‘Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.’ – Percy Bysshe Shelley
Through a poet’s lines, images come to life. Every word, suddenly, is pregnant with meaning. And every line evokes the intended emotion. We reached out to Kagayi Ngobi, a theatre poet and director of Kitara Nation for poems and poetry anthology recommendations by Ugandans. He created a comprehensive list that has both old and contemporary poets in Uganda. His list is one that deserves front row reading and performance.
One Little Guitar: The Words of Paul Job Kafeero. Edited by Kathryn Barret-Gaines (Tour guide Publications/Fountain Publishers Ltd 2012)
`Walumbe zzaaya atukola bwati
Bakabasajja b’otugumbula otyo’
‘Mr. Death, the destroyer, what you do to us
You strangle married women’
-WALUMBE ZZAAYA/MR. DEATH, THE DETROYER
People have issues with how Professor Kathryn Barrett-Gaines (Kafeero`s omwana w’omuzungu) translates the lyrics from Luganda to English. I do too. But we must acknowledge the great efforts she took to document these wonderful song-poems. This Luganda-English bilingual collection of all Kafeero`s recorded lyrics is concrete poetic proof he had a lyrical and performance genius. A must-have for every household.
Bilomelele Bye Lukingi Masaaba (Poems of Mount Elgon) by Professor Timothy Wangusa (Insemia Inc. Publishers 2017)
‘By the mountain of Man I conceived this song,
By the mountain of Masaaba I commenced this tale:
At sunrise the mountain of posterity,
At noon-tide the mountain of my age-mates,
At sunset the mountain of the ancients – ‘
-MOUNTAIN OF CONCEPTION (From Anthem for Africa)
In this brilliant bilingual poetry collection, Uganda’s poetry star Professor Wangusa recites the rich culture and heritage of the Bamasaaba in that typical ‘Wangusaic Voice.’ A good reference to anyone interested in performance poetry and learning about Bamasaaba Nation.
The collection is available at FEMRITEUG offices, Kiira Road, and Uganda Society Library.
‘Song of Ocol’ by Okot p’Bitek (Heinemann African Writers Series 1984)
Pack your things
“Take all the clothes
I bought you
The beads, necklaces
And the remains
Of the utensils,
I need no second-hand things.”
-SONG OF OCOL, Part 1.
Okot p’Bitek’s ‘Song of Lawino’ is often read and referenced to the extent that ‘Song of Ocol’, its alter ego, has become the former’s shadow. But in these COVID-19 times, with the rise of domestic violence cases reported by Uganda Police, one ought to reflect on what the ‘Ocols’ are putting the ‘Lawinos‘ through. SONG OF OCOL is a good start.
‘The African Saga’ by Susan N. Kiguli (Femrite Publications 1998)
‘All the laughter filled bellies
All roasted by fire,
All the parted lips
Are stuffed with live charcoal
Red hot winking charcoal!’
-THE AFRICAN SAGA
Dr. Susan Kiguli is one of the most important poets Uganda has ever had. This book will always be relevant to us. It holds some of Uganda’s most widely published poems that should be read at all times.
‘No Roses from My Mouth’ by Dr. Stella Nyanzi (Ubuntu Reading Group 2020)
‘Your excellency, Sir,
You (sewed) my lips together
With a needle and thread.
Bitter truth tore the stitches apart.
I shot another poem at your head.’
-YOUR EXCELLENCY, SIR!
The poems in this book had to be sneaked out of Luzira Women Prison for the book to be published. In fact, the book dropped while the author was still occupying ‘the hard floor of Ward Two’. These poems are rivulets of the author’s love, pain, and her immovable defiance as she boldly speaks truth to power. If you get yourself a copy of this book, count yourself lucky.
‘As I Stood Dead Before the World: Creative Writing from Luzira Prison.’ Edited by Danson Kahyana, Beatrice Lamwaka, and Bob G. Kisiki (PEN Uganda 2018)
‘I got a lot of questions
But no one to ask
A lot of jokes
But no one to tell them to
I really need a friend
A friend indeed.’
-I NEED A FRIEND
Prisoners make good poets, it seems. There is much to learn about Ugandan prison life in this anthology of poems, short stories, and plays by Luzira Prison inmates. We must thank Dr. Danson Kahyana and his team for this wonderful book. This unique book makes for good reading before bedtime.
‘Dear Nev, An anthology of Contemporary East African Writing’ by African Writers Trust (Word-o-Mat 2018)
‘Kampala is reborn
Kampala is neat
Creased-crisp jeans and nice-kicks
Kampala is sweet’
-KAMPALA 1, Pg.153
breathe breathe breathe
-CONSULTATION WITH A PHYSICIAN AFTER A BODA BODA ACCIDENT
This book is designed like a video cassette, a carrier of classic memories. The title is also in memory of a friend of many who flew away, Nevender, who loved literature. The poems in there, especially those by Gloria Kiconco, are imaginative wonders which make this book indeed special. This anthology has 10 wonderful poems by Kiconco, the most (and cheapest) you will find anywhere at the moment.
‘Wondering and Wandering of Hearts: Poems from Uganda’ Edited by Susan Kiguli and Hilda J. Twongyeirwe (Femrite Publications 2017)
This poetry anthology is a treasury of Ugandan poetic gems. The list of poets featured in this anthology drops jaws. Perhaps it is the most comprehensive Ugandan poetry anthology to ever be compiled.
Have you read any of the poetry anthologies on Kagayi`s list?