What is poetry? Of course, there’s no easy answer to that question. It’s like asking what color is the wind when colored by the breeze. No two people may agree on the qualities that constitute the definition of what poetry is.
Unless, no less, that definition of poetry encompasses a variety of definitions which complement each other in a contradictory fashion.
Poetry, after all, “encourages us to embrace paradox and contradiction, the unexpected, the never-thought-of (and also, paradoxically, the universal, the shared, the familiar).” W. H. Auden wrote that “of the many definitions of poetry, the simplest is still the best: ‘memorable speech.’
In that estimation, a poetry series entitled: “The Poetry Bungalow: The Seeta High School Mukono Anthology of Poems” fits the definition of poetry.
Each word, inflection, syllable seems purpose-written to be spoken or sung. In these pages, children from classes of Senior One to Senior Six of Seeta High School, well, sing. Their words are constantly in motion, reflecting an oral tradition whose syntactic fluidity flows without ebbing.
Take a look at pupil Kakooza Jordan’s musings on page 28, first two stanzas, under a poem entitled, The Outsider:
“I cannot sing along to your tunes, my feet cannot tap to your rhythm, you are all singing the same song/But I can’t sing along.
We are seated in the same room/But we are outsiders looking in. You all know my name/But not the story behind those letters, we all play the same game/But you are all proud of being better…”
The poet descends into himself to reflect on what lies outside of his person. His outsider status is unique, yet he recognizes it as a quality many of us share. Such “ambiguity” is captured by his interchanging use of the plural “we” and singular “I” to denote his ‘oustiderhood.’
This self-contained unit of thought is divided into disunities of feeling which cannot be contained.
The poem “Behind My Back” by Siminyu Princess Yaula, who is in Senior Six, reads like an indictment:
“You marked me with your words/ Telling me you are just unwinding, Reaching out for strands of fire, Burning at the tips of your fingers…”
The clarity of her expression uses the active voice as verbs govern her train of thought to carry the reader along with her. It is bold. It is powerful.
However, the adjective “strands” doesn’t effectively evoke fire. The transaction between that stationary image and fire, which rages by nature, robs the sentence of its symbolic forward motion.
The poems are in this anthology are in free verse or prose poetry circumscribed by well-placed punctuation marks, line shapes, stanza forms and internal rhyme patterns which enhance the poetic syntax. While helping the poets make a statement.
“You hit me like an animal/ I cried my heart out/ But you didn’t hear me; I begged for your mercy/But you didn’t hear me,” screams Kyomuhendo S, Senior One student, in her poem “Tables Will Turn.”
The poet’s arrangement of words generates strong emotions, although an exclamation mark at the close of the last line would have invigorated the emotions in this poem the more.
“I am the one that never goes away from your snare/The way you always speak would make me grieve/ Because of that evil layer you called friends; I am the one that never appealed to your senses, You lit me up every time you were close/The beauty of your dazzling eyes left me dizzy. I thought I owned my body until I lost my mind to you…”
These words belong to a poet called “Anonymous” and, as if the poet is having second thoughts about his/her anonymity, the poem is entitled “I Am The One.”
The words in the sentences are coordinate and therefore, intellectually speaking, only semi-independent. As to the diction, it sets the page ablaze with a kindled passion.
“Within my Heart” by Florence Kyolaba Najjuko, S.4 is deeply affecting.
She writes: “I do not care how much you do for me/ Or how much you sweat to get it/It makes no sense to me/Your struggles are useless to me/These petty gifts and pleading face/Are dark shadows in my eyes/Since we seem far apart. You are a thorny leaf I held in my weaknesses/A thorny leaf whose shelter In my soul was a nightmare. I do not blame myself/Because I was only a fool/To trust a chameleon I did not know how to follow.”
One thing is clear, a lot of feeling born of melancholy threads its way through this anthology. The poetry is introspective, written by young writers who happen to be old souls. They know their minds and they are unapologetic about what they think.
Racheal A. Katureebe seems to express this on behalf of all other poets when she writes, “I would say I am sorry/ Maybe just For formality/ But to be true/Only to my heart, I’m not/At any point sorry.”