By Philip Matogo
The Eron Kiiza many of us know keeps his nose to grindstone, while his legal fists are ready to let fly at a moment’s notice whenever human rights are violated.
As a partner in the law firm Kiiza & Mugisha Advocates, he is known to be a verbal gladiator who knows when to land the knockout pitch. However, when away from litigation, he has the brooding presence of a poet.
Well, that’s probably because he is a poet. And a published one, at that.
In his book, stoutly named “Pregnant Poems”, Kiiza exhorts the reader to animate their reading of his poetry. As he says, “Poetry is best enjoyed when read out loudly while gesticulating or acting like a performer on stage.”
As your reaction to his poetry is amplified, in and of the poems themselves, you are sure to appreciate the careful contemplation he puts into his work.
This begins with his arrangement of each section in his anthology by subtitle: A. Love and Cordiality B. Power and Politics C. Society D. Faith and Religion E. Writing F. Global
These sections remind me of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), who was the leading poet of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
For one, Kiiza echoes Dante’s poetic assessment of his times.
Again, the six sections of Kiiza’s book roughly equate to the (Dante’s) Inferno’s thirty-four cantos.
Only, Kiiza takes you on a journey through heaven as well as hell.
In the section “Love and Cordiality”, Kiiza uses the metaphor as a condensed simile with the word “Nectar”.
This is the title of a poem in which he illustrates his love with painterly rhythm as he writes: “My Blood flashed like the Kisiizi water falls/When she agreed to a date.”
Sure, you may not know where “Kisiizi” is but the image of waterfalls presupposes that the persona has fallen or is cascading (in love) like water from on high.
Evidently, the persona has fallen so deeply that love drew him to poetry, “She loved the poetry; Creative I became.”
It is good he confines himself to the metaphor in the title and, later, the one which describes his feelings.
For too many metaphors to convey a single thought or feeling can be exhausting to the reader.
All told, the reader subconsciously visualizes each metaphor in order frame the perfect mental picture. This can be tiresome, once the metaphors are overdone or are too many.
Here, a degree of delicate literary pacing is key to unlocking the visual meaning carried by the persona’s love.
“Because he stood for President”, a poem in the section under Power and Politics, is very timely indeed. Especially in view of how presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi has been treated post-election:
“They dispersed his crowds
They banned his rallies.
They crucified him
He made them look bad
When they were desperate to look good.
The intention to be president
The passion, the simplicity and the sheer vehemence behind these words reveals the persona’s love for irony as a weapon of intellectual combat. When one examines the words in detail there is not one to which one could justly remove or replace.
As Mark Twain once put it, “The difference betweenthe right wordand almostthe right wordis the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
Kiiza’s lightening staccato flow demonstrates how he understands this difference.
“A joke”, a poem which falls under this book’s third section, hilariously deploys Kiiza’s wicked turn of phrase and sardonic wit:
“But there is a problem tonight
I can’t think of a new joke
And people will think I am a joker
Who no longer knows how to joke
And that I am taking them for a joke
I am dead serious but it sounds like a joke
Isn’t my life a joke?”
Kiiza probes the thin line between tragedy and comedy, sanity and lunacy. It is a funny poem because of the way it rings true.
Clowns wear smiles to hide tears possibly because their tears are caused by their smiles!
With nobody to take them seriously, they can’t form meaningful and lasting relationships.
A lot of their humor comes from a very real pain, which is jarringly off-key with their images as lighthearted individuals.
The persona knows this only too well and is appropriately overwhelmed by the absurdity of his life as he tries to reassess his place in the universe.
“I want to be a poet”, in the second last section of these very pregnant poems, eloquently sets forth what it means to be a poet, by wanting to become a poet.
Then, as is Kiiza’s wont, there’s a twist:
“I want to be that poet:
Who conquers fear
And plays with fire
And refuses to bulk
Under the fire and flames
Of the powerful gang.
I want to be your Poet”.
The forth line in the first stanza of the two above ends with the word “bulk”, when the author should’ve written “balk”.
Bulk denotes mass or size, while balk is a transitive verb which means refusal to stop or halt a certain undertaking. One can balk under fire, but to bulk under fire is a grammatical and pyrotechnical impossibility.
Kiiza, the poet, has a sensitive style pervaded by a barely concealed rage. This is expressed (and enveloped) by a sarcasm leavened with levity.
As hoped by Kiiza, it is an anthology that shall leave the reader animated with whatever thoughts and feelings the author conjures with each well calibrated poem.