Uganda’s rich poetry culture comes of age

Saturday June 18 2016

The Headline That Morning, by Peter Kagayi. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI

The Headline That Morning, by Peter Kagayi. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI  

By Bamuturaki Musinguzi

Peter Kagayi, a leading Ugandan writer, has published his first poetry collection.

Titled The Headline That Morning, the collection of 51 poems tackles issues such as the loss of African cultures, greed, pain, death, hope, love, abuse of power, corruption, poor public service delivery, and poor parenting in Uganda.

Published by Kampala-based Sooo Many Stories Ltd, the poems are full of imagery, interrogative, persuasive, provocative, captivating and refreshing.

“Poetry in Uganda, compared with other genres of artistic expression, is still limping. A few years ago it was in limbo. Beyond the cursory academic perspective it had worn for more than 50 years, there was nothing worthy of note. Ten years later, we have a poetry festival, regular poetry events (at least four a month), a publishing house bold enough to publish a poetry collection, and a National Theatre that fills up when they have poetry performances. Teenagers are forming poetry bands, societies. This year there have been at least five poetry collections by Ugandans. A high school poetry festival was also launched this year,” Kagayi said.  

According to Kagayi, challenges facing Ugandan poetry are the lack of a general philosophical outlook of the art, freedom of expression, and compromise. The other problems like professionalism or the lack of it, archiving, and audience growth are only a matter of patience, and time.

Kagayi has served as the Anglophone co-ordinator at Writivism, president of Lantern Meet of Poets and founder of Rhymers Poetry Club. He is also the founder and curator of the regular poetry platform, the Poetry Shrine, at the National Theatre in Kampala, and has supported various groups of young poets.

He started writing poetry and performing with Lantern Meet of Poets while at Makerere University in Kampala in 2008.

After graduating with a law degree, he taught poetry and trained high school students in poetry performance. Some of his poems have featured in theatrical productions by Latin Flavor, and the Uganda National Contemporary Ballet.

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