Friday, July 11, 2014


With gratitude to all those that submitted for the 2014 BN Poetry Award, we've finally compiled our long-list. Here is the BNPA 2014 Longlist, compiled by Judges Joanne Arnott, award-winning Canadian/Metiz mixed poet, Richard Ali, Publicity Secretary (North) of Association of Nigerian authors and Kgafela oa Magogodi, South African Producer, Musician and Patron Spoken Word Africa. They received the poems blindly and this is the long-list. Congratulations to all who made it.

Here we go:

1. Blood and Water and Celebration (2 in 1) by Elizabeth Muchemwa Zimbabwe 2. After The Rain by Moses Muyanja Kyeyune from Uganda 3. The Crumpled Up paper and The Smooth Elegant One by Willie Ng'ang'a from Kenya. 4. Insane Living by Dorothie Ayebazibwe from Uganda 5. Reborn by Brenda Kanani from Kenya. 6. The Carpenter by Saba El Laziri from Sudan. 7. Sun Visit by Edzordzi Agbozo from Ghana. 8. Piano and drums by Kelvin Opeoluwa Kellman frm Nigeria. 9. Our Oiled Rusty Shores by Attah John Ojonugwa from Nigeria. 10. Beware by Richard Quaz Roodt from South Africa. 11. Time Zones by Kyle Allen of South Africa.

12. Dear Asabi by Mof'oluwawo Mojolaoluwa from Nigeria. 13. Dialogue Over The Twilight Zone ( Ebony & Ivory) by Moses Kyeyune Muyanja, Uganda. 14. The Things That were Lost In Our Vaginas by Nyachiro Lydia Kasese, Tanzania. 15. There Was Once Something Special Here by Tom Nyagari, Kenya. 16. I am Still Here by Chiugo Veronica Akaolisa, Nigeria. 17. L'aruge/Promotion by Saka Aliyu, Nigeria. 18. She Could Hear God by Jennie Marima, Kenya. 19. Smarty Phone by Nassolo Marjorie, Uganda. 20. Biriwa was My Home by Kojo Turkson, Ghana. 21. A Place Called Home by Dela Nyamuame, Ghana. 22. If I Was by Achieng Odhiambo, Kenya. 23. I am The Beginning by Oladele Noah, Nigeria. 24. Greater Enemy by Emiru David Patrick, Uganda. 25. The Conversation (2) by Tumelo Thekisho, South Africa. 26. Why Must African men Not Cry?

27. Between God and Man 1 and 11 by Oladele Noah, Nigeria. 28. Half Filled Graves by Okwudili Nebeolisa 29. Orukoro Dancer by Benstowe Fubaraibi Anari, Nigeria. 30. Moonlight or No Light by Nana Nyarko Boateng, Ghana. 31. Under The Guava Tree by Annetjie van Wynegaard, South Africa.

32. Two Sides of A Window by Damilola Michael Aderibigbe, Nigeria. 33. It Happened to me too by James Yeku, Nigeria. 34. A Weekend in Lagos by Isoje Chou, Nigeria. 35. Paranoia bu Oluwaloni Olowookere, Nigeria. 36. Autshumato by Celeste Fritze, South Africa. 37. Children Also Grow by Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, Nigeria. 38. A Sudden Time by Solagbade Oyefara, Nigeria. 39. Different Forms of Slaughter by Asante Lucy Mtenje, Malawi. 40. The Night Sango Came to Ujagbe by Suleiman Agbonkhianmen Buhari, Nigeria. 41. What Poetry Means to Me by Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, Nigeria 42. Mama Talks by Valerie Awo-Dede Okaiteh, Ghana, 43.Indeed Beauty Full by Oludami Yomi-Alliyu, Nigeria. 44.Celestial Sprouts (Twin-Tomato-Tree) by Moses Muyanja Kyeyune, Uganda.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Aujo Still Feels Soft Tonight

I feel so...


.. soft...


I feel like...



under the sun...

...on hot stone...

spreading out...



a yellow rivulet...

sliding down that slab...

...towards you...

I hope you catch every

t...r...i...c...k...l...e...of love

I hope you catch every

d.......r......o......p......of me

when I d...r...i...p...intoyourpalms

'cause I feel so...



Lillian Aujo, left, with friends: Photo by Buyondo)

Lillian Aujo wrote this poem, Soft Tonight and emerged winner in 2009. The theme was open then and all judges agreed it deserved to win because of its musicality, the exceptional tone of voice, subtle suggestions of erotica and the daring imagery. Lillian is a lawyer and works at Centenary Bank in Kampala. Her short stories have been published with Femrite and The Caine Prize anthology, A Memory This Size. She blogs at

What was the writing process of this winning poem like?

Pretty much spontaneous. I wrote it in ten minutes. The moment the idea popped into my head I couldn’t let it be without jotting it down immediately. I had this good nervous rush that I only get when something big is about to go down. I just didn’t know the poem would win an award.

How did the award money and the other prizes you received, change your outlook towards writing?

It made me happy that other people valued my poetry as much as I did. We live in a society where poetry as a genre is barely appreciated. It’s thought of as eccentric and purely academic. But poetry is most times fore mostly for enjoyment’s sake; winning BN with this particular poem was the validation that other people than myself enjoy poetry.

What do you think of the BNPA, now targeting Africa and including men?

I think it’s BNPA is spreading her wings. It’s awesome that she’s spreading the poetry gospel to all of Africa. I am all for affirmative action (and we shall all not forget the role in promoting women’s voices in poetry), but now all those gentlemen can stop grumbling about women having it easier: it’s level ground now gentlemen.

BNPA is starting a Scholarship Fund for female poets in primary schools in Uganda. How do you think this will influence their poetry?

It will definitely make them work harder at the craft. There’s a saying in my language, loosely translated it’s ‘a stick is bent when it’s still tender’, so in the same vein these young girls have a good chance of putting the habit of writing good poetry at a tender age. No doubt they will make better writers sooner than later.

What are you working on now, artistically?

There’s always a good or bad poem in a notebook somewhere. I am also working on short stories, exploring Afrofuture/mythical themes

Any final thoughts?

I admire people who not only change the face of things, but also inspire change in others: BNPA has changed the poetry landscape in Uganda (favourably), and it’s one of those things at the back of my mind that keeps me pushing on with writing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Writing Process International Writing Tour

Thanks to Lillian Aujo for nominating me for the My Writing Process" international tour.

1. What are you working on?

I am working on a novel called Elgona. I love the name of the novel so much that I sometimes spend more time on that, than the actual novel. Elgona is the name of a feisty 9 year old living in England in a private school, with a family whose eccentricities and her own, cause ripples of misadventures, police interventions, near child-napping, sheroisms and clashes with identity crises.

Secondly, is PoeTRicks: an adventure toolkit for Children who read and write poetry. It is an unravelling of the maze of poetry’s many questions and an unveiling of poetry’s many faces. This handbook is a precious fit for children who struggle with what poetry is about.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Elgona does hold some non-fictional truths which no one can challenge and a lot of it is the bearing of my soul and unabashed self, which again, surprise me at many levels. The writing enables me to rediscover a life I lived and share it with others in a way that is entertaining, introspective and a little bizarre. Children have some of the most shocking encounters with reality and their interpretations, which are deeply honest and bold, enable readers and adults to not only be kinder towards them but also to appreciate honesty and integrity.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Because I’m moved by the need around me, the need in children and other older readers. I am moved to redefine my future and other futures of women and girls and because I believe that poetry is Literature’s most sacred form. Being in that presence, strengthens me to write more.

4. How does your writing process work?

It usually doesn’t. Of late, I’ve taken to 2 hour morning walks, after which I am able to create anything, especially in my head. I write in my head as I walk and hopefully it ends up on my laptop screen. I am learning how messages from our minds filter into our real lives and so self empowerment through personal confidence-building and finding new creative spaces is my new writing process. It’s working because my words these days have found newer avenues to settle and feel at home.

The other writers I nominate are Sanyu Kisaka, who blogs at Sanyu Kisaka is an undergraduate theater student and NYUAD. She is a singer, actress, and Lyricist. Sanyu is currently working on a short story and was winner of the 2011 Bn Poetry Award for her poem, A Handswing of Disguised Depravity.

The other writer is Esther-Karin Mngodo, Tanzanian poet. Esther Karin Mngodo has worked as a storyteller and a journalist for ten years focusing her work on children, youth and women. As a full time employee of The Citizen newspaper (2005-2009) and she worked directly with children through school visits and holding empowerment talks with schoolchildren, preparing content that would entertain, educate and shape the minds of young Tanzanians. She blogs at

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Flavia Zalwango Kabuye, Jeweller, Poet, Scientist

What is your name, profession and how would you describe yourself?

I am Flavia Kabuye, a Social Scientist. I am a social researcher, self-styled marketer and an artist with a passion for creative writing. I believe writing is a continuous process of release.

What year did you receive an award? What was your position and title of your poem? Mention the theme of the award that year.

I received an award in 2011. I won in 3rd place for my poem ‘Beads of Hope’. The theme of the award for 2011 was HOPE.

What was the writing process of this poem like?

This poem came at a time when I was determined to rejuvenate my writing. I had previously submitted for the BNPA and was not successful. Luckily for me I attended a workshop organized by Beverley where I received very constructive feedback on my previous submission and also participated in individual and group exercises which were beneficial. I decided to write about an experience that is shared by many women and girls today.

How did the award money and the other prizes you received, change your outlook towards writing?

The award money and other prizes were a bonus. I think I was transformed in my thinking and appreciated the power of poetry in bringing together like-minded people to celebrate its rebirth - with each poem that was recited. The truth is that most of the writing we do is behind the scenes. So behind the scenes I will write and come forth to the prized scene.

What do you think of the BNPA, now targeting Africa and including men? I am happy that BNPA is spreading its golden wings to include both men and women. It was like a debt, now it’s a date! I also appreciate the fact that BNPA is now the melting-pot for African poetry. I know it is getting bigger and better! I also feel that we as Ugandan writers we have to stand up to the challenge.

BNPA is starting a Scholarship Fund for female poets in primary schools in Uganda. How do you think this will influence their poetry?

I think this initiative is timely because it is an opportunity to identify talent at an early stage and nurture it. It is a step in the right direction. Early exposure usually leads to mastery and ‘mastery learning’ is better than ‘conventional instruction.’

However, this is a long-term goal that needs proper planning and monitoring in order for the students to balance writing and other school activities. The cooperation of the staff is paramount and it should be clear from the start how the school benefits from this endeavor.

What are you working on now, artistically?

I am writing a step by step guide to hand-made jewellery which I intend to translate into some of the local languages for the benefit of marginalized women and girls trying to lift themselves out of poverty through handiwork.

Any final thoughts?

Bravo BNPA!!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

When PBS NewsHour Visited Kiwatule

Top photo: Emmanuel Nsengiyunva, Victoria Fleischer, BNN and Jason

Courtesy photo.

It’s been so noisy and overwhelming the past couple of months. When my eyes couldn’t stay open, my hands felt the way for me and when my feet were so bruised and worn, my instinct trudged on. Even after letting go of so much excess weight in my personal life, I just felt heavier. And then PBS NewsHour called.

I still don’t understand fully why PBS NewsHour came home to interview my family and I. I didn’t know who they were until I asked a few friends and family in America. I still haven’t had time to feel honoured. The 4 hour interview was engaging and fun and I saw a lot about myself that I had never probed to understand. Usually when I sit to lay my plans and map out where I want to go, there are places I pretend I never travelled to and people I pretend never meant much to me even though they did. Even the steps I walked which were insignificant and lacked direction, the people I dismissed and the ones whose words weighed like wet wood.

There has been no time yet to process or feel because instead of living one life, I’m living many lives right now. I’m a mother of two, Coordinator of the BN Poetry Award, wife (very very sexy wife), cook, cleaner, entrepreneur, daughter, sister, friend. I have to smile and be perky when people call and ask if they can still submit poems to the BN Poetry Award, even a week after the dead-line. I have to smile as I politely say No, because the Judges already have the poems. I manage many other Arts projects which pop up in the most unlikely of places. A friend of a friend who recommended me or who read about me in the papers who wants me to teach her fifteen year old son how to write a novel. Or a Manager that does not have any money wants me to write his book and says I will become rich from the sales. There is so much noise. Everyone is shouting at once.

So, PBS came. Victoria and Jason are nothing but charming. I would invite them home for tea or for a movie or just to talk about books. Emma, my husband was dressed and sharp, more eager than I was. Our girls were at their best, especially when Victoria told them to scribble on the walls so that they could capture a normal day at home. I wanted to tell them everything I could about myself, my projects and my parents, how everything changed when I became a mother and that mothers don’t have to stop with their careers and that could even be when their careers began, as it did for me. Nothing significant happened in my career until I had a baby. And when I become a grandmother, I know that more will happen.

As soon as the PBS crew drove in, I was immediately at ease. There was no need to feel guilty about not buying new curtains or furniture for the huge media house. The interview began almost at once.

I breathed.

I started the poetry award because I knew there was so much more to life than being in an office. And when my daughter turned 4 months and I quit my job to be at home with her, I knew that I was going to pursue poets and poetry until I became breathless. I’ve been doing so for six years now. Every year I feel like giving up because fundraising for poetry projects is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, that and labour pain. Each year though, things happen and more things happen. I’ve met some of the most magnificent friends I could have ever hoped for in a life-time in the past few years. There are people who are celebrated at such wide international scales but whose humility in reaching to me, makes me feel like the most blest person in the Universe. There are some who I always want to boast about, the kind of boasting where I want the world to know that I have visited and inhabited true friendship, the type that is mashed up until the colours blend into one. The type of friendship where it doesn’t need to be publicized because the evidence of its power is evident in the privacy of contentment. Friendships that grow every time they are shared selflessly. Have you made that friend? Whichever way certain friendships may go, I will know that because I did the right thing with my life, I have held one of life’s most potent gifts, friendship.

I thank poetry for that. Thank you, Poetry. Thank you, Poetry for PBS NewsHour and for journalists and development partners and people who sit and trust that I am the woman for the job. Thanks Poetry, for the Ambassadorial role in being the BBC Commonwealth Poet from Uganda.

I have been spending lots of time with positive thinkers who were part of my first writing days, people whose journeys have spread so far that when we sit and talk, it’s not so much about what could have been but more about, Where we are is so much better than we could have ever dreamed!

Interviews like PBS that use the keen eyes of the heart, mind and intellect are good for us to see into ourselves. They helped me see how I actually do care a lot about women and girls and love to travel as often as I can. They helped me see myself through stunning eyes, instead of eyes that are judgemental and bigoted.

I am learning that it’s okay to feel sexy and brave and hot when others are stifling in luke-warmness. Sometimes the best help I can give a flailing friend is not to step back and reach for them but to show them the way by walking at my fullest height.

I look forward to when PBS will air the interview. I look forward more, to how the interview has answered many questions about myself and shown me how to walk the many unused paths of my life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sophie Alal, Organic Farmer and Writer

Sophie Alal: Courtesy photo

1. What is your name, profession and how would you describe yourself? I'm Sophie Alal. Apart from writing, I love good food, good conversation and gardening. I love life.

2. What year did you receive an award? What was your position and title of your poem? Mention the theme of the award that year.

Making Modern Love won in 2010. I cannot remember what the theme was. It might have been something to do with modernity. In the previous year, I was runner up with The Rebel Fell, a composition after Pablo Neruda.

3. The theme that year was Money and Culture. What was the writing process of this poem like?

I sat down one afternoon and decided to lightly capture the spirit and urgency of mourners at a lumbe. There was nothing to it, just sat, sweated and wrote until there was a pile of criss-crossed A4 papers at my feet. Then it was down to editing and more editing.

4.How did the award money and the other prizes you received, change your outlook towards writing?

My outlook has never been different. I've always had a soft spot for culture and the arts. So, I gave away the $250 prize money to my little sister who wanted to start a business but did not have enough capital. Winning was the kind of affirmation I needed to probe silences and mine local traditions for other people's, and my own understanding of life.

5. What do you think of the BNPA, now targeting Africa and including men?

Uganda is also in Africa. What has been good for one of us is also good for all of us.

6. BNPA is starting a Scholarship Fund for female poets in primary schools in Uganda. How do you think this will influence their poetry?

I don't know. But, I hope it can include boys too. Who shall be the future readers, lovers and partners of these female poets?

7. What are you working on now, artistically?

Growing an organic herb and vegetable garden.

8. Any final thoughts?

All these wonderful opportunities should not end in Kampala, and African capital cities only. There is incredible talent in villages and small towns too. And many of these gifted poets are yearning for us to reach out and be closer to them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


The BNPA team is profiling past winners of the award since 2009. Here is Regina Asinde, who emerged second in 2010.

Courtesy photo.

1. What is your name, profession and how would you describe yourself?

My name is Regina Asinde. I am a business lady. I describe myself as mature, candid and a firm believer in integrity. Every day I work to improve myself and my skills—that’s part of becoming better at what I do.

2. What year did you receive the award? What was your position and title of your poem? Mention the theme of the award that year.

I received the award in 2010 and was in the second position with the poem “Fragrance”. The theme for the award that year was Money and Culture.

3. What was the writing process of this poem like?

Surprisingly, “Fragrance” was one of my “brilliant idea-put on paper” poems! When I saw the call for submissions, it was just about three days to deadline. I got thinking that I should submit a poem and even if it would not win, there was really no harm in trying and so I went home and flipped through my draft book that lovingly embraced my poems. I was searching for poems I had written whose overlaying theme was money. To my dismay, I had none even remotely hinting at that theme! So I had to go back to pen and paper and draft out something. It was during the great scandal of Temangalo land and Global Funds. As I heard a couple of neighbors discuss the scandal, wondered what could make one do what the key players in that scandal did and it suddenly hit me that it was nothing else but Money and not just the sight of it but the smell of it. And there I had the poem.

4. How did the award money and the other prizes you received, change your outlook towards writing?

They made me realize that one could actually make a living out of writing in Uganda! Earlier on, I had believed that writing as a profession that earned one an income was only possible in the western world and some other few African countries. But with this, my belief changed and I was inspired into thinking about a career in writing. Unfortunately, I’m yet to realize that dream.

5. What do you think of the BNPA, now targeting Africa and including men?

It is okay, though personally I would have loved to keep it Ugandan and strictly for women. There are so many literary awards open to all Africans and everyone which I believe others can submit their poems to. The average Ugandan woman would feel challenged to submit, particularly the upcoming poets who are not yet so confident in their artistic skills. However, when it is Ugandan only and females only, more women would be encouraged to submit.

6. BNPA is starting a Scholarship Fund for female poets in primary schools in Uganda. How do you think this will influence their poetry?

This is great. It would help them develop and grow artistically from an early age and will give them a chance to learn the necessary skills and training that would make them become better poets as they grow. I love this idea.

7. What are you working on now, artistically?

Right now, I’m writing some nonfiction book and also working on some short stories. Of course I still write poems, they are my punching bag.

8. Any final thoughts?


Her poem can be read on the website, under, Winning Poems 2010.

Thank you Regina