Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

The African Elephant

Enlarge poem

Listen; listen to the blare of annunciation

Of the African elephant, tetrarch of the jungle!

Behold what slow, majestic progress of the hoof

Of matriarchs, their young and their one bull

As they head for the waterhole;

Observe the mother’s tenderness for its infant,

Standing guard to let it first drink its fill,

Together rolling in protective, glorious mud,

Then signaling the way back

To the daily routine

Of reducing tropical forest to grassland;

Mark the pliable, multi- purpose trunk:

Its digging tool and harvest knife,

Its conduit for water and weapon in battle,

Its organ for smelling and sizing the world;

Then ponder the paradoxical curse

Of its twin tusks:

From time immemorial

The substance of immortal ornaments;

Ever since the dawn of the imperial plunder

Of Africa for export of human souls –

Ivory –

The damnation of the African elephant –

To provide exotic cultures

With piano keys and billiard balls!

Timothy Wangusa

Featured Poem:

Where Have the Mushrooms Gone?

Enlarge poem

My kinsmen, where have the mushrooms gone?
Where have all the mushrooms gone?
That sprouted in homestead and everywhere?

My kinsmen, where have the all mushrooms gone?

Lunkonakhisi that was the chief of all mushrooms
So broad was its canopy the wild goat often slept under it

Namutuyu, or tuyutuyu, of a red-brown hue
That shot up in battalions and squeezed together
As though in competition to exit the soil

Kamelele that prominently resembled the ears of the bat
And shivered upon sodden tree trunks in the jungle

Namataala that germinated in precincts of the kraal
Where animals had sweetened the soil with their dung

Nasiina that often was found upon the dunghill
Where the cattle dung had lost its heat
Mixed with refuse and converted into deep dark soil

Namasisye that sprung up in the field on spots of cowpat
That had disintegrated and sunk into soil

Nabitsikhi that happened upon random tree strumps
On the hillside just as in the plains

Bureesi that grew around the exalted rireesi anthill
In seasonal rhythm with the anthillÕs termites

Bumesi that thrived in the mountain chill
And whose soup was of sweetest flavour on earth!

Burunda of a light-brown hue that resembled
The sirunda anthill about which they raised their heads

Bumukele the smallest of mushrooms
White as cattle egrets, that materialized in myriads
And that you relished to the back of your head!
Namakhoosi that emerged beside the trodden footpath
As though anxious to be the first that you sighted
Bukulumbuli that germinated upon the rolls of grass
Containing dregs of banana juice extract
That were thrown away into the banana garden

Bukendaani that came into your view any place
As though sympathetic to the poor that had no sauce

Bukusuma that had a fat navel like a rare damsel,
That appeared in twos, threes and fours
And their flesh felt so thick in your excited hand

Bulyasa of a white-black hue like bukusuma
Yet, unlike them, having no navel
And rose one at a time like a motherÕs only child

Namafura that had a glossy skin
And exuded oil like meet sizzling before the fire

Nabakooko the mushroom with a radiant aura
Like a virgin with tattoos on face and belly

Bungulumisye over which you threw a stick
And they panicked, ran and clang to each other!

To all those mushrooms must you add luisiri,
Whose slender and tall stalk you dropped down
Some yawning channel of rireesi anthill;
The ants dragged it to their procreation center:
The constant seasons did their rhythmic rounds
From one rainy peak to the next rainy peak
The one random morning you stumbled upon
Buisiri mushrooms besieging the entire anthill
And you gasped in ecstatic wonderment!

My kinsmen, again I asked and you answer me
Where have all those mushrooms gone?

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (3)
  • Pride (3)
  • Optimism (2)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (2)
  • Inspiration (1)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (1)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (2)

Comments

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Biography

Timothy Wangusa (born 1942) is a Ugandan poet and novelist.

Wangusa is an ethnic Mumasaaba, born in Bugisu, in eastern Uganda. He studied English at Makerere University where he later served on faculty, and the University of Leeds (UK). He wrote his MA and PhD on British and African poetry, respectively.

Wangusa started working at Makerere University in 1969. He was appointed as Professor in 1981 (the first from his Bugisu. In his acceptance speech ‘A Wordless World’ he looked at how words were starting to lose meaning and there was a continuous shift from words and speech. Later Wangusa served as Head of Department of Literature and Dean of Faculty of Arts. He was also Minister of Education in the Ugandan Government (1985–86) and Member of Parliament (1989–96). Presently, he serves as Senior Presidential Advisor In Museveni’s government. Wangusa played a pivotal role in establishing the Department of Languages and Literature at Uganda Christian University, an Anglican University in Mukono.

His collection of poems Salutations: Poems 1965-1975 (1977), reissued with additional poems as A Pattern of Dust: Selected Poems 1965-1990 (1994), reflects his rural origins. The novel Upon This Mountain (1989) tells the story of Mwambu, who is determined to touch heaven, and describes his journey towards adulthood. The novel combines African folklore and proverbs with Christian symbolism. Its main theme is that of growing up in the Ugandan society and what challenges come with growing up in the traditional setting.

Wangusa was chairman of Uganda Writers Association and founder president of International PEN  Uganda Centre.

Timothy Wangusa

Biography

Timothy Wangusa (born 1942) is a Ugandan poet and novelist.

Wangusa is an ethnic Mumasaaba, born in Bugisu, in eastern Uganda. He studied English at Makerere University where he later served on faculty, and the University of Leeds (UK). He wrote his MA and PhD on British and African poetry, respectively.

Wangusa started working at Makerere University in 1969. He was appointed as Professor in 1981 (the first from his Bugisu. In his acceptance speech ‘A Wordless World’ he looked at how words were starting to lose meaning and there was a continuous shift from words and speech. Later Wangusa served as Head of Department of Literature and Dean of Faculty of Arts. He was also Minister of Education in the Ugandan Government (1985–86) and Member of Parliament (1989–96). Presently, he serves as Senior Presidential Advisor In Museveni’s government. Wangusa played a pivotal role in establishing the Department of Languages and Literature at Uganda Christian University, an Anglican University in Mukono.

His collection of poems Salutations: Poems 1965-1975 (1977), reissued with additional poems as A Pattern of Dust: Selected Poems 1965-1990 (1994), reflects his rural origins. The novel Upon This Mountain (1989) tells the story of Mwambu, who is determined to touch heaven, and describes his journey towards adulthood. The novel combines African folklore and proverbs with Christian symbolism. Its main theme is that of growing up in the Ugandan society and what challenges come with growing up in the traditional setting.

Wangusa was chairman of Uganda Writers Association and founder president of International PEN  Uganda Centre.

The African Elephant

Enlarge poem

Listen; listen to the blare of annunciation

Of the African elephant, tetrarch of the jungle!

Behold what slow, majestic progress of the hoof

Of matriarchs, their young and their one bull

As they head for the waterhole;

Observe the mother’s tenderness for its infant,

Standing guard to let it first drink its fill,

Together rolling in protective, glorious mud,

Then signaling the way back

To the daily routine

Of reducing tropical forest to grassland;

Mark the pliable, multi- purpose trunk:

Its digging tool and harvest knife,

Its conduit for water and weapon in battle,

Its organ for smelling and sizing the world;

Then ponder the paradoxical curse

Of its twin tusks:

From time immemorial

The substance of immortal ornaments;

Ever since the dawn of the imperial plunder

Of Africa for export of human souls –

Ivory –

The damnation of the African elephant –

To provide exotic cultures

With piano keys and billiard balls!

Featured Poem:

Where Have the Mushrooms Gone?

Enlarge poem

My kinsmen, where have the mushrooms gone?
Where have all the mushrooms gone?
That sprouted in homestead and everywhere?

My kinsmen, where have the all mushrooms gone?

Lunkonakhisi that was the chief of all mushrooms
So broad was its canopy the wild goat often slept under it

Namutuyu, or tuyutuyu, of a red-brown hue
That shot up in battalions and squeezed together
As though in competition to exit the soil

Kamelele that prominently resembled the ears of the bat
And shivered upon sodden tree trunks in the jungle

Namataala that germinated in precincts of the kraal
Where animals had sweetened the soil with their dung

Nasiina that often was found upon the dunghill
Where the cattle dung had lost its heat
Mixed with refuse and converted into deep dark soil

Namasisye that sprung up in the field on spots of cowpat
That had disintegrated and sunk into soil

Nabitsikhi that happened upon random tree strumps
On the hillside just as in the plains

Bureesi that grew around the exalted rireesi anthill
In seasonal rhythm with the anthillÕs termites

Bumesi that thrived in the mountain chill
And whose soup was of sweetest flavour on earth!

Burunda of a light-brown hue that resembled
The sirunda anthill about which they raised their heads

Bumukele the smallest of mushrooms
White as cattle egrets, that materialized in myriads
And that you relished to the back of your head!
Namakhoosi that emerged beside the trodden footpath
As though anxious to be the first that you sighted
Bukulumbuli that germinated upon the rolls of grass
Containing dregs of banana juice extract
That were thrown away into the banana garden

Bukendaani that came into your view any place
As though sympathetic to the poor that had no sauce

Bukusuma that had a fat navel like a rare damsel,
That appeared in twos, threes and fours
And their flesh felt so thick in your excited hand

Bulyasa of a white-black hue like bukusuma
Yet, unlike them, having no navel
And rose one at a time like a motherÕs only child

Namafura that had a glossy skin
And exuded oil like meet sizzling before the fire

Nabakooko the mushroom with a radiant aura
Like a virgin with tattoos on face and belly

Bungulumisye over which you threw a stick
And they panicked, ran and clang to each other!

To all those mushrooms must you add luisiri,
Whose slender and tall stalk you dropped down
Some yawning channel of rireesi anthill;
The ants dragged it to their procreation center:
The constant seasons did their rhythmic rounds
From one rainy peak to the next rainy peak
The one random morning you stumbled upon
Buisiri mushrooms besieging the entire anthill
And you gasped in ecstatic wonderment!

My kinsmen, again I asked and you answer me
Where have all those mushrooms gone?

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (3)
  • Pride (3)
  • Optimism (2)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (2)
  • Inspiration (1)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (1)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (2)

The African Elephant

Enlarge poem

Listen; listen to the blare of annunciation

Of the African elephant, tetrarch of the jungle!

Behold what slow, majestic progress of the hoof

Of matriarchs, their young and their one bull

As they head for the waterhole;

Observe the mother’s tenderness for its infant,

Standing guard to let it first drink its fill,

Together rolling in protective, glorious mud,

Then signaling the way back

To the daily routine

Of reducing tropical forest to grassland;

Mark the pliable, multi- purpose trunk:

Its digging tool and harvest knife,

Its conduit for water and weapon in battle,

Its organ for smelling and sizing the world;

Then ponder the paradoxical curse

Of its twin tusks:

From time immemorial

The substance of immortal ornaments;

Ever since the dawn of the imperial plunder

Of Africa for export of human souls –

Ivory –

The damnation of the African elephant –

To provide exotic cultures

With piano keys and billiard balls!

Comments

Your email address will not be published.