Activities In November. Events In December.

Greetings from Turn The Page.

We hope that the month of November has started off well enough for you and those that you care about.

  1. In November…

Common Text For The Month: Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Oduor.

During November, #TTPBookMeet will continue, as scheduled, with a reading and reflection of Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s Dust, our common text for the month. It will be the first of two book club meetings and will meet on November 11, 2016, in Hive Colab, from 5PM.

Dust is a spellbinding novel about a brother and sister who have lost their way; about how myths come to pass, history is written, and war stains us forever. It is a story of power, and deceit, unrequited love, survival and sacrifice.

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The cover image of Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s novel Dust.

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, its author, was born in Kenya. She is the winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing. Hers is a breathtaking new voice.

Copies of Dust are available across East Africa via Turn The Page’s online bookshop. Do not hesitate to call, text, message, tweet, or, better, order for your own copy.

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Author Appearance: Dilman Dila.

For the second #TTPBookMeet in November, which will be held on November 25, 2016, we will be hosting Dilman Dila, the author of A Killing In The Sun, for a reading, conversation and signing.

Dilman Dila is a Ugandan writer who has been recognised in many international prizes including the BBC Radio Playwright Competition, Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and Short Story Day Africa Prize. He is the author of two short books, The Terminal Move and Cranes Crest At Sunset. His films have won critical acclaim, including a nomination for Best First Feature at the Africa Movie Academy Awards.

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Dilman Dila’s A Killing In The Sun

A Killing In The Sun is a deftly crafted collection of speculative fiction from Africa. It draws from the rich oral culture of the author’s childhood to tell a wide variety of stories which run along the thin boundary of speculative and literary genres.

Copies of A Killing In The Sun are available across East Africa via Turn The Page’s online bookshop. Do not hesitate to call, text, message, tweet, or, better, order for your own copy.

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  1. In December…

Book Tour: Othuke Ominiabohs’ East African Tour

TND Press, in collaboration with Fahimta Literary Discourse, will, in association with, amongst others, Turn The Page, bring Othuke Ominiabohs on a book tour of East Africa. Othuke is the Nigerian author of two titles; Odufa: A Lover’s Tale (2015) and A Conspiracy Of Ravens (2016).

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In Kampala, the event, which will include readings, signing, and conversations will be held on December 2, 2016, at Alliance Française de Kampala, and will start at 7PM.

Copies of both Odufa: A Lover’s Tale and A Conspiracy Of Ravens are available across East Africa via Turn The Page’s online bookshop. Do not hesitate to call, text, message, tweet, or, better, order for your own copies of both titles.

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Othuke Ominiabohs’ Odufa: A Lover’s Tale.

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Othuke Ominiabohs’ A Conspiracy Of Ravens.

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Book Launch: Homegrown Love – Evelyn Karungi and Elma Asio.

Evelyn Karungi is a law graduate with a master’s degree in social sciences, and a certificate in United Nations Studies. She’s a go-getter who loves life; a social entrepreneur who enjoys living in both Kampala and New York. When she’s not working or writing, you can find her laughing, dancing, reading, or enjoying her favorite guilty pleasure: Korean dramas. Elma Asio is an accountant with a bachelor’s degree in commerce—but who needs numbers, when you have words? Quirky, loony, and a self-described “lucky bunny,” Elma has been writing stories for as long as she can remember, and is glad to have the opportunity to share some of them in Homegrown Love.

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Evelyn Karungi and Elma Asio’s Homegrown Love.

Homegrown Love is the short story collection you’ve always wanted, a gathering of beautifully observed, richly characterized, deftly plotted gems that focus on the tragedy and transcendence of everyday life. With humor, compassion, and appreciation for the resilience of the human spirit, these tales touch on a broad range of compelling topics, including the importance of holding on to hope and letting go of misguided love, integrating past hurts into a functional life, and how to cope with watching friends disappear as the golden years slip away. With warm and familiar narrative voices as your powerful yet gentle guides, you’ll find space for your own revelations and reflections through reading about experiences that will resonate with your own life. Comforting and inspiring, heart-rending and hilarious, Homegrown Love is a garden of delights where you will want to linger.

In association with Turn The Page, Homegrown Love will be launched in Kampala, at Piato Restaurant, on December 8, 2016, and starting at 6PM.

Copies of Homegrown Love will be made available across East Africa via Turn The Page’s online bookshop. Do not hesitate to call, text, message, tweet, or, better, order for your own copy.

Please follow @TTPBookMeet on Facebook, and Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter for updates in the future.

 

Sweet Medicine – Panashe Chigumadzi.

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The cover image of Panashe Chigumadzi’s Sweet Medicine.

By Esther Mirembe.

[This review may contain major spoilers.]

The same kind of impotence that made her want to cry at the cruel joke teachers, parents and the world played on these innocent souls when they told them they could be whatever they wanted to be. It was as if they had forgotten that great disappointment that had slowly crept up on them, as dreams of self-actualisation morphed into thoughts of stomach actualisation, sacrificed in order to put food on the table.

Sweet Medicine is set in Zimbabwe at the height of the economic crisis. Tsitsi, a young woman, slowly realises that life after school is not everything she imagined it to be. She does get a job but the money is barely enough to sustain both her and her family. As is expected in most African families, you get the education so you can get money to help out your relatives. Coming under all this pressure, Tsitsi decides to get herself a blesser. Well, he is, of course, a married man and this actually causes his marriage to fall apart. Tsitsi becomes the main woman who, in desperate need to keep her man, more out of a need for financial security than anything else, visits a n’anga (what I suppose you’d call a witchdoctor).

That’s the gist of it really. I needed to lay it out that way so we understand why I call it a feminist book. I like that Tsitsi, Mrs. Zvogbo the aggrieved wife (even though she does not play that role) and Chiedza who are all central characters make very feminist decisions. Mrs. Zvogbo is not an Undivorcable Woman.

Mrs.Zvogbo was not an Undivorceable Woman. Not an Undivorceable Woman, who would refuse to see that she was no longer wanted. That he had a new life.
No, she was not an Undivorceable Woman who could forgive her husband’s sins for the sake of a name…
No, she was not an Undivorceable Woman who could forgive her husband’s sins (of the flesh and others) for the sake of sanctity. The sake of a holy union.

I liked the way she makes her decision with so much dignity.

Chiedza, goes on to become a prostitute. I posted a quote on my Facebook where Chiedza, feeling judged by Tsitsi, asks why people who wanted to be engineers but then go on to become maybe lawyers are not pitied yet ideally, it is the same thing, right? Of course, the moralists came running. The thing about Sweet Medicine is that even though everyone makes really skewed decisions, you understand. And this is how life is, really. We rarely have to choose between black and white. It’s usually grey. And for those particular moments we do what is right for us.

I find it ironic that Tsitsi finally gets the church wedding to Mr. Zvogbo after visiting the n’anga. And that is only the last of the ironies in this amazing book – the ironies of life really. That Tsitsi used to be the best in class, that she comes from a strong Catholic background and so on. The character of Tsitsi is so well crafted. I can’t think of better ironies.

Sweet Medicine is on my required-reading-for-everyone list. Especially; for us who have been sold the education dream; for us who bought it and realise now that there might never be returns or if they are there, they are underwhelming; for us who like to go to church on Sunday and have our intolerant moral grounds; for us who have done things contrary to everything we were taught to believe because we had to survive; for us who find ourselves between hard places and having to make even harder decisions that we have to live with; for us who like a good story.

#TTPBookMeet Activities In October

Greetings.

Turn The Page wishes you a happy new month. We hope October has been good enough to you so far.

This month, Turn The Page’s book club meetings will continue as has been the norm, every after a fortnight.

In the last meeting, on September 30, we were honoured to host and interact with the Lantern Meet of Poets. They were kind enough to share with us their history and future plans. Those, and more are detailed in an interview we documented and shared on our site.

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Rachel Kunihira, Elojah B Wojji, and Wobusobozi Kangere, all from the Lantern Meet Of Poets, when they joined #TTPBookMeet on September 30.

For October, we will have two meetings, one on Friday, October 14, when we will meet to have a conversation on, Gambit: Newer African Writing, our common text for the month.

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An image of the cover of Gambit: Newer African Writing.

Gambit: Newer African Writing is a unique collection of nine interviews and original short stories by emerging writers from across Africa. The stories in this anthology reflect the nuances that arise from living in a post-postcolonial Africa, where stereotypes are crumbling and writers are willing to tackle themes that are more social than political. Unlike other anthologies of African writing, Gambit‘s contributors are mostly based in their home countries, putting them closer to the themes they lyrically confront. The interviews provide insight into the writers’ inspirations, fears, hopes, and craft. The short stories reveal a range of experiences that are alive with grace, resilience, and humor. Gambit is one way to rediscover today’s writing from the African continent.

Gambit features the following contemporary African writers, most who have gone on to publish notable long reads or novels of their own: Abdul Adan (Somalia), Ayobami Adebayo (Nigeria), Dami Ajayi (Nigeria), Richard Ali (Nigeria), Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria), Dango Mkandawire (Malawi), Donald Molosi (Botswana), Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (Zimbabwe), Suzanne Ushie (Nigeria).

Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa, who has preciously reviewed Gambit has promised us his leadership through this conversation.

The book club meeting will take place in Hive Colab, on the 4th Floor of Kanjokya House, on Kanjokya Street. It will be starting at 5PM.

We will be delighted to share your wonderful company.

To better prepare for the meet, it would be more than nice to place an order for your own copy by texting or calling us on +25677010990, or WhatsApp-ing us on +254714306507, or placing an order here.

The second book club meeting will take place in the same venue, at the same time, but on October 28. We will be hosting a notable Ugandan writer whose details will be shared soon.

Please, turn more pages.

 

The Lantern Meet of Poets: The Ultimate #MovingOn Interview

In a special #TTPBookMeet, Turn The Page hosted a team, which included Elijah B Wojji, Wobusobozi Kangere, Rachel Kunihira, and Gloria Nanfuka from The Lantern Meet of Poets, some known and others so “ancient” that they are unknown to some of the younger book club members and other members of the public.

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Some of The Lantern Meet of Poets, including Rachel Kunihira, Elijah B Wojji, Wobusobozi Kangere.

Over the last decade, The Lantern Meet of Poets has churned out a body of good work, both in quality and quantity, totaling up to thirteen recitals; before their very last, the #MovingOn recital which will be held on October 8, 2016. We were delighted to have a conversation with them, as detailed below.

TTP: We have been through names like The Lantern Meet of Poets, The Meet, The Lantern Meet Foundation, and Meet Lounge. What are all these changes insinuating, or illustrating, especially when we consider the very foundations or beginnings of the Lantern Meet of Poets?

LMOP: The group is the Lantern Meet of Poets, and within the Lantern Meet of Poets, we began The Lantern Meet Foundation to help pursue the interests of the Lantern Meet of Poets pushing forward poetry as an integral form of our literature structure. The beginning was, at least for me, an invitation by Jason (Ntaro) – I think. I had left the university, but most of them (The meet) were still there.

The invitation was to the Big Hut, at the National Theatre, where we used to meet. We met without any sense of seriousness attached to it. I went with my poetry, which was in a book. We were few people – five to six, and when done, we would walk back to campus, where we would continue the conversation. It became a family.

As an engineer, I did not have that many outlets for reading books so meeting people who loved reading and writing was a fascinating thing. We got to know each other. We were spending more time together. We were writing more. After about a year, we wanted people to hear our poetry. That was how we conceived holding the first recital in 2008.

TTP: How was the first recital?

LMOP: It was free. We did not expect anyone to come. We begged the National Theatre to let us use the CICP room. We had sodas and samosas on sale. We used the staircase as our stage. We used platforms from downstairs. We had about 30 poems. No microphones. It was amazing the place was pocked really, really packed. People enjoyed it, at least those who heard the poems.

At that time, we had been meeting for more than six months. We sat for weeks, just choosing the poetry. There was no theme we just picked the ones we liked. Only when we saw how other people reacted, was when we realized that it was not just about us.

The Sunday Meets are so serious. Poems take lots of criticisms both mixed and good. After the first recital, lots of people joined. The membership changed and we started becoming more structured.

TTP: When and how did the structures develop?

LMOP: In our second year, 2009, that was when we started discussing the way forward. In the process of discussing the structure, that was when the fellowship of The Meet came up. Guy Mambo became President. It took a lot to get guy out of the Presidency. It nearly broke The Meet. I left the country round about that time – in 2010.

The Meet changed. Our poetry changed. We grew up. Our poetry changed as we grew up. In the beginning, the poetry was about what we went through, saw, our dreams, all the love flowing through our hearts, but as we grew and more people joined, and then the social justice aspect came up. It was then that we began participating in poetry competitions, because around the same time, what is now Babishai Niwe started. Barbishai Niwe was drawn to the female gender. We had a discussion about that, and decided to continue writing because we wanted to be more inclusive.

TTP: If I may, the first recital was untitled, which may mean that there was no formula for doing recitals, and this is the time when you are indeed the very first people doing it, and for the very first time. It could also mean that your concentration was on the writing and maybe sharing it amongst yourselves during the Sunday fellowship. Please tell us about that writing; the experience? Who is writing? What are they writing about? Who has been encouraging them, or it is an innate talent, who is criticizing their work who is recognizing and celebrating them?

LMOP: I cannot speak for the rest, because when I joined I was really just an outsider. Even my invitation came through a friend of a friend. I found people who knew each other I cannot speak for their experiences, because they seemed to spur each other on.

For me; I journal, I read a lot, then I started writing poetry; which was something I used to share with my friends. It was in the talking about my poetry that Jason (Ntaro) got to know about me and invited me to The Meet. It was not until we were in The Meet that we had other writers criticizing our work, by giving us a place where we could learn to be better. I wrote everywhere in a note book, on a taxi, on a flight, and I think they did too.

TTP: You directed the very first recital, in 2008. Now, we are going in for the very last one. Please help us compare and contrast the preparations, organizations, and delivery of the first one, and what we should expect of the last one, or your imagination of it?

LMOP: It is not that we really had no idea about producing a recital, because from high school, most of us had, in one way or another, been involved with theatre. When I was in high school, we were writing plays, we were acting. We used that experience to essentially create the recital.

It was a bit difficult. Not all poems are written for recital. We each recited about three poems. It really was a team effort. We thought of each step as we went along.

TTP: Did you get to a point where you realized that you were writing in the same style, that you were all moving in the same direction?

LMOP: That was the subject of very many arguments in the Sunday Meet. In any group, there are those who are more vocal than others, and when we were criticizing work, we found that when some of the most revered, hyped voices, which thought a like, with a similar outlook on life critiques, we began to notice two things. One, people began to leave, because they were not being heard, or to write what they thought would be acceptable. It was not intentional. It became something that we had to consciously discuss and address. We began rotating the moderation, because the moderator set the tone. That way, more people could be heard. Regardless, as time went on the style sort of became the same:

LMOP: After Broken Voices of the Revolution, there was a change. The style became different. More voices were embraced. Even in a marriage, when two people have been together for so long, they start looking, thinking and behaving the same way.

Like Rachel said it was addressed. Recently, someone wrote a very disturbing poem, about cannibalism. Back then, it could not have even been read.

TTP: When you compare and contrast 2008 and 2016 what kind of effort goes into preparing for a recital? We are impressed by the fact that some of the performers are not the writers especially in a city that doesn’t have that many people trained as curators, directors, or writers.

LMOP: l have never been a mother, or ever will be, but I try to imagine what it would be like to give birth just as it is with a recital. The emotions are so intense. You approach both the same way – I believe.

LMOP: Between 2008 and 2016, there has been a greater degree of professionalism. I would say you have to factor in a couple of things to appreciate that. When we came in, there was no training. It was merely experimental.  In 2008, all we had in mind was; “put poems on the stage, and that’s it”.

In 2016 there is a pattern. There are certain steps we must go through; there is the selection of the poetry, the arrangement of that poetry, so that it is telling a coherent story, then there is the rehearsing of that poetry. What has changed is that there has been different performers, different producers, each introducing a different dynamic. The recital is a collective product. Everybody who is involved contributes something. We have tried to standardize some of the processes, but it is still a “creation in motion” activity.

TTP: It so happens that, today, there are several entities which are heavily invested in poetry, thus the description that Kampala is bound to become the poetry capital of Africa. There is a lot of good work out there, and an equally good number of people interested in sharing it. We now have poets like Wake, sharing their poems as rap songs on websites like thetribeug.com. When you consider that, and the fact that there was essentially nothing when you started out, that all these people have come because you showed them the way. What are your reflections on that?

LMOP: One, I am very proud to be part of the Lantern Meet story from the very start. Two, I do not think we showed the way in the sense; “guys come and do this!” What happened was the fact that when we did it, and succeeded, it showed others that it is possible and that unleashed many of the platforms.

Contrary to popular opinion, I have always maintained that the more platforms we have, the memories each is catering to a different kind of taste that one platform may not be able to cater to otherwise why would someone want to start it up in the first place.

When we started out, what brought us together was the void. There was nothing. We asked ourselves how we would make people like poetry, and we went into that. If doing that gave people the inspiration to get started, then I am proud of that, but I think that it is a very good thing for the poetry community to have many platforms.

TTP: How have these different entities helped one another? Do you feel there is nurturing or encouragement of one another across the board?

LMOP: For the large part, you are going to get the sense that they share the same poems, the same content. Also, you are going to find, behind the scenes, that the same people are behind the different spaces.

We are not yet at the level where we are organized well enough to have formal relations. Are there some rivalries? That is true. We are human beings, even siblings from the same womb rival. Thankfully, we have greater degree of cooperation than I have seen before.

TTP: Indeed. Now, there are names; Guy Mambo, Rachel Kunihira, Pearl Mugala, Kagayi Peter, Emmanuel Ngabire, Philip Njagala, Lenny Busingye and more. Starting with Rachel, who is here with us, I noticed that a gentleman like David Kangye, who is well, you know, well read, did not know who she was when they met today. Myself I do not know who some of these people are. Who and where are they?

LMOP: The Lantern Meet Of Poets are, how can I put it? Well, I like to think of the Lantern Meet of Poets in two phases; before 2012 and after 2012.

Before 2012, there was a huge majority of us, who were either students, or in the early years of our careers. After 2012, most people were absorbed into the job market and responsibilities like family. Thus, the interaction reduced.

For many of us, the interaction was personal, and it continued that way, but not at an institutional level. That is why it is easy for a David not to have met a Rachel, because the way The Meet is structured, is that it is loose, it is free. People come in and go out as they please.

There have been over 300 poets that have gone through the Lantern Meet of Poets circles. Not all of them have had their poetry performed at a recital. Not all of them have had their poetry published in an anthology by the Lantern Meet of Poets.

Largely, it is a thing of passion. They came together to meet the needs of their passion. And when the exigencies of existence took over, they went on. One of the things we want to address going forward is that; to make sure that the poetry we have written over the last decade can get out in a more sustainable form than a recital which only a few hundred people get to watch.

LMOP: To add to that, the recital caters to poetry that can be recited. If a poem did not lend itself well to the stage, it was not performed. Not necessarily because it was not a good poem, but because it was not suitable for performance.

There is a lot of poetry in the Lantern Meet of Poets archives that is exactly that. Publishing addresses that, and it will.

LMOP: For example, Broken Voices of the revolution had a lot of poetry that was collected, and Winston Churchill was one of the poems that everybody loved, but it did not lend itself well to the performance. We added it because of its importance to the themes; its significance to the themes it touched.

TTP: Broken Voices of the Revolution was the first body of work that you outed in a sustainable manner. Did it scare or worry you before then that some or most of your work would be lost especially to people beyond yourselves? What made the decision to have that anthology?

LMOP: One, we were not scared because the archives are there, the poetry is there, at least in the large part. We have poetry, all the way from 2007. Perhaps it is only fire we should be worried about, and in sha Allah, nobody is going to direct it our way.

Broken Voices was really momentous. It was bigger than us. The country was celebrating fifty years of independence. As a group of poets, as a generation that had spent the bulk of, the fifty percent of that time, we did not feel the promise of independence had been realized. This was not something that one demagogue to convince people about. It was a feeling that was expressed throughout. Whoever you met was articulating the same ideas. We have not had that much involvement as we did with Broken Voice, because the discussions that led to that anthology took over six months. They were heated, intense discussions of people who were discussing and writing.

I must admit that as the Lantern Meet, we have a particular attitude which sometimes works against us, to say that we have a particular standard of poetry which we want to present to the public and in many cases, we do not feel that we have reached that level. During that season, those qualifications went inside. We agreed that whether the work is there or not, there are important things that people want to say, and that have to be preserved for prosperity.

TTP: When you say that you tend to define the poetry that you intend to share with the public, it means that you are quite particular about influences and their impact on creating of classic work. I have read, in the Broken Voices of the Revolution, talked to some of you, about for example, the music you listen to; Bob Dylan, D’Angelo, Sade, Fela Kuti, The Roots, Jazz, Geoffrey Oryema, Rachel Magoola, Suzzana Owiyo, and not so many people listen to this. I do not know what you are reading, but it must be some equally classic readings, plus the knowledge that the founding members were ladies and gentlemen from either Namagunga or Namilyango. When you consider all this, don’t you think it alienates a lot of people?

LMOP: Well, not really. I for one was not from Namagunga or Namilyango, but I have been there since 2007, from the very beginning.

As we all think or begin; let us consider the world business or startups, for example. You are going to start either as friends or with your family or with your colleagues. Your first clients are going to be your friends or your OBs. So, it is a natural thing. That association and relationship was close and it provided that the initial impetus. It was a case of using the networks that we had.

When it comes to tasks and preferences, I can assure you that there is no place that you are going to find as diverse a group of influence as the Lantern Meet of Poets. We read completely different material. The one thing we agreed on is this; poetry must be able to move the reader or the listener. Secondly, does the poem meet the taste of the language that we call poetry? Use of language? Aspects of identity that Ugandans can be able to identify? Thirdly, there is also the aspect of the essentials; imagery, style, and more which separate poetry from ordinary writing, the kind that separates Broken Voices from a report on bees or pollination.

TTP: Your influence, as the Lantern Meet Of Poets, on yourselves, other poets, other writers, on students, and the audience, both local and foreign, has been phenomenal. How, specifically, has it influenced them?

LMOP: Let me take quick stab at that one. One of the most fundamental principles in the Lantern Meet Of Poets circles is free thought, and free thought is not just having the right to an opinion, it is about having the right to an educated opinion. [Elijah is correcting me that it is in fumed, but I will insist on educated]. Educated meaning that there is got to be a body of work that you refer to. There is got to be a body of work that you refer to. There is got to be a coherence in your ideology. For example, we have people who are anti-religious and who are atheists. They read different works. You have to look at people from their different perspectives. We have people from a feminist perspective, those from a Pan-Africa perspective, those from an evangelical, born again persuasion and from a Roman Catholic one. Everybody brings in their own persuasion.

What we always try to do is challenge the stereotypical thinking; you know, “accept this because it’s your teacher said, or accept this because it is your pastor said, or accept this because it is your elder brother said”. Wherever we go, we try to encourage free thought and to interrogate what they know.

In one of the schools we went to, the teachers told the administrators to warn us to calm down. The students wanted to throw out the syllabus because it was colonial. In another one, which is a Muslim founded school, the discussions on religion were so extreme that they created rifts within some families. They challenged the authority of sacred text when juxtaposed with the contemporary texts that challenged religious- narrative.

We managed to give people the freedom to challenge ideas, to think critically, and then the chicken came home to roost; they began to challenge us on our own philosophies. One of my proudest moments is meeting your former students challenging the way you think, and forcing you to broaden the way you think. We created the intellectual freedom where people can engage and interact in un orthodox forms. That was how Open Mic, one the first poetry nights came up. It was started by Mark Gordon and Nora Byaruhanga. The spirit of intellectual freedom that we espoused has managed to impact many of the students we worked with as they have gone on to start their own entities.

TTP: You have said that the poetry you write has to be moving, but then I feel that some of it, like The Country You Would Rather not Know About, by Peter Kagayi does not really seem to care about the audience.

LMOP: I think there are two perspectives to it. One it being in the Broken Voices, and the other the general feel of the theme of the recital. It is likely to speak about topics that most people are not happy about. I write because I am a writer, and if I did not write, I would not be true to myself. I gravitate towards other writers because I want to better my writing, but that doesn’t mean I do not see other situations, or that I don’t ask myself if what my audience would prefer. Some people will read it like a mirror, while others will not find the point. I will not speak for The Meet, but I have shared similar sentiments.

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Gloria Nanfuka, from the Lantern Meet of Poets.

TTP: Even by the mere tittles of your recitals, particularly: The Awakening, The Man-You-Script and Broken Voices of the Revolution, you have left a reputation, an impression that you are documenting your thoughts on our society. Aren’t recitals – the end of them, depriving us of this?

LMOP: First of all, according to our view, that is the primary objective as a society of poets. It is also one of the things we have been criticized about because we have not talked about the beauty of flowers, and the wonderfulness of the weather. As I said before, we discuss a lot. We probably talk more than we write. In that talking emerges a collectiveness of ideas. Like Rachel said, there are strong personalities in The Meet. People don’t just do things because so and so has said.

TTP: We are here in Kampala, but outside Kampala, you will meet people who say that we should not be writing because it’s not our duty to write, that it is a white man’s responsibility to write. Don’t you believe we are going to miss out on people like you who have been exploring more as you document?

LMOP: We are not going to stop writing. We will not stop getting our work out there. Will the recital be missed? Naturally. Anything at the end is missed. Even a mad man who dies is missed. That is not in dispute. Our position is that it is not leaving a void. The space for oral poetry, for performance poetry is there, vibrant and active.

There are certain spaces which for us, as a body of people whose concern is writing and the advancement of literature, are unoccupied, that need to be occupied, that need to be developed. For us, it is all about the growth of the industry. We want to get to a point where it is possible for someone to have a career as a poet, and not part-time hustler, part-time engineer or all that.

Our belief is that where everybody is running to, the Diaspora, with thoughts of getting their work to UK or America, there are certain people who made the sacrifice to create the industry there so that we can run there. From a nativist point of view, we believe that we need to create our opportunities for ourselves. If we do not benefit, at least our children or those who come after us will.

I must state categorically, The Lantern Meet is not closing. The recital is not going to be our exit. We might even appear on some stages.

TTP: Your concentration is poetry, but when you realize, most of the work, by Ugandan writers has been collected in form of short story anthologies. Well, save for three tittles; Poetry in Iotion by Ivan Mulumba, A Nation in Labor by Harriet Anena and the headline that Morning by Peter Kagayi, all from the most recent time. Should we presume that your concentration will be on outing more poetry publications?

LMOP: True our concentration will be on publishing.

TTP: How will you reconcile that with the fact that we are still considered as people who do not read books?

LMOP: When we started the recital, we did not know how many people would come. Even my own siblings who were made sick by the slightest idea of anything artsy came.

That is the challenge we are embracing right now. We need to look into the question of reading. I cannot tell you here and now that we have a strategy that will go like this or that, but it’s a gap we have identified and it is taking us where our energy needs to go – putting books into people’s hands.

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Boyd Migisha, a member of #TTPBookMeet, with a copy of Broken Voices of the Revolution, the Lantern Meet of Poems’ inaugural anthology.

TTP: I understand that most of the work you recite goes through the Sunday Meet, where it is put under scrutiny and people can critique it without being biased. I wonder if, at some point in time, it forms an invisible hedge where people, who are expressing out of that, are pushed back in or out by the style of critique.

LMOP: One of the beautiful things about the Lantern Meet of Poets is that people are so different. The beauty that makes the Lantern Meet of Poets the Lantern Meet of Poets is the uniqueness. There are poems which will not be appreciated by one of us, but will be by another. It is a challenge to the writer, but also, it encourages them to be open minded.

When you are engaging a poem it is like when you are meeting someone for the very first time. They can either challenge you, or otherwise. True, the hedge existed, but it was broken by the efforts of our differences.

LMOP: Because we spend more time together, it would be disastrous to stick to what we believe. We resolve that bringing on board new, different people who challenge our beliefs helps us improve our quality by asking us to examine ourselves in ways we had not imagined before.

TTP: I must applaud you for maintaining an identical style over the years.

LMOP: I must say that, that was luck and providence. We do believe a lot in continuity in everything we do, and as was set by Rachel. The style in which we do things, perform, direct, and handle several aspects of the process have had an impact on creating that standard. Whoever has come has inherited that standard and added their own personality. The Lantern Meet of Poets approach to performing poetry is more about presenting the character in the poem and not the character of the performer.

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Annet, a member of #TTPBookMeet

TTP: That reminds me, I believe that in all the other art forms, if curiosity is a byproduct of what happens, even at the Lantern Meet of Poets, is that something that you would be satisfied with?

LMOP: We prefer more diversity. Where we require uniformity is with the attitude, so that whoever is doing a poem takes it seriously. The performer has the ultimate responsibility to interpret the poem, reimagine the character, and then to create the performance that people want. It is inclusive.

TTP: On documenting society, one of your new poems, Dizzying Heights, which is an amazing, is a wonderful reflection of the history of Buganda, Uganda and its developments, and Greek mythology. Would you please be kind enough to recite or read it out to us?

LMOP: *Recites it*.

TTP: Hear! Typical Lantern Meet of Poets recital!

LMOP: Is it the structure, or style? I feel like it is those evangelical pastors who always maintain a particular style of preaching. You listen to one, and you want to sound like them.

LMOP: I cannot contest that. I would like to think that when you have a group. Which has lived together for a while, like a family, they tend to sound alike. It is something about human nature that we cannot explain. They develop a collective mind and style, with the aspect of the rhythm and breathe control, and all of those are controlled by the need to make it easy for the audience to listen and follow but at the same time not making it too slow. There are very many differences. Every individual has their own.

LMOP: When you read a poem, the story or style should harmonize because of the rhymes and energies; every style has its own rhythm. For me that has to come through. That’s is why you can identify an OJ (Ojakol Omerio) poem from a Guy (Guy Mambo) poem. Guy’s poems are more language. He does not have that strong of a style, one similar to many. When you hear his poetry, you will hear that kind of a sing song style, and that is what I wanted the listeners to get from the very beginning. OJ’s poems are more of energy. The words he uses. Naturally, that is what came out. What matters is how you punctuating it. There should not be a full stop where it should not.

TTP: As we conclude, how many shows do you have on the 8th of October?

LMOP: Only one.

TTP: I understand that this is the last but we need to have an encore. It does not make any sense to simply say we are going. Just one last one, and not in October, or on that is available on other media, like recordings.

TTP: How are we ever going to find all this body of work, work which is not readily available?

LMOP: Right now that is our main focus. To find ways to make our work available and accessible. It is our biggest priority. About the encore, I cannot promise, but there will be a recording made available and accessible to as many people as possible.

The Sunday meets are the life of the Lantern Meet of Poets. That is one thing that cannot go away. That is where all the writing gets done.

TTP: If you feel like doing what our President has done, it is OK. We are used.

TTP: I am not convinced. There is no moving on.

TTP: Is there anything that you can tell us, that you have not told any other people about the October 8th?

LMOP: We always have this thing about doing a surprise, about the audience coming to see things for the first time. What we can tell you is that there is going to be something different, I hope you will see it, some of you will miss it. We have attempted to incorporate the elements of performance from all the recitals. In some, a few sketches are repeated, in other cases, particular performance styles are repeated. We will be doing some things which in earlier recitals were not successfully attempted. It being the last show, statically, we want it to be representative of everything that we have done from the beginning. It is going to be a mixture of concepts. If you see it, you might recognize a performance from an old recital, unless it is your first recital.

TTP: Thank you for joining us, and sharing your company with our book club.

LMOP: You are welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Begumya Rushongoza’s HOW WILL THE GUN BARK IF I AM KISSING ITS MUZZLE?

 

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The cover image of Begumya Rushongoza’s How Will The Gun Bark If I Am Kissing Its Muzzle?

Books don’t save burning houses.

The irony of books, of flammable paper, carrying the responsibility of saving houses from burning, says a lot about the role of literature in society. But if the poems are the real cause of the arson, then where is solace? What’s the lifespan of poems that are written under surveillance? The poem from which the line Books don’t save burning houses is got, entitled I DON’T WANT TO WRITE A POEM, is in its entirety a handful of ash; the poet and his useless creation are the aftermath of a battle between an internal force and an external force. The incessant provocation and satirizing are things poems used to pride in before they became prone to gun shots and unforeseen raiding. In such a brutish setting, it’s right to assume that poems are refusing to be written. To save themselves from awaiting failure and helplessness:

Poems can’t hide

They don’t know how to duck

Or run.

One knocked down door

And they have already been seized and burnt.

 

The “Poems” are both physical and emotional components of their bearers (“houses”). They are a medium for warmth and belonging. But here they are, utterly incapable of putting up resistance. The instant conflagration of poems after “One knocked down door” tells of the vulnerability of inchoate voices and adulterates freedom of expression. However, the presence of “door” somewhat frees poems from blame; they are reclusive fantasy-things that have not been heard by anyone else but their conjurers. They should therefore not be expected to save anything. Not even themselves. Maybe it’s the fault of the “outside world” for not listening closely enough.

In a similar poem, MY HAND WON’T WRITE ANYTHING BEAUTIFUL, beauty is enslavement of conscious expression; it’s a manipulation of colors and an exertion of instructions. The “beautiful” is only that which isn’t repugnant to the high class. “Master,” the first word in the poem, trembles with timidity and bravery. But the consequences of refusing to write “acceptable” poems (eulogies) cannot be predicted unless the previous poem is referred to.

But in poems like WE WANT ANOTHER WAR, we are in dire need of pain we hardly understand. What our cravings teach us however, is how war victimizes different people. The girls (“virgins”) suffer rape, the warlords get “driven in posh imported cars” and “sleep in flats that touch clouds,” while “debtors” lose their heads. The debtors could be the same people who have owed us a war for many years. Or those who won’t retire so that “we” (the unemployed youth) take over. It could be anyone. The eagerness associated with these lingering desires, the unknowing of their strengths, is shown in this stanza:

We get excited at the smell of an aroma we think is of gun powder

We realize later it is burnt matooke……

Begumya Rushongoza, a new voice in the literary scene of this country, is a courageous one. He, unlike us, the watchers, isn’t afraid to ask for what we truthfully deserve. The tones of the poems keep changing, like he’s working under inflection. One time he’s raged with impatience, and the other he’s treating his need like a triviality he can do without. He makes war sound like a short moment of cathartic bloodletting we’ll forget as soon as the vestiges are washed away by time.

HOW WILL THE GUN BARK IF I AM KISSING ITS MUZZLE ?, his debut collection, reeks with violent vengeful emotions (towards an oppressor or a despicable self), fore-telling of an eye for an eye crimes, and a normalcy in wanting and/or experiencing the aberrant.

Apart from making us anticipate a liberation war – “One last war,” Begumya Rushongoza also warns of a genocide bred on our tongues; the bad blood amongst tribes brimming. In WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES, the tellers do not seek intervention: they’re aware of their inescapable fate. It’s like offering oneself up for sacrifice. And WISH is an unheard voice, repressed and kept away in a tin. If the speakers are to be killed with their families, then their informing the world is like a humble request for whoever is listening to not bother trying to create survivors out of immobile bodies to be found lying dispersed.

One of the most powerful poems in the collection, GRASS GROWS, tends to concern itself with the fleeting of time after an evil has transpired. The less we remember the better. Time, in this case, is a measurement of love, and death its impetus; the rotting of our emotions due to indifference facilitates the growth of the grass. However, the grass growing is also about us giving up so easily any kind of struggle to claim what belongs to us. The grass works as a cloud over the brain. Forgetfulness is a means to help the whole body survive. Here’s an extract from the poem:

The crying dies down slowly

The deceased is accidentally buried with his dog

Eyes blind to everything but pain.

The soil is put back where it was removed

The rain falls and grass grows

HOW WILL THE GUN BARK IF I AM KISSING ITS MUZZLE? treats various aspects of life apart from war, as moments of pleasure where the decision of the person “holding the trigger” is to be determined by a particular person’s skill of kissing. Playing with danger is part of self discovery. It’s about having all the cards in one’s hands. How we tickle death and other irremediable dangers is what (makes us human?). We are as good as our actions in times when we probably shouldn’t be doing anything. On the other side of this collection, the love poems and others of that kind are like stories told about a people before they went to war with themselves. By carefully looking at these two “ways of life,” we can tabulate them with blood and start making comparisons.

Please, treat with excessive indulgence.

Begumya Rushongoza’s book is available on Turn The Page’s online book shop via this link.

Acan Innocent Immaculate; an interview with the award winning writer.

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The award winning Acan Innocent Immaculate, our book club’s guest for the month of September.

Acan Innocent Immaculate is the winner of the recently organised CACE (Center for African Cultural Experience) organised Writivism Festival 2016’s short story competition. Her gripping story, Sundown, beat several others, written by equally fledgling writers from East and West Africa to earn the coveted prize.

Turn The Page was blessed to share her company when she joined us, as our guest and author of the month of September, for the book club meeting which happened on September 2, 2016. Acan gave a reading of her story to which we reacted and asked a several questions about herself and her award winning story; activities, she said, were her first as she had never ever of the same before.

The following interaction is one made up of answers by her, as given to questions and comments raised by the book club members who were led by Raymond Lule. TTP is an acronym for Turn The Page, whereas AII is Acan Innocent Immaculate in full.

TTP: Who is Acan Innocent Immaculate?

AII: I am Acan Innocent Immaculate. I am studying at Makerere University, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Medicine and Surgery. I am in my third year, which has just started. I have two siblings – sisters. I am 5 feet and 2 inches, but I play basketball.

TTP: When did you start writing?

AII: I started with very poorly drawn comics, when I was in P5 (elementary/primary school, level/class 5), before moving to plagiarising stories and trying to make them my own. In High School, I moved on to novels, even though the writing was bad. Right now, I am focusing on short stories. Due to time limits, short stories are easier to write.

TTP: What has your writing experience been like, in your nascent life as a writer?

AII: I feel like I have had a pretty smooth ride. I have sent a story to a magazine, and it has been rejected. That is the worst thing that has happened to me so far. I do not have a struggle story to tell yet.

TTP: What is the story behind your story? What informed the title? What inspired it?

AII: Actually, I feel like people understood the story much better than I did. When I was coming up with the title, it was just a stroke of luck to have that wordplay. Sundown is, really, an evening time. I was looking a t it from the perspective of the world coming to an end. The world is in its evening. Also, the sun is literally down.

I like your (Raymond Lule) interpretation (that the masses have exasperated the gods, who have decided to strike back) too better than mine.

TTP: What inspired you to write Sundown?

AII: To be honest, it was not a movie. I was trying to improve my description in stories. Before that, a friend of mine was telling me that they read stories but they felt that the stories existed in blank space. I was trying to write a story that explores description. I wanted to tweak people’s imagination.

The other things just filtered into the story. Like the albino. There is a misrepresentation of people –people are not represented as much. For example, I do not think I have read a story where the protagonist is an albino. So, I decided to write a story about someone else.

TTP: 2050 AD? What does the timing in your story say about the world, about current situation and what this story might mean if we look at it as futuristic?

AII: There is a theory going around that in about 20 years the effects of global warming will be greater than can support life. I am an environmentalist, and I am aware that we – humanity – are very lazy about taking care f the planet.

Scientists have a rationale that when we go extinct, the planet will restart. They have the mentality that it does not matter what we do, we will leave the planet behind. I was looking at it from the point of “Hey! You are not leaving the planet behind. Take that! What are you going to do about that?”

Yes, it was just a story, but you can consider it somewhat of an advocation for the preservation of the environment.

TTP: While writing this story, one with a concept that has been explored before, what new angle were you examining, besides setting it in Uganda or Africa?

AII: It is not my responsibility to make you not remember other stories. I wanted to look at it from a more personal perspective – for the protagonist. Instead of him thinking about saving the world, he is thinking about himself – especially for an apocalyptic story.

TTP: your story is a conflation of so many foreign ideas. Are you an African writer simply because of your pigment, or you want to portray this kind of story as being from an African perspective?

AII: I like to say that I am a writer who happens to be African. Yes, I want the stories to relate to an African setting. I do not want to tell an American story from an African perspective. I do not subscribe to the school of thought that some things are American and some cannot be African. Snow and spaceships are global elements which are portrayed in an African setting.

Gloria Nanfuka: There is not one African story, one that fits the stereotype. The contemporary African is exposed to a world with spaceships. You can write about a character who travels to the village, sleeps in a manyata and speaks their native language with their grandmother, and then returns to the city to read Wole Soyinka, watch Game of Thrones, and speak slang with their friends.

TTP: What goes into your craft – the writing? Was it taxing or an improvement from an earlier level?

AII: An improvement from an earlier level. My description was lacking, so I was trying to improve that. I did a little research, but it was very low key stuff. Just Google and some article here and there.

TTP: Do you treat your stories like a money lender? When people come to you for short stories, do you have them on hand? Do you fat them when they are required? Or, do you see the events coming up and you build towards the events?

AII: I am in group with five friends. Every week we give each other a writing prompt, and then at the end of the week, each one of us has come up with a story of about 2,500 words. Yes, right now, I am fatting out short stories.

TTP: What more should we expect from you?

AII: Something better. Preferably, another short story. It will not be similar. I struggle with having a consistent style.

TTP: Do you think Ugandans are writing more short stories? There seems to be more poetry.

AII: I cannot give an honest response to that. I have not read enough Ugandan literature. I am put off by the first few that I stumble across. I am trying to rectify that. I feel we are still trying to break free of that stereotypical African story mould, but we are getting there.

TTP: What has the appreciation of your story been, amongst your friends and your peers?

AII: It is surprising. I did not think it was going to be a big deal when I was writing it.

TTP: How did you find the competition, especially with people who come from countries that are quite serious about their literary work?

AII: My first reaction was shock. I did not expect to win. I had spent that week telling people whom I thought was going to win.

The festival was really good. I met so many people who were much better at the craft than I am, people who are more experienced. I learnt so much from talking to those people than I thought I would.

TTP: As an individual, what significant opportunities have you earned from winning the Writivism Festival 2016 short story competition, or any others beyond the festival?

AII: Yes! I have received like a hundred (100) Facebook friend requests from Nigerians.

TTP: As a writer, the expectation is that you are reading a lot to inform your writing. How much and how often do you read, and what do you read?

AII: Every time I get free time. I have e-books on my phone. I can go through a phase where I am reading a novel every two days. Mostly, it is those funny chicly things.

Now, I am trying to improve my reading; War of the Worlds, Art of War and those other fancy things.

I would say that I read once a day. At least, I sit down for about an hour and read before I sleep. Right now, I am reading How To Write Science Fiction.

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Acan Innocent Immaculate’s appreciation, in a tweet.

 

 

          

 

 

Activities In September.

Greetings.

We wish you a beautiful, eventful, happy new month of September, 2016.

Following from where we left off last month, we will continue with our growing tradition of two events per month, but plus one more; two author appearances and readings, and a reflection on the common text of the month.

On September 2, 2016, we will host Acan Innocent Immaculate, a budding Ugandan writer, whose story, Sundown, is the winner of the just ended 2016 Writivism Festival’s Short Story Prize.

Acan Innocent Immaculate, our guest for the #TTPBookMeet on September 2, 2016, will be joining us for an author appearance and reading.

Acan’s Sundown is dark, near-apocalyptical, and eschatological. There is no hope left for and we get to experience that depressing world through the eyes of a disillusioned child. The main character’s situation is as tragic as it can get, as all the earth’s inhabitants, considered as not being part of mankind’s best, are sentenced to die with earth. It is a beautifully written story, whose plot unravels with an awful elegance.

On September 16, 2016, we will meet for a reflection on the common text for the month, which is Boy, Interrupted, a novel by Saah Millimono. Boy, Interrupted is a searing, heartbreaking love story and an insightful and moving debut which captures Liberia’s people, politics and cityscape during its civil war.

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Boy, Interrupted is our common text for the month of September. We will reflect on it in the #TTPBookMeet of September, 16, 2016.

You are encouraged to proceed to purchase your copy by following this link, in preparation for September 16’s book club meeting.

On September 30, 2016, we will meet for another author appearance and reading, where and when we will host a yet to be announced guest.

Our book club meetings still happen in Hive Colab, which is in Kanjokya House, and on Kanjokya Street, and start at 5PM.

We hope to share your and all your friend’s company on the highlighted dates.

Warmly,

Turn The Page.

The Glory Of Gloria.

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With Gloria Kiconco, in the center, with a strap over her shoulder, when we met.

For Gloria Kiconco, writing is more than simply documenting, or magnifying, or taking responsibility for fixing the problems that diffuse through her society. Apparently, she does not earn enough satisfaction from doing what most writers can ably do. By detailing her thoughts in a language she has mastered, and conflated into the poems that make her collection of aesthetically pleasing zines, which make a project titled SOLD OUT, she eclipses that.

Gloria Kiconco is a young, budding Ugandan born writer who started writing when she was younger, before leaving for the United States, where she spent most of her formative years, and returning to Uganda to be, amongst others, the writer, art critic, and spoken word performer that we know her to be today.

Her work is, she said when we hosted her, as the author of the month, for the Turn The Page book club meeting on August 5, 2016, a body of work about things happening in Uganda, but people do not talk about. Her themes of interest vary, from personal to public explorations of experiences which could best be described as a study of mythology, a topic which helps her relate her story by enabling both a moral take and a supplementation to the same.

Gloria’s work is so engrossing. It does things to you. When she performs it, it makes you want to dance. Some may find it hard to relate to (as she, for example, references seasons beyond our locality, uses words so “big”, and speaks in a foreign accent), but what is there to expect of someone who is a genius? The glory of Gloria is that she is aware of her innate talent, and has harnessed well enough to illustrate her thoughts with an ease not so many can ably appreciate. To that, she comments that she cannot judge for them, and does not care how they appreciate it. All she desires is to see words arranged in a certain, nice way.

Gloria’s work addresses several social and/or topical issues, from patriarchy (in Bloodletting), to feminism (in The —– Unicorn OR A History of Mythical Beasts Long Gone) to love (in Two RE: Dress) to elected migration (in Aspens in Autumn) even though she attempts to abstain from being consumed by them herself. She is an African writer who is worth note.

Gloria’s process of writing starts on a notebook, which she keeps on herself, and results into well packaged pocket size zines that go for the average price of a beer each. Her work is available on the online book store and can be purchased by following this link. She, also, regularly performs at Poetry In Session events which happen in Kampala every after two months.

 

 

 

Activities In August.

Hello, there.

We, at Turn The Page, would like to wish you a wondrous, new month.

During the month of August 2016, we will have two notable events. The first is an author’s appearance, made by Gloria Kiconco, on Friday, August 5, 2016.

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Gloria Kiconco, who will be making an author’s appearance on Friday, August 5, 2016.

Gloria Kiconco is a phenomenal poet who has authored and had published her poems, which are available to us, the audience, in the form of zines.

You can skim through her work, and, importantly, purchase it by following this link.

You can, also, read the author’s own write-up on the aesthetic impressions that make the artistic designs on her work, by following this link.

Gloria’s work has also been reviewed by Raymond Lule. His review is accessible via this link.

The second will be another book club meeting which will be taking place on Friday, August 19, 2016, for a reading, discussion, and reflection on Nurrudin Farah’s Hiding In Plain Sight, our common text for the month of August.

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Nuruddin Farah’s Hiding In Plain Sight, our common text of the Month.

For those who have not read it before, you are encouraged to proceed to get your own copy of the book by following this link in preparation for August 19.

We hope to see you and your friends, and to share on these and more when they both happen.

Best regards.

 

 

SOLD OUT – Gloria Kiconco.

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Sold Out.

Sold Out, Gloria Kiconco’s collection of poetry zines is a spirited marriage of two complementing art forms, poetry and drawing, in fairly subtle presentation. In a poem like with restless & ungoverned rage, the most immediate role of the keys placed at the bottom of the paper is to set the tone of the sentences, most of which are answers to a question hovering above them. If the drawing is judged as not just an additive to the aesthetic of poetry but as an equally strong entity, would it succeed in telling the story of those poetic lines in their absence? And if the art is to help poetry get understood, does that make the later unconsciously dependent? There’s a likely situation when the poetry is self-sufficient and the drawings on paper desperately cry for recognition: they are left to serve as mere adornments. But maybe it’s just natural for one art form to overshadow another.

The first time I freed one of the zines from its polythene sack, I unfolded the paper to its initial size, and subsequently realised I couldn’t find the poem’s starting point. I wondered at the lines staring at me from an upside down position, and the general usage of paper was befuddlingly fascinating. It took the maker’s guidance for me to get there. However, performing a complete unfold before reading enables one acknowledge the layout of a particular poem (arrangement of lines) and the process of incising a part of the paper and the spreading of the respective illustrations.

Sold Out is generally a collection of poems on wheels. It’s characterised by movement in and out of the body, into a loss or gain of self, crawling into the heart for solace, rummaging for a relatable meaning of life, futile journeys towards dreams(guided by Aspens in Autumn), and a raged exploration of a writer’s life. The most notable voice in all the poems is a profound void. In Forget (Arua) Remember (Packwach), emptiness has influenced the need to leave the city for a while in pursuit for what Packwach might add to the traveler’s well being. It feels like the vacuum is biggest in such a poem where the poet asks you to:

Forget that your life has been capsized

and re-sized to compartments

and capsules and containers

You swallow them, they swallow you. You

are the ability

to fit one container into another.

You can save space. You

are not filling anything. You

are to be filled

The use of the words capsules and space indicates a means to try and get rid of a vacuum by letting oneself take in something – a capsule. Presumably, capsules represents all that’s fed to the body to induce betterment in spirit. But sadly, the betterment is not achieved. The swallower is only capable of, sarcastically, saving space. Space has been personified, and the presence of someone in which it can perfectly fit is satisfying. I think of this relationship as being symbiotic; the container or capsule gets a free pouch, and you – the reader, the loner, the writer, are feeling good about yourself for being the carrier of this thing, even when you know it’s nothing.

Further, the personification takes a more thoughtful approach in the poem with restless & ungoverned rage. The first stanza poses a question that could be mistaken for rhetoric.

How deep into a word

can you go?

In this case, the power is in the hands of the word and not the person who “dives into it”. Depth is a matter of surrendering. To a writer like Gloria Kiconco, depth determines the effectiveness of a creative piece of work. It also suggests a state of mental freedom (“bright lights”) supplemented by curiosity (“cannot be contained”). Maybe a word is an amorphous body of unknown substance one can “look into” and go to another world. The possibilities are infinite.  To think of a word as the smallest unit of a writer’s life, you wonder if other writers apart from Gloria have ruminated on the depth question. One word can be used in many varying ways, depending on a particular writer and what they intend to achieve. However, Kiconco also warns of a danger in going too deep into a word. And this is when word becomes ambigous; it can mean emotional attachment outside a literary vocation, drug addiction, Internet or social media obsession, religious adherence, or anything else that makes one unable to “live without it”. By imparting that,

“Just as I am free,

I belong to you,”

Gloria accepts her literary responsibilities to both the word and the audience. But in doing so, she transmits the pains of being property from her own self to the demanding recipients of her wordily creations. The use of “Just” as a way of showing humility makes “belong” in the next line reverberate beyond this small publication and the reader’s prior knowledge of their position in that “love-triangle”. And it also puts readers in the same basket with word; they seem to influence the writer’s final product.

Gloria Kiconco’s poetry is charged with lucid imagery and a courage to prick at the seemingly harmless aspects of our unsteady lives. In The Commuters for example, she’s not afraid to assert that our “Hello and excuse me” are “feigned politeness”. How true is it? I had to think of times I’ve used those phrases simply because it’s what normal people do. In some cases you catch a fellow passenger looking at you and you feel like you owe them a “Hello”. It does not come from a special place. It’s self-assurance that one is not a container, even when they know they are. To most of us, these places we frequent are ladders to get us somewhere else. There’s hardly any emotional connection. While reading most of the poems, lines are strings and we, the readers, puppets. It’s a dystopian kind of environment we are incapable of running from. We have re-programmed ourselves. We are going nowhere. It’s hence out of Kiconco’s observations that I cannot blame her for suggesting that:

Don’t give them heart

they want

cheap and violent fiction.

Congratulations. Now we are living.