In her latest anthology, Ugandan poet Mildred Kiconco Barya tackles issues such as the relevance of our cultural heritage in modern times, time and space, wars, poverty, love, pain, betrayal, shattered dreams, sex and death.
Titled Give Me Room to Move My Feet, and published by Amalion Publishing, the collection has 100 poems that fall among seven parts: revolving lives, stormy heart, before the sun sinks, the pain of tenderness, shame has a place, the shape of dreams and until the last breath is drawn.
The theme of domestic violence is captured in the poem The Perfect Match. The wife threatens to divorce because she picks up the laundry, empties the bin, and attends family planning sessions. The husband brings her the job pages so she may try her luck, but she prefers staying home watching television. He points fingers and picks up an ax, children take cover under the beds and she flees to the cattle shed.
The clash between modern and native diets is played out in the poem What’s Native Can’t Harm You. A ‘polished’ woman visits her mother upcountry with packed tinned foods and waffles. The grandmother will not understand why her grandchildren cannot take the ripe mangoes, oranges, and the tangerines that are in plenty. “They’ll catch a fever if they eat this and that,” she is told. The grandchildren eventually eat their packed junk food – and they end up stunted like fishermen’s hooks.
The poem The Place Where you Begin (The Third World),” highlights the challenges of the least developed world. It is a disorganized place plagued with basic lacks and wants, regular electricity, flowing water, and hygiene. In the poem Skipping, she writes that people believe that their creator blesses other generations and skips theirs.
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