Gladys Chaiga lives and breathes poetry

Gladys Chaiga’s, aka, The Midnight Owl’s hustle performs in Kampala recently. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Upclose. What started as a passion at her primary school and O-Level, is now Destiny Gladys Chaiga’s, aka, The Midnight Owl’s hustle.
  • She has scooped an award and is aiming for greater heights. Chaiga shares her story, with Esther Bridget Nakalya.

What inspired you to do poetry?
There was no particular inspiration other than discovering along my life’s journey that I am a poet. I did not learn it in school but it was something inborn. I started writing poems before I even knew they were poems in primary school and in O-Level.
What was your first salary?
Hmmm! My employment journey started with volunteering without pay. After some years, I was given Shs250,000 per month.
Do you hang out? If so, where?
Omg,  I have no particular place! I enjoy hanging out with some friends more than any other thing. Such includes taking an evening walk, a meet-up at one of our homes, or at some poetry events.
What are some of your hobbies?
Thinking about poetry ideas or writing a poem when I am inspired, watching films, reading some novels or books.
What is your favourite drink?
Dawa tea, any day any time does wonders. And, fresh juice without sugar.
What is your favourite food?
Nothing in particular, but I love pasted fish with rice and/or pasted beef with millet bread (kalo). They are fingerlickingly tasty.
Which book are you reading?
Decolonizing the mind; The Politics of Language in African Literature by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
How many poems have you written?
I have written 30 poems inspired by different topics.
Has any of your work been rejected before?
Definitely, it is part of the process.
Who are some of your favourite poets?
In Uganda, Carolyn Afroetry and Jason Ntaro. And on the global scene, Maya Angelou takes it followed by Preston Perry and Jackie Hill Perry.
Has any of your work impacted people?
Yes, my kind of poetry is what I would describe as art for a cause. I am inclined to societal issues that people experience. 

Gladys Chaiga’s, aka, The Midnight Owl’s hustle. 

I have done pieces on early teenage pregnancy, Covid-19, domestic violence, climate change, and mental health among others.
How do you develop a poem?
First and foremost, I need to know what topic I am writing about. I research about it and identify an angle to write from.
I often write from a very quiet place so that I focus. 
My first draft goes through three to five revisions before I can release it.

What are your milestones so far?
I was second runners-up at the East Africa Battle 2022 in Kisumu. I was among the top 10 poets for the Covid-19 poetry and storytelling competitions 2021. My work has featured in different poetry resources. 
It has been a journey of growth and opportunity.
The first thing you do when you wake up…?
I pray. 
Who was your first best friend?
Issues of best friends, I cannot recall my first best friend.  
One of my fondest  friends  was Anthony Rubangakene, with whom I attended the same primary school.

Best advice..…

As long as one is alive, there is hope for another better day. Hope is for those alive, so do not give up. 

The first poem you read...  Song of Lawino by Okot p’Bitek which I read for fun because it had been so much talked about and, I am glad I did.

Your favourite poem is...? The Price of My Innocence by me. It is about teenage marriages at the hands of the girls’ family. It rips my heart open each time I read it. I feel the pain of this vice.
Had you not been a poet, what would you be? Perhaps a painter or musician.

What puts you off? Dishonesty and undermining others.


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