The themes were definitely teenage, of the stuff that happens to children in secondary schools. You only had to look at the titles of the poems performed: A Poem For The Future, Lonely Student, Dear Mr Bideri, I wish I Could Be Her. The second poem though, A Poem For The Future, recited in Luganda, summed up how the poems hoped their recital would be seen.
Written by Asia Tusiime (Senior Six vacation), A Poem For The Future defines their poetry as activism. “We were poets/a long time ago/but we didn’t know that our poetry/would save the nation.” It speaks of a decadent nation with uncaring politicians and in which the elders, who should have guided the rest of us, are “sick.” The only resort for educated (or informed: it’s a translation from Luganda) youths, honest Nabisunsa students trying to arrest a declining, dishonest nation, is poetry.
Yet, despite the dabbling into political musings, a lot of the things said were about the ambivalence in a (boarding) school environment, the uncertainty that growing up comes with, the questioning everyone at that stage goes through, formative considerations.
In The Next Chapter written by Ivy Kiconco (Senior Two) which said that “it is not just about poetry; not just about words/This is not poetry about your bizarre boyfriends/Or the pocket money you lost/This is not your boring classroom…” captures this well. In attempting to dismiss the stuff most teenage girls go through, calling it “verse that calls to the core of your soul to stop sleeping,” “the verse that will tell of things that will tell of themes/That place us back where we belong as Africans” it simply affirms its self-revealing makeup. Kiconco merely reveals herself as an excoriator, an outlier who places too much hope in what poetry is capable of.
Faith Angwech’s (Senior Four) Dear Mr Teacher Man is an apology to a teacher for “sleeping during your lesson.” Recited by Joana Bideri (Senior Two ), it says the speaker did not “mean to sleep during your lesson” because well, she is lazy. If she sleeps too much she will be late to class. That will mean she has notes to copy which she can only do in the night which then leaves two options: getting little sleep which will have her sleeping in class the next day, or sleeping beyond the allowed time. Despite that she beseeches us to not call her lazy: “Don’t call me that. Don’t call me lazy…”
It was an evening to be preached at, to be reminded of our not-so-good state as nation. Nation Mothers (written by Hasina Baryamujura, Senior three, recited by Mildred Nabawanuka, Senior Five) was addressed to “Mothers of this nation stealing funds!/Pretending to be helping our nation.” “We all sat back and never lent a helping hand/When some corrupt politician or the other stole an old woman’s land,” deplored You Keep Telling Me recited by Aisha Gaava (S.3) and written by Faith Angwech.
There is something about art, about self-expression, that asks us to honestly appraise ourselves and the girls, in 31 poems, did exactly that. It was not a beautiful or heartwarming portrait that they painted, but the beauty was in the efforts, the results, the art form.