“All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”
— Pablo Picasso.
Poetry in Uganda starts from the seedbed of youth. Practically every child you meet lives their waking hours out in song. Which is expressed by the disco-ball light in their dancing eyes. You see it in the East, in the West, in the North and South. It is in the air, it is in the spirit and it is in the poetry found in “Verse In Vac” (VIV).
VIV was curated to vivify, if you will, the poetry scene for now and for future generations to come.
Originally the title of a verse drama staged in 2014 by teenagers in their senior 4 vacation, VIV comprised youngsters from St. Mary’s College Kisubi and Nabisunsa Girls School. However, there was a smattering of students from other schools too.
Under the expert tutelage of Kitara Nation, the name ‘Verse In Vac’ was coined as a variation on ‘Poetry in Vacation.’ It has since mushroomed into an extensive platform for students in their Senior 4 and Senior 6 vacations.
With countless poems having bloomed eternal from 2014 to date, Kitara Nation decided to compile a sort of Greatest Hits collection of “Verse in Vac” poetry under the intriguing title “Rhymers, Metaphors and I: The Best in Verse in Vac Poetry 2014-2020.”
This book is divided into 5 parts embracive of each school vacation through the years of 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. And is structured by a prologue, preamble, monologues and an epilogue.
Dedicated to all “teenagers; hoping to make poetry their best friend,” this anthology is surely a Katogo blend souped-up with flavorings of wit, wisdom, passion and a healthy soupçon of mischief.
The said passion encompasses pain, too.
“Invisible Remorse” by Tracey Ahumuza A.K.A ‘Nkubito’, 2016 S.6 Vac, King’s College, Budo:
“I reach out to hold you
But you cringe and shrink
Away from me
Away from us
And I think that’s when
I repeat ‘To fade’
‘To fade’ –not because I’m paid
‘To fade’ –because I was made
‘To fade’ –because of the
Love and the hugs
Smiles and the friends…”
The pattern of rhythm and sound of the words or prosody is enhanced, line on line, by enjambment as feelings spill while carrying the run of the poet’s thought from one line to the next without a syntactical break.
The substance of these feelings are so powerful, even tragic. To fade is what every artist fears. Musician Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note had the teary words, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” We don’t have enough ABC poetry in Uganda, however you may find it partly (and brilliantly) deployed in the poem “I love like i hate you” by Titus Nsubuga, 2019 S.4. Vac, St. Denis Ssebugwawo, Gaba.
It’s a gem.
We hope this type of poetry is used more. Each line builds upon the central topic of the poem to crescendo with a bang.
“Life” by Rushongoza Begumya, 2015 S.6 Vac, Mengo S.S.S, is an insightful piece. And written in straightforward language, without the frills which come with fancy wording. Written in two stanzas, the first introductory of the whole:
“Life is an exam
An exam written on white paper
With questions written in black
“This exam is sat for in a big, endless room
With many candidates
Others bite nails
Only to wake up when the start bell goes….”
It’s a departure from what Shakespeare said when he said, “Life… is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” For an exam signifies that you pass or fail as a means to achieving the sound and fury of success, in a strictly formal sense.
The poet self-consciously reconciles the tension of form in his free verse to ensure that “each line corresponds exactly to one single breath unit.”
Which also applies to the poem “There’s a goat’s head between my legs” by Bridget Ankunda, 2019 S.6 Vac, Mt. St. Mary’s College, Namagunga. The pattern of stresses on syllables in each line is breathless in its virtuosic intensity.
‘’Yamawe!!!!!’’ I screamed,
“There’s a goat’s head between my legs!
An animal has taken up residence within me
Without my permission!”
The man on my left was disgusted
And cursed all millennials and their sickening theatrics.
Kati lwaki otuwogganira?
It’s just a goat’s head.
It will go away.”
The poem is riveting. The “goat”, an elusive metaphor which adds to the poem’s curiosity value.
Speaking of metaphors, Bridget Ankunda has another poem entitled: “Rooms & Dust”. It’s an exceedingly clever, subtly nationalistic poem.
“Someone tell Susan Kiguli
She is not the only one who is tired of talking
As the last poem, it leaves the reader longing for more. Artistically, it is one of the most engaging anthologies I have read in a very long time. Each poem is special for the way it seems to roll off your tongue.
Poet Byron Aaron Alinda, 2018 S.6 Vac, St. Mary’s College, Kisubi, underscores this fact in his poem, “Shithole Country”:
“A wise man said if every Ugandan swept outside his gate
We would make it to billboard,
Don’t bring your cloud to rain on our parade
All you need is faith the size of the mustard seed to grow high.”
[This anthology is a product of the Poetry Series by KITARA NATION and is available at FEMRITE (Kiira Road), OASIS bookshop (Uganda House) and Uganda National Theatre Box Office (Dewinton Road) for Ug X 30,000.]