WRITERS will do almost anything to avoid writing. They’ll wander to the toilet and play with the soap dispenser. They’ll have long, detailed daydreams about the people around them. They’ll go downstairs and pluck raw mangoes off the tree that sits in the middle of the parking lot.
The ones who battle this horrible laziness hard enough and emerge victorious with readable work are very keen to show it off, which explains the mega boom of poetry societies and nights in Kampala which are so many that listing them all will take a whole half page. So, quickly: The Lantern Meet Of Poets, Open Mic Kampala, Mo Fire, Resurrection Of The Spoken Truth and Poetry In Session.
Poetry In Session is one of the most popular, if the multitudes that flock to Isha’s Gallery in Kamwokya every last Tuesday of the month are anything to go by. It gets so tightly packed that arriving late means sitting on whatever surface will support your weight be it a flower pot, gravel, some poor persons elbow…
Isha’s is tucked right in the armpit of Kira Road Police Station and is hell to find for a first timer but because of how cozy, warm and welcoming this space is, it’s absolutely addictive. I don’t know anybody who has been for Poetry In Session just once.
Its Roshan Karmali’s brainchild, which makes her all sorts of awesome. I’m saying this in the sneaky hope that the next time I attend and try to buy one of her T-shirts, she’ll give me a discount.
Her tees say wonderful things like ‘Phenomenal Woman’ and ‘Rooted’, which is really the sort of affirmation you want stretched across your chest, isn’t it? If you have money, it’s humanly impossible to leave without buying at least three.
If you have money but are a cheap bastard to whom the idea of paying sh35,000 for a good quality shirt makes you want to howl “thievery, murder, hide your kids, hide your wife!” then you’ll miss out.
The reciting begins between 8:00 and 8:30pm, which gives you enough time to dash home from work, wash off the smell of deadness that you’ve accumulated between 9:00am and 5:00pm and saunter in fashionably late.
Of course, if you can’t be bothered with all of that and the idea of staying at work till 8:00pm makes you want to shoot your brain out, you can head straight there after work, sink into one of their comfy chairs and stare at the masks hanging on the walls.
There’s only so much sitting and ogling one can do and so pretty soon, the smell of good cooking invades your nose. Your stomach, on cue, starts to rumble.
Your wallet, which is psychic and can foresee the emptying that it’s going to be subjected to cries foul and tries to hide itself deeper in your bag.
Your money will even stick itself to the zipper of your wallet, man. Because while their food is far from expensive, the prices are not what you want to be parting with 10 days to the end of the month when you’re so broke, your continued survival from day to day is a freaking art form. But if you can, by all means try their food. It is delicious. It might make you walk to work for 2 days but it will leave your tongue wondering what the hell just happened and asking when it will happen again.
When people settle down and the presentation of poetry does start, the annoying things that we’ve come to expect at gatherings all feature i.e. ringing phones, neighbors who just won’t shut up, people who laugh too loudly for too long and the irritable guy who keeps yelling “Shut the f*** up!!!!!!!’.
This is a space where everybody is encouraged to write and perform poetry, which is very noble but also horrible, because there’s nothing worse than being made to sit through bad poetry.
The crowd is extremely expressive and it’s easy to tell when a performer has been enjoyed (they stomp their feet, yell “have my babies” and “Encore naawe! Encore!”) And even easier to tell when they’re unimpressed because they serve you crickets. That’s right. Painful silence which you deserve for sucking.
Networking was practically invented here. There’s always a sort of intermission where the emcee encourages people to invade each other’s space with chirpy introductions and (hopefully), engaging conversation, so come to Isha’s and make a friend. Hell, find a girlfriend, then a boyfriend, have children, make them write poetry at Poetry In Session, etc.
One thing. One bad thing. There was a horrible smell of piss where I sat. This may have been because I sat next to a wall which most probably doubles as a toilet for the little boys on the other side.
It could also (maybe) be blamed on my arriving earliest and taking the seat right next to the toilet. What kind of madness is that? The kind that deserves to have a strong smell of piss pressed up its nose for hours.