Have you felt, on your shoulder of late, an impatient literary truth that needs to be heard? It’s not the elf with the pitchfork or the angel with the halo, it’s poetry. It’s poetry from Africa. 2015 is the year to be a poet from Africa. If you haven’t been submitting poetry yet as an African poet, do so today, do so now. I would like to hear sentiments on this particular affirmation from the readers of this blog. Do they also feel that with the advocacy surrounding poetry, that 2015 is going to be a somewhat explosive and enjoyable poetic party?
Today January 16th, the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation is calling for its annual BN Poetry Award for African poets. The winner receives 1,000 US Dollars and the shortlisted ten poets will attend poetry festivals around the continent as well as mentoring workshops. Last year’s winner, Kenya’s Tom Jalio, said that the winnings boosted his confidence in poetry. At BN Poetry Foundation, we believe that brilliant poetry should be rewarded. Follow our twitter handle @BNPoetryAward for details of the award.
We’re also collecting poems on the theme of Kampala City. As poets, we scrutinize our everyday, imagine new worlds and reinvent episodes of our lives as we try as make sense of our universes. The poetry anthology is collecting voices from all over the world, in any language, that have an artistic and poetic impression of Kampala city. We want to produce this anthology as a testament to poetry’s strength, its ability to be socially cohesive and its vibrancy within our very city of Kampala. Submissions are being sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many ways of demonstrating this power of poetry. In Kampala, several thresholds have opened up to the spoken word and we have been proud partners. Some of these are poetry-in-session that has partnered with the BN Poetry Foundation several times and Lantern Meet of Poets, whose president participated in a poetry panel during the 2014 BN poetry festival. For our endearing romantics, we have a reading on February 13th entitled Love, Romance nebigeenderako mu Kampala. We have invited schools, poets, readers and creators to join us and read their works on love and romance in Kampala. During this event, we will be selling A Thousand Voices Rising, an anthology of contemporary African poetry, which was also listed amongst the top 100 books of 2010 to 2014, by a survey conducted by This is Africa. The poetry anthology, a compilation of novices, award-winning poets, older generation poets, avant-garde poets and the more experimental ones from the continent, all contributed their poems to making this pulsating anthology.
2015, as I stated before, is a huge beacon of expectation for poets of Africa. It has been a much too unfortunate trend to read blog posts about festivals and the poetry sessions are usually misrepresented, poets’ names left out, even though a poetry session may have had only four participants and interviewers not caring about winners of poetry prizes. Kei Miller, Jamaican poet and author, won the 2014 Forward poetry prize of 10,000 British Pounds and hardly anyone I met, at a recent festival had heard of the prize or even after they did, showed interest in its importance. It offers the same amount as the Caine Prize and is also established outside Africa. One can dispute that because it’s a poetry prize, many people do not consider it that significant.
I am always grateful to journalists who approach me to share about my poetry work, The BN Poetry Award and the poetry work in Uganda. I am grateful for interviews, for spaces like this and readers of poetry who play a role in building the self-esteem of poets and poetry entrepreneurs. Hongera!
With this consciousness in mind and from what we can expect this year, shouldn’t 2015 be the poetry year for Africa, from here on only getting better and better?