FEMRITE, a Uganda Women Writers’ Association, was founded by Hon. Mary Karoro Okurut in 1995 and was officially launched on 3rd May 1996.
So it has been around for over 20 years.
This is a remarkable feat in light of the fact that some associations haven’t even enjoyed their putative 15 minutes of fame.
This longevity, coupled with its maternal role in nurturing literary talent, regardless of gender, has turned FEMRITE into the den mother of Ugandan literature.
In celebration of its more than 20 years of inspiration, FEMRITE has published a poetry anthology showcasing a virtual Champions League of poets ranging from seasoned voices to emerging talents.
“Wondering and Wandering of Hearts: Poems from Uganda” is edited by Susan Kiguli and Hilda Twongyeirwe along with a preface from the venerable Mwalimu Augustine Bukenya.
Now, tell me if you are not already entertained (said in the voice of Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius of the 2000 film, Gladiator).
“Don’t ask me again” by Prossy Abalo keeps this poetic train chugging forward with the words:
“When I protested
My own father called me shit
He compared me to a bitch
He said I was a mere girl
Education was a waste of time
Not a requirement for roles of girls.”
Her anger is raw, jumping from the page like somebody springing an ambush on a solitary path.
Although the language is accessible, one must note that her diction is the language of the underdog.
Its grammatical simplicity is the mark of a vernacular.
The word ‘vernacular’, formed from the Roman historian Varro’s phrase vernacula verba, means the ‘unliterary expressions used by slaves or serfs’.
This simplicity chimes with her place as the object of gender victimization imposed by the patriarchy she brilliantly opposes.
Betty Kaigo’s poem “Rush of the Nation” is a frank appraisal of the shallows that our politics plumb.
Her use of metaphors “sheep and shepherd” and how the two are diametrically opposed, instead of united “For God and my country”, is pithy and poignant.
“Will you pose for a portrait
A memento of our meeting?”
She sat as he took the brush;
And brought her picture to life,
And drove her heart to love
And changed her life for good.
Bob Kisiki, in his poem aptly titled “Art of Love”, creates great poetry on so many levels.
The poet skillfully employs Chiasmus or ‘reversible raincoats’ in the first stanza— “here was life; here was no life” to express the persona’s appreciation of art for art’s sake and art as a metaphor for so much more.
The cadences and varied registers of his stanzas eloquently settle on Anaphora (repeating the same word/phrase at the beginning of successive sentences) as seen in the way he repeats the word “And” in last three lines above.
It’s an attractive poem, sexed up by the prosody of love poems of the finest vintage.
Moses Agaba Rubalema’s poem “For My Mother” begins as a eulogy to his mother:
“She taught me to eat
She became my baby and played with me…”
Touchingly, he shows how she raised him from babyhood to a school-going age. Then, just as we are about to enjoy his maturation, the poem transits into an elegy:
“Just when I was beginning to realize her struggles
Just when I wanted us to speak adult to adult
She was gone,
Gone to a place where I could not reach her.”
Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved can relate. Not only that, anyone who reads these words will be drawn in by their muscular sentiment.
It is such a powerful poem.
This anthology is certainly a must-read for all those who love poetry.
And to those who believe in Ugandan verse, Mwalimu Bukenya’s words capture the essence of this anthology:
“Going by the best of the daring verse assays (and essays) presented here, I can confidently predict that the future of Ugandan poetry is bright.”