. I have come in a seeker’s mask, a poet-paleontologist, searching for text in the signs that must lift the veil off a Dahomeyan darkness, or translate shards of a mucky modernity into a reflexive function

I go by Ouando, treading through a government of sand insistent on adopting the shape of my stealth. I assemble memory in the heathen signifiers of her defunct name – a civilization now remembered only in its dismembered parts

The levees cling to their memory of feet; I, the ideation of the trudging – my lexicony, seeded in the interruption of unrevealing base of shapes, can only re-imagine such conditions of movement in ethereal mnemonics

But there will be time enough for us to dialogue on things like that - the loosening weights of dissolution, or the grafting of verisimilitudes- when we stand by the arch-of-no-return, each facing memory in opposite dimensions…

Now I listen to the red-stained sounds of Alounloun, and watch the boy sitting in the sand, back towards the Port, as if forgetting the seasons of the sea. His grief obscured by the night, dilating only in the sibilant consonants of the sea wind

The sea itself rumbles on in a tricky dialect, like the statues of Kpasse, reciting only self-absorbing character of loss. I pray to learn my Vodun vowels before the dark returns, or before the wind blows the mask in half mast, in memory of Black Bart…

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Soft Tonight, first ever BNPA winning poem


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

By Lillian Akampurira Aujo This poem was the winning poem of the first ever Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award in 2009, the first poetry award of its kind for Ugandan women. Lillian Aujo won a cash prize of 250 USD. This award was proudly sponsored by Uganda Women Writers’ Association (FEMRITE), WordAlive Publishers, Uganda Clays Limited and Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Kelly Taremwa's emotional writing Journey at Storymoja Hay Festival 2013

We departed on Wednesday the 18th of September, a relatively warm evening, at around 7pm. Through the slight jam of Kampala roads, to the thicket in Mabira forest we rode. By around 11pm, I still recall, because I had to inform my loved one in Dar es salaam, when I was crossing to Kenya; we got to Busia. At 10 am, we had our first class and after refreshing up and settling in the hotel. We were ready with our pens and papers to attend the first class. The first class I attended was by Kwame Dawes. a gentleman who later on became my friend and a fan of my ever flowing jokes. I must admit it was a humbling session, and the main thing I learnt was we should always know as poets that whatever we write, someone else may have written something similar which indeed makes sense. He gave us various websites and links that host poetry competitions and indeed I will contact him.

There was also a session by Dr. Neal who was talking mainly about poetry and his life, and I must admit it was a deep session. Dr Neal is a black American poet who was always discriminated against because of the color of his skin. He gave me new tips about poetry and I actually found out that I have the same syndrome as him and many other writers. The syndrome of writing at weird hours and in weird places. It was a humbling lesson. I was glad I was there. After that, we had a session by Zukiswa Wanner which was hilarious. She is a South African writer who is currently living in Kenya. Zuki (as she is fondly called) is one of the craziest funniest speakers we had for the sessions. She took us through an exercise of narrating how we want to die. Bizarre and creepy, right? Yeah, but we talked about death. Funny. That ended the day and we went to rest. There was a function later that day but I personally never attended it. I was still tired and the biting cold of Nairobi was getting the better of my bone marrow.

Friday. On Friday, the second day, we woke up to the usual Nairobi coldness and rushed to the museum. The master class by Richard Crompton commenced at 10 am. We were only eight people in the class and all I can say is the class was deep. We analyzed his “friends” story that he had earlier sent us. And also talked about the essay that he had told us to write. It was surely hilarious to know that the first words of a story, the way the words are written can either make a reader captivated or not. After that, there was a session of Short story writing which was sponsored by the Commonwealth Foundation and being the short story writer that I am, I chose that. I found Dilman dila and Alexander Ikwah already at it, and I got all the information I needed from them about how to write my short story. There was also creative writing by Biko Zulu, a Kenyan blogger. I enjoyed the session which was very involving and I met a good writer and blogger who has engaged me ever since I left Kenya. The Biko Zulu blog is the best blog I have read from so far. He is a good story teller. You can almost converse with him all year if you read his blog. He talks about his life with ease and a lot of humor. Later that day, there was a get together at Muthoni’s house. It was a good feeling mixing with poets from all over the world. Once again, the coldness of Nairobi got the better of me, and I was coiled up, warming my bones on the fire all night. I envied the logs that were burning in front of me. At that time I would gladly switch places with them.

Saturday. On the third day, I woke up feeling great. I think it was because later in the day I had a poetry session in which I was reading the poem that led me to even be in that festival that I had never dreamt of attending. So after preparing, taking a sumptuous breakfast. I was in the festival and the first session was by 3 poets. One was a South African old poet Mongane Wally Serote. He was a gentleman that had been in the apartheid struggle. His home is in a town called Alexandria and he wrote a poem about it which he read to us. He read more poems and told us stories of the apartheid revolution. If I wasn’t in a public place, I admit I would have cried. Warsan Shire, a Somali Kenyan who lives in the UK also read her poetry and answered questions and told us her life story. She is a deep woman and her poetry is inspiring. I enjoyed every bit of it. The third poet was Dr. Neal and he talked more about his life and poetry more. Later that day, we had a session with Teju Cole and discussed his book it was a fulfilling session too and very well attended. He was asked about his life and journey in writing. Teju is a Nigerian writer who lives in New York. After that, I attended koroga by Micheal osando. It was a good session too that teaches how to mix poetry and pictures. I learnt a lot of information that I will use for my blog. Ealier that day, we heard that robbers had attacked a mall in Kenya. However we went ahead with the session where we were presenters. East African poets were battling West African poets and we did our best. I read my winning poem, INNOVATION and another poem caledl, HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH. . Kwame Dawes, Nii Parkes and Fatou Were from West Africa all challenged me, Pamela Orogot, Rashida Namulondo and Clifton Gachagua. It was a good session and we had fun and questions were too many. Even as we read our poetry we knew something was wrong. One of the West African poets we had Kofi Anwoor hadn’t made it for the session. It turned out what we had thought was a robbery was instead a terrorist attack and he had been with his son in the mall that was attacked. He was killed in the mall, but the son survived. We learnt of his death the following day, a Sunday.

After our session, the festival had to close and all Sunday we were in hotel, trying to communicate to friends and family that we were okay. On Monday morning we left Nairobi for Kampala and reached late in the night. All in all, I learnt a lot about poetry and writing. I learnt a lot that I never would have learnt had I not gone to the festival. I will keep going there, not only to learn more but to remember and celebrate the death of our departed brother Kofi Awoonor.

Pamela Orogot sweetens the mood with her Storymoja experience, The Sex Tent and more

The Storymoja Hay Festival that took place in Nairobi between the 19th and 24th of September is a series of events that I look at with nostalgia, sorrow and determination all at once. The loss of one of the poets invited to this event made the end of the festival sad but gave purpose to me to be the best i can be and to contribute to the African literacy and make a difference. The Shida Tent In this tent is where I first met Kwame Dawes, an excellent tutor and Ghanaian poet. Who embarked on teaching us the art and craft of writing and publishing works. He extended brochures on publishing and in this way gave me the hope in writing and the ego to know I cannot be limited in my writing.

Discovery Hall Is where I first met Dr Neal Hall, a brilliant poet and Doctor. From him I learnt the critical elements of a poem and to know my fuel, listen to my inner voice and discover my inspiration. Richard Crompton, I also met in this hall. He enlightened me about the world of short stories that made me realise that they are more than just story books. The words count, the different types of short stories and parts that exist to make a good short story.

The Kanga tent I discovered koroga as an inspiration to do poetry. Imagery becoming a poem, situations, experiences and art forms. A true discovery of the life of poetry as a living tree. The sex tent No words can explain this discovery at a literacy festival.
Madame /Aunt Dora taught me and helped me realise more than any book would have taught me about myself , gender and sexuality. But I made an oath... What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!
Ms. Muthoni's fab dinner That was a true experience held in a beautiful home. The writing guru's, the free speech and interractions made for a beautiful social network, opportunities and gave me a new setting for a poem.

FORD HALL The East engages West session was a true eye opener on the different poetry forms from Africa and the cultural biases that we include or carry with us as we do our poetry. The loss of Kofi Awoonor one of the panelists, however, was a great disadvantage to this contribution and left a vacuum that was very noticeable. Mvuli suites A lovely suite that was, actually I must say it was a vacation of its own thanks to The BN Poetry Award who enabled the other winners and I to make it to the SMH Festivals.

Rashida Namulondo, winner of 2013 BNPA shares her Storymoja story

Rashida Namulondo receiving her winning prize, BNPA 2013. Photo by Buyondo. >p>Rashida reflects on Storymoja Hay Festival 2013 Earlier this year my poem TIME was announced winner of 2013 BN Poetry award, this came along with a cash prize of $500,autographed books from four authors and a trip to Story Moja Hay festival. My experience at story Moja was ecstatic.

We set off on the 18th September so we could be in time for the festival on the 19th which was to run up to 22nd September. Having signed up for the master classes, 10.00am found me seated in a session about Publishing by Kwame Dawes a renowned poet. In this session we discussed various options for a writer who wants their work published, options like journals, publishing houses, prizes and many more. Kwame’s resonating words: ‘writing is a craft, you have to keep building your craft, learn and learn all options you have the more you know the more you can easily create and improvise’ he related this to a jazz a player to be able to improvise he must have learnt a variety of cords.

The second session of my day was by Dr.Neal Hall a surgeon and writer of an award winning book Nigger For Life. In his session Dr.Neal Hall talked about voices of a poem. He emphasized that the most important voice is our inner voice, it’s what inspires us to write and we should practice to listen to what our inner voice says to us and write down and build on it.

Dr.Neal Hall’s session included readings from all the attendants of their own work, it was fun and encouraged all the writers to find their voices above anything else. ‘Your inner voice is the greatest inspiration’ he said.

My third session found me laughing my head off about how to write Non-fiction humor by Zukiswa Wanner the writer of a hilarious book the Madams she empasized to be able to write humorous facts you have to be aware of what’s around you, pay attention to everything around you and you will be able to pick small facts that can make a situation hilarious but more than ever you have to draw the line know what to say and what not to say.

That night all the writers met at a kanga party, where we all interacted, shared experiences. I had interesting conversations with some of the writers about their work like Teju Cole (Open City), Dilman Dila (a commonwealth writer) and many more. Day two found me in The short story session by Richard Crompton journalist and author of ‘The Honey Guide. He elaborated on types of a short story, structure of a short story emphasizing that the language of a short story should be economically, pertinent, concise and appropriate. A short story is an allegory for a long story he concluded by saying ‘if you are to continue writing, read read and read.

My second session of the day found me laughing my heart out as Atinuke the inspiring story teller, read from her children book No.1 Car Spotter, a hilarious book that illustrates a life of a young village boy. Good for young readers and inspiring to young writers as it tackles your sense of creativity. My next stop was in the Creative writing session by Jackson Biko a lifestyle writer and editor at Gecko publishing. He emphasized to write differently and creatively,’ learn to put faces to situations. ’the rule of creative writing is to break the rule’ he said smilingly. His session was eye opening and educative in how to write about frequent situations differently.

Koroga by Michael Onsando, an interesting workshop where we got to put words to pictures. It was amazing at how different pieces with different dimensions emerged from the interpretation of the same picture by the poets, the session showed how stories can be created by stirring together different disciplines.

Warsan Shire, Dr.Neal Hall, Mongane Wally Serote in Voicing The Unspoken. The writers each read from their books, Warsan’s work from her book ‘teaching my mother to give birth’ was about experiences of growing up from another country and the nostalgia of home, Wally shared his experience of activism in the apartheid regime and what motivated him to write he shared pieces from(Yakhal’Inkomo) that talked about reconciliation, ‘when we talk about reconciliation we look at black and white, but we black people haven’t come to terms with the wounds in our past, our societies are broken because we haven’t recovered from the injustices done to us. We have to reconcile with ourselves within communities, tribes and our past to achieve true peace’ this phrase decoded in my own understanding did make me think about our future and our past.

Dr.Neal Hall read from his book (Nigga for Life) his readings illustrated the continued struggle of black Americans not to be judged by race not to be marginalized because of their color. He made two statements that remain strung on my mind. ‘it’s not in the calling us Niggers that we should fight against but in the treating us as niggers” ‘don’t be afraid of being angry, hang on, on your pain and fear, don’t be afraid but let it inspire you positively. This session moderated by Njeri Wangari (mines and minefields) was very interactive covering topics like exploitation, reconciliation, exile and freedom.

The play I knew a man called Livingstone is a hilarious story about David Livingstone from the perspective of his African friends by Mara Menzies. I later on proceeded to a discussion by Ng’endo Mukii and Tazim Elkington on Ng’endo’s film shadism that talks about discrimination arising from our convoluted ideas around beauty and skin colour. Later that day it was my turn to hold a session, the poetry session East engages West hosted by Beverley Nambozo consisted of poets from the east, Rashida Namulondo, Pamela Orogot, Kelly Taremwa (three finalists in the BN Poetry 2013 award) and Clifton Gachagua from the west Africa we had Nii Parkes, Kwame Dawes and Fatou Were each poet read three pieces and answered questions from the audience, it was an interesting session that brought forward questions of music and its relevance in poetry.

However one of the poets from the west who was to be in the session with us, the renowned poet Kofi Awoonor was not available as he was a victim of the Westgate terrorism attack that happened that evening which brought an abrupt end to the festival. Prof. Awoonor was later pronounced dead, may HIS soul rest in peace. We returned home with the promise to return the next year.