Safe spaces in stanzas

Everything must belong somewhere.

Was there anything ever made

that belonged nowhere?

 

There is what we found

and there is

what we made of it…

 

There was rhythm

long before drums,

cacophony, unsound, too.

 

We tightened skins

over drums and beat out

sound already there

just because we needed

our hands to affirm

what our hearts already knew.

 

That in a demonstration

the freedom is demonstrated

in the hands holding hands.

 

That bodies

are containers keeping

safe space for each other.

 

And I have found safe spaces draped

over sunlit shoulders, waiting

for me to rest my head.

 

Others I found

in the hands that hugged mine,

keeping me from grasping misery.

 

How many revolutions were born from verse?

Perhaps if we cried in stanzas

people would listen harder.

 

We beat drums to affirm our rhythm,

speak to affirm our voices,

and hope this music will drown out non-belonging.

 

(This poem first appeared on Sooo Many Stories.)

Poetry In Session Presents

I try to perform or read my work in front of an audience as often as I can, both for the practice and because its good to share this work after I have written it. Here is a piece titled “Kampala” that I did at Poetry in Session in October, 2014.

 

“Kampala”

Poetry for the stage and for the page

Performing has put me to task to keep writing and produce new and original work. I often borrow from these pieces to develop something deeper and more satisfying to the mind and soul. Performing has also helped me develop my voice as poet by sharpening me against other poets.

I find writing for the page more challenging but, by far, more fulfilling. I feel the page expresses my intentions with more sincerity. But I do not prefer one over the other. More people have been moved by my performances than by my written work.

Read the full article on the transcultural writing platform, kampalawritesbremen.

A new prayer

I had the opportunity and pleasure of working with Ugandan writer and filmmaker Dilman Dila (Felistas Fable/film, A Killing in the sun/short story anthology). We created this video from my poem a new prayer and it was published in Lawino Magazine. Here is the Q&A.

 

Lawino: It’s a pleasure to meet a gorgeous poet like you. I’d love to know a bit about you.

Gloria: I’m Gloria Kiconco though I once went by Glo-Flo when I was very involved with Bonfire in 2009. Now I’m back to just Gloria. I recite at Poetry-in-Session and sometimes at Kwivuga. I’ve worked in public relations and right now I’m a journalist and editor-in-training.

I got into spoken word in high school. I had two close friends, Joy and Zac, who were very passionate about poetry, so we started a club and put on poetry slams. It was the time I discovered Saul Williams who was a big inspiration for my work at the time.

Lawino: So you are keeping up a dream from childhood. That’s fabulous. But tell me, you have published poems in print, as well as performed them on stage. What is the difference to you? Which form do you treasure the most, spoken word or written?

Gloria: I’m in love with the two styles. Poetry for the page is very deep, spiritual, and sensual. I want to take my time with it. Performance poetry, to me, seeks a connection with others, a conversation. It’s also thrill-seeking, only mad people want to get on a microphone and share their thoughts. I take none over the other; they both force me to different kinds of vulnerability.

Lawino: You once described your work as abstract, how do readers and listeners relate to it? Do you ever feel they don’t understand what you are saying?

Gloria: I don’t know how people relate to my poetry, maybe not at all. I get a lot of compliments about my style of performance, which is cool. I think people understand it but maybe they do not relate to it and then it does not move them. I write from a very self-centered place so it’s by chance that someone really connects with my work. I’ve seen a big difference when I explore a more relatable topic in less abstract form.

What matters to me is for people go away with something after watching my performance. There is work we do for ourselves but more often we do it for the audience. I write selfishly but perform for you, so are you stimulated? That’s what matters to me. But again, it’s about balance, so I don’t always aim to entertain.

Lawino: I’m dying to know about the first time you performed.

I don’t know, the earliest I can remember was in high school. I did a poem about the cycles of aging, how the trends of today will be outdated in the future. I remember acting out the part of an old woman. The crowd had a good time, I think some people laughed where I wanted them to, though there is a huge chance I just imagined that.

The most embarrassing time is one I want to remember. I was 17 and performing a group poem to about 1000 people and completely forgot my lines. I was being cocky and thought I could deliver despite not having enough time to practice. It was humbling and funny. Everyone should bomb on stage at some point. It’s healthy. But every time is potentially embarrassing.
Lawino: Is there a story behind A New Prayer?

Gloria: Kind of. All I wanted was to express my extreme frustration out of a relationship that went bad, but I ended up remembering the beautiful times too. Joy and sorrow cannot exist without each other and God is present in both.

The poem is about the loss of love. No one I love has died, but I’ve lost a lot of people I love. I’ve moved often and left behind friends and family. Friends have had to leave me too. It hurts just as much every time. I’m getting accustomed to drastic change and trying to learn how to make the best of the little time I have with people instead of withdrawing.

 

Which African language do you speak?

My story with Africa started with rejection. I still ask myself why her? She is not really my mother, sister, or friend. We have very little in common and only blood has tethered me to this woman who, I often imagine, disregards my being.

My mother tells me I was an easy birth and a quiet baby. I think, even then I did not want to be a bother and from then my story was a search for belonging. But you already know my story because it is that of so many Africans who migrated and lost themselves along the way. The difference is details.

Read more…