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Poetry In The Times Of Covid – Ep 3: A Flash From The Streetlights Collection

Poem: We Wear Our Emotions On ArrayWritten by Michelle Ivy Alwedo Performed by Namuli Esther Barbara

Posted by Lantern Meet Foundation on Saturday, April 11, 2020

When we were editing the Streetlights At Noon Eclipse collection, this poem happened to be in a batch of poems I was working on. Its author, Alwedo Michelle Ivy, had been part of a schools program we had done at Nabisunsa Girls School, and so I often saw her as the teenager I’d met some eight years before. But to read her poetry, one would be surprised what came out of her pen. There is a maturity to her eye that is beyond her years.

I remember being mentally exhausted when I came to this poem. Deus D Kansiime and I had had to sift through 500 poems to generate a shortlist of 200, from which the final 120 that appear in the book would be selected, and while 12 years of sitting in our poetry circle had trained my mind to ‘see’ any poem in a single read, I am the type of reader who likes to savour poetry like a huge mug of well-spiced tea.

I remember being jolted into an attentive state when the poem’s meaning suddenly jumped at my mind like a prankster leaping from a bush. I had missed it the first time I’d heard it read. And now, as vistas of the type-a-situations it was describing opened in my mind, a mix of envy and pride were running up and down my spine.

I placed the paper gingerly on the table and paced about in my room, grabbing my chin and wondering what this “child” ate that enabled her to write like this at her age.

Every poet who does this form purely for the love of it really aspires to just two creative goals: beauty and brevity. Talent is a given. But it takes some life experience and accumulated skill to distil complex observations in a few lines. If this poet was doing it so effortlessly at such a young age, what would she give us when she had garnered substantial life experience?

I poured myself another cup of hot ginger-tea and pulled the poem up to my face for another read, this time letting my mind delve into its inner dimensions as I usually do with subtle poetry. Some years to come, when the true value of this collection is fully appreciated, this will be one of the pieces that captures our times with anthropological precision.

When Elijah B Wojji sent me this video of Namuli Barbra Esther reading the poem, it felt apt that it would be her to voice its elusive speaker. Namuli is a talent of surprising proportions. She can be stubborn when she wants to, but when she gives herself to a performance you are unlikely to ever forget it.

I have watched her shock the entire production team with her sudden transformations on show night. My all-time favourite performance of hers was in the What Shall We Name This Child production. I was on stage for the set she appeared in, and I remember being so stunned by what she did with the character that I stood there like a tree and just stared, altogether forgetting that I was on stage. It took a discreet nudge from my co-lead, Susanne Anique, to remind me where I was! Needless to say, I had to improvise my next few lines. The scripted ones were doing WTFs somewhere at the back of my medulla.

On any given day, I’ll always prefer experiencing poetry on the page to hearing or watching it. But one thing I can’t get over about the voicing or performance of poetry is the transformations it takes when someone else is interpreting the poet’s vision.

Every poet has a specific voice in mind when they write. That being what it is, is not necessarily how the reader will ‘see’ it. We all bring different experiences to a poem when we read it. Our interpretation is influenced by the wealth (or lack thereof) of our experience. As such, I am always intrigued at how much an attentive reader/performer can transform my view of a poem when they bring their experience to it.

Enjoy this little offering from all of us at Lantern Meet Foundation/Ibua Publishing. I hope you are using this season to dust up your inner creative.

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Written by Wobusobozi Amooti

Proud African. Arts Lover. Writer. Publisher. Director. Educator.

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