Poetry has done nothing but make me broke. Since I am not Jesus, I expected something more than just an eternal reward of fulfillment and joy. I gave up everything 3 years ago to become a poet and help other poets get there too and what has happened? I am penniless.
Looking for answers...
I gave up good jobs, offers were thrown at me and I said no for the sake of a higher calling of poetry. Like the 12 Apostles, there are few of us in Uganda who have done this and we are all broke. Well, at least they have other jobs but me, I fundraise to people who say they appreciate art but they will not turn their wallets inside out for the cause.
I know, like KJ Kennedy said, in The Writers’ Handbook that it is not worth thirsting for poetic fame and John Keats also mentioned that the true gift is when you write without expecting a reward but since I am not Jesus, I need something more than that eternal gratification.
At this point, I have written the first page of my reflective journal of my Masters’. I needed to get that initial fright out of the way. I decided that since I am the Creator of the poetry, then I am also the Conqueror. Having read some past portfolios and essays from Lancaster University like Bill Greenwell’s and Geraldine’s journals, the best way t get it done is to write. We all want to write the first draft of a line in its most brilliant form but this hardly the case, it’s all about drafting and redrafting. Oh, and we also need to read as well. I think poets are the most resistant to learning and reading.
Sara Maitland says, “But writers need to read not just – not just to understand genre and form or to develop narrative strategies but in order to enrich their language and extend their knowledge and sensibility.”
So, during this phase when poetry is kicking me where it hurts most, I am reading and reading hard. The avant-garde poets, some of Africa’s most celebrated poets, I am reading about poetry and writing , interviews, articles and essays and it is all coming together now. As a starting writer, I felt poof, who needs to read poetry, it is all about my feelings and no one can or should write about how I feel but of course it is much more I have passed the stage of a first date to a settled down relationship with poetry, the point of marriage when I want a divorce, and then I remember why I feel in love and realize it’s worth sticking to.
This week Graham Mort is in Kampala doing a series of workshops and also conducting interviews to identify reasons why Ugandan books are not on the syllabus. I wish him the best because Uganda, while very receptive is also very slow in giving answers and solutions and then acting upon them because it is the same problem Graham found when he was here in 2001.
That is one of the reasons why I feel poetry is just kicking me in the butt. I don’t want a Nobel prize but I want to know it is not a fruitless journey. I may now have to go the way of those that play it ‘safe’ and apply for a job. Dear Poetry, I hope you’re listening.