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.