It is somewhere in May or June and I’m spending the semester break at my uncle’s home in Mutungo. My cousin Oscar and I are chatting in his room when my head suddenly blows up as if something extra-terrestrial has set it on fire.
My vision dims. I become vaguely aware of being in the room, still. But there is a sense of being somewhere else at the same time. A strong urge surges in my veins. An overwhelming sense that if I don’t pick up a pen and paper that instant my veins will explode.
A hand reaches forward. It fumbles over the table like a blind bat groping for a foothold until a notepad materialises in its fingers, and then it snaps back and rests the pad on my lap. A voice sounding like my own speaks, as if breaching a 5th dimension wall; it asks for a pen. My cousin obliges.
Seconds later, the scribbling begins.
I haven’t written in two years. Campus excitement has kept me otherwise occupied, but as the ballpoint in my fingers skates over the pages, the adrenaline flooding my veins rekindles memories of that cherished sensation: writing in the zone. Letters spill out of my thumbs like ink from a wet felt-tip.
Finally, it drops. The fire begins to ebb and I am aware of the room once again. Are you okay, my cousin asks. Yes, I tell him. I am staring at the ragged blue lines running slanted laps across the ruled page. It’s a poem.
When The Drums Sing, reads the title. The handwriting is mine but the style is nothing I have written before. The feeling of writing it has left a taste on my tongue like nothing I have experienced before.
Revisiting it now, it is truly a mundane and unremarkable piece in its style. But at this time, this is the best thing I have ever written. I want more.
Later that afternoon I walk to Biina, a hill some 30 minutes away, to see an old friend. We had been part of a small group of poets and I want us to revive it.
Interesting coincidence, he says when we meet. I have just returned from meeting some OBs who have started a poetry group. It’s an invite-only thing. I’ll go check it out and see what it’s like. If its any good I’ll tell you.
It turns out to be. I get my invite.
Two weeks later I am the National Theatre walking around like a lost goat roaming quarantine-emptied streets. My feet somehow end up at the Big Hut by the restaurant, where I find a group of young people seated in a circle. Their dress looks campusy. I decide it must them and plant my bum in an empty chair without a word.
Some guy with a big fro and a sharp accent asks me to introduce myself. He says his name is Guy and asks if I have carried a poem. I say no. I hadn’t known what to expect so I hadn’t carried any. I promise to bring one next time.
The awkwardness of being a stranger dissolves in a few seconds. A poem by Guy himself is on the menu. It’s strange syntax and opaque description has everyone debating the meaning, and I find myself sucked into the debate. A few minutes later, three hours have passed.
At this point in time, my passion for writing is still an undercover pass time. Being a writer is uncool in the pecking order of the day, so the piles of notebooks with stories and essays and poems are for the ears of my room’s walls alone.
Now as I look at these cool-sounding kids with swanky accents and crisp English diving into poems as if they were a sumptuous serving of steaming roast, I suddenly realise that I am home. I will meet this feeling in other places later in life. This one cut different.
Little do I know that this would be the beginning of the end of my dreams of being a Lawyer.
Fast forward. August 30th, 2008.
Our Circle is over a year old. We have filled up three box files with poems, and a five-month search for publishers has yielded no replies to our emails and letters (yes, we still used the Post Office then). We decide to take matters into our hands. We decide to take our poetry to the stage.
Everyone invites their people but we don’t expect a big turn up so we set up fifty chairs. Thirty minutes to show time, they are all full. More chairs come in waves until the CICP can’t take any more. Some wise guy finds a way to the honeycombs and others join him. Now we have a full house and windows packed with sweating heads.
Mr. Walugembe, the UNCC Director at the time, calls us for a meeting the following Monday. The CICP is too small for you, he insists. You must take the show to the Auditorium.
And just like that, an old childhood dream comes to be. I make my first appearance on the National Theatre stage in January 2009.
Once again the numbers befog everyone. Mr. Walugembe tells us this has never happened before. No one has every packed the auditorium to the rafters for a poetry show.
Unbeknown to us, the poetry revolution has begun.