Poets Talk: 5 Questions with Harriet Anena

#PoetsTalkSeries, Interview

Konya Shamsrumi: What is the process of writing a poem like for you? Is it a lot of hard work or easy?

Harriet Anena: My writing process is thoroughly random and unstructured. I never see a poem coming, but when it does, there’s no postponement. Which means picking out a phone from my bag to write the lines twirling in my head as I take a taxi home (even with a possibility of my phone getting snatched out of the taxi window); it means getting out of bed at 4 am to scribble words in a notepad or laptop before they scuttle away at sunrise.  It’s easy – the unannounced arrival of wordsand confining them to a page. The real work is in the editing, the rewriting, and in ensuring that what’s on the page makes sense.     

Konya Shamsrumi: Please describe your sense of identity in this or any possible world in imagery or metaphor?

Harriet Anena: Embers. A poem.

Konya Shamsrumi: If any of your poems could literarily save a person’s life, which poem would it be and can you describe the person whose life you think it would have saved?

Harriet Anena: My poems would save my life. There are poems I write and I feel washed within, cleansed, unburdened. The Plight of the Acholi Child, the first poem I wrote, had an immense ‘saving’ effect on me. As a child growing up during a war situation, there were imaginations were imaginations I needed verified, issues I wanted explained, and anger I wanted shared. Writing that poem, gave me all that.       

Harriet Anena

Konya Shamsrumi: What does Africa mean to you, as potential or reality?

Harriet Anena: Africa is an annoying sibling, disappointing even, but you can’t get rid of them. So you focus on what’s good about them and beseech the gods to make them better the next day. Africa is home, despite its messyhouse

Could you share with us one poem you’ve been most impressed or fascinated by? Tell us why and share favorite lines from it.  

Harriet Anena:  🙂 🙂  This reminds me of the primary school debate topic, mother is better than father. It’s difficult to make a pick because I believe every poem has its own life, its own DNA, its own driver.  

But, Social Anxiety by Lydia Kasese will be the one today. Kasese is a writer whose work I crush on daily. She’s a master in sculpturing words in ways only she can. And, in Social Anxiety, she tackles body shaming, the underlying theme of how self-esteem gets destroyed, which leads to an even bigger issue of mental illness:

               
When you call out the state of my knees in a school bus aisle,
                Many, many yearsago,
                I spend the rest ofmy life diluting my self-worth
                In crowds and openspaces.
                I disappear intowalls that I build.
                I become oddlyshaped knees.
                I become hiding.

***

Harriet Anena is a writer from Gulu, Uganda.

Leave a Reply