In an informal poll conducted in 2009 carried out by a journalist, amongst several elite, not one could mention the name of a single Ugandan female poet. It is this fact and also the fact that many established and upcoming poets prefer to remain incognito. This is very beneficial if exclusivity is the major goal. The BN Poetry Award, however, strongly believes that poetry should be expressed before others in order to gain more value. Its strength increases with each performance, with each recital, each publication and each time a new person listens or reads it. As the audience for poetry grows, then more people engage in dialogue concerning poetry which ultimately raises its value. Justification, excerpt
The BN Poetry Award, founded in 2008 by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva, a Ugandan female poet, is the first initiative that has been established to nurture, strengthen, and promote Ugandan female poets. The Award stems from a strong belief that women have some of the greatest potentials that go unnoticed and unrecognized. This award opens up more creative writing space for female poets to excel. The award is open to all Ugandan females who have not yet published their own collection of poetry (even if they have pieces variously published in journals, magazines, anthologies, etc) The first of its kind, the award was launched in December 2008, to recognize upcoming Ugandan female poets. Introduction, excerpt
Babishai Niwe, meaning Creating with you, is the name replacing Beverley Nambozo Poetry Foundation. The Babishai Niwe (BN) Poetry Foundation is a newer more collaborative provision for poetry and the creative arts. The name also creates a more suitable space when the Babishai Niwe (BN) Poetry Award goes regional in 2014. [BN Poetry blog]
As judges work through the submissions for the "fifth and final" BN Poetry Award, absorbing and evaluating and settling upon the strongest of works, and as the organizers work toward a wonderful evening of awards presentations, and as the emerging woman poets of Uganda await the word, whether this is the year when the work they submit shines through... I thought I might present the work of the previous awards winners. A fine example of poetry activism, this award was dreamed by an emerging poet on maternity leave, and has gathered support and acclaim. As hoped, the BN Poetry Award has created a platform for and a beautiful harvest of poetry by women of Uganda, who live in Uganda. With generous permission of the award founder, I will present the poems in a series of posts, each presenting a year's worth of winning poets and poems.
2012 ~ Music
The Music Man
An old man sits by the street corner
Cradling an old guitar in his weathered hands
His calloused fingertips skim over the strings
His leathery palms cup its wooden base
Between the two, man and instrument
I cannot tell which one is older.
His eyes are closed in reflection
His guitar is silent in anticipation
Meanwhile, the world waits in silence
Birds soar in the sky
The leaves whisper in the wind
And the people keep rushing by.
And then he plays
His fingers race over the frets
The guitar vibrates rebelliously
Between the two I cannot tell
Which one is in charge of the music.
It stops the pulsation of my heart
It burns the deepest corners of my soul
It breaks the barriers within
And shatters the silence without
Earth is trapped in a sphere of symphonies
Life is paused in a glass of rhapsody
All is well within that moment of eternity
While he plays.
His voice is deep and rich
His tune is strong and thick
His heart is bleeding through the notes
His life is breaking amidst the tones
And I am pulled along
Breaking and bleeding with his song.
And then he stops.
The spell is undone.
All is as it was.
Nothing outside the ordinary
And once again he is an old man
Seated by the corner
Cradling a guitar
(Which one, I wonder, is older?)
His eyes are closed in reflection
His guitar is silent in satisfaction
The birds still soar in the sky
Silence hushes the rustling leaves
And the people keep rushing by.
1st winner 4th BNPA, 2012, under the theme, Music.
Her voice -
With a melody that echoed through the dark chamber,
She sang her song as the nightingale wept,
Her red lips rounded, her throat suspended;
A soprano of notes floated onto the humid summer night.
All was silent in that moment-
The crickets lulled as if hypnotized by a siren’s call,
The breeze enslaved carried the tune across the village square;
Men boozing held beer bottles to their chests,
Women cooking sighed as they mingled posho with tired arms,
Toothless babes smiled recognizing the sweet lullaby
Like forever did we listen;
A heavenly solo that one would die to hear,
Suddenly- the song came to a jarring halt
And just as the night before,
A blood curling wail
Pierced through the darkness
The villagers nodded their heads in unison exclaiming
‘That is Nyamwezi, the deranged widow.’
2nd winner 4th BNPA, 2012
[Originally presented as centered text, in this format the line lengths are disrupted if i reproduce that choice; even in the current format two long lines in the middle stanza spill onto the following line. Hard choice; i decided that the original line lengths were more important in preserving the poet's intent than the centering of the text between too-narrow margins. Long lines also an issue in the fourth & final poem. JA]
The rain is gently
clapping at the rocks
outside my kitchen.
A new song forms,
the sound of raindrops
washing my face.
The rain is steadily
Taking me home
I am learning
from the weeping clouds
that falling isn’t dying.
3rd winner 4th BNPA, 2012
“Ms Xylophone about her life mate”
I have had one night stands,
Some have used me for just hours, discarded me without a second glance.
Many prefer Miss G, Miss Sax and Mrs. Trump
But not him, no he chose me, ordinary Xy!
It was like the hands of the Almighty pointed him towards me.
His eyes never wavered once they connected with me across the room.
And when he touched me,
I knew we were destined to be lifemates.
Ours was to be a love affair of legends.
This player of mine, he is so different from the others I allowed before him.
He doesn’t just dive and bang, bang…. looking to see the watchers reaction!
No. This player of mine, he takes his time.
He lays me out in the open, re-arranging my body to align with his.
His eyes devouring me…
The watchers can keep watching, but this player of mine, I am all he sees.
Taking his time, savoring the feeling……
He drives me crazy with craving his touch.
He almost makes me do the impossible - crying out on my own.
But this player of mine, he knows am not ready.
For when he is absolutely certain, that I am,
He allows the connection.
He softly taps on where I most crave his touch,
I cry out, filled with longing.
He taps me again and again and again….
Reveling in my surrender, he takes over the rhythm,
Creating a molten stream of notes
Teasing over my skin, tweaking my peaks
Lower notes resonate deep in my most feminine core, throbbing there,
The sensations travel through my body.
My player pouring his fire and passion into me
His hands moving over my body, shaping and memorizing my every curve
Every separate cry is a stroke of his love
Every separate sigh is a stroke to his passion.
His head bent over me, body swaying, as my sounds move through him
His pulse beating through me
My melody rising with his passion, surrounding us,
Vibrating between us, as my body erupts with glorious notes of pleasure.
4th winner 4th BNPA, 2012
BNPA winning poems of previous years
2010 ~ Money & Culture