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.

 

Freestyling: As performed at Kwivuga Finale/Poetry-in-Session

When video killed the radio star

Hip hop took to setting the bar

Pole vaulting it, raising it, resetting it

Rock must be regretting it

Now every genre is on it

If you can’t beat it, get with it

If it’s winning, let it

Rhyme on the radio

Rhyme on the video

Didn’t care which, so long as there was audio

I would always be in the audience

Kweli, Mos Def, common sense

It’s been the same since

Rhyme hooked me in every sense

 

We belonged together like the pips

and Gladys

at nightclubs like hands on hips

like dip and chips

like slaves and whips

oh I’m sorry, i got carried away

but I say what I mean to say, mayer, John

the  mic is always on

I want to rock it all day

no matter what I say

I thought that love was here to stay

So, I let my words go like the runs

Rhyme always had a thing for puns

And verbal foreplay

We started with wordplay, then

Rhyme said sonnet me

I didn’t know what that meant

But when Rhyme said a

Naturally I said b

Rhyme said a

I said b

Cdcd, efef

Both of us gg-ing, couplet

As we were o-ing,

To a standing

ovation, we did it

 

Rhyme was always scheming

To get me in bed

It finally happened

Rhyme was in my head

But also on my bed, spread

While I was journaling, purging

It was clear I was a verse virgin

So rhyme popped my cherry

Then asked if I liked it… very

but it went sour like limes

and too much tequila, no salt

we were on the fault, line

I was out of time

And rhyme was out of me

Prematurely.

Rhyme went commercial, on every station.

In every bedroom of every nation

I walked out, saying rhyme you sold out

I was captain Ahab, rhyme was moby dick

And rhyme if you can hear it

I’m sorry I acted like such a moby prick

But I was feeling sick

You were no longer ill

You started living by the bill

Dying by it

That’s why rappers kill

And die, guess it was all a lie.

 

Then, I met free verse and true to its name,

It set me free

Verse was so cool, so beatnik with a beret to match

I was both frightened and excited, full of questions, like

How will they know you’re a poem if you don’t rhyme?

Do I have to play bongo drums to all my poems?

Will the audience only snap

Because its uncool to clap

I’m sorry I didn’t mean it

I’ve been with rhyme so long, it’s a habit

See what I mean

I swear I’m gonna get clean

Weaned, off time

On beat but off rhyme.

 

Free verse took my hand,

Pulled me close and kissed

My latte lips in a dark café

To the sound of catcalls

as we listened to Jill Scott

It was hot; they could hear us through the walls

 

I spent a long night with free verse

Preparing for a poetry slam

Verse said the slam was preparing for me

That word play was ecstasy

But it was intercepted by the other team

Even the seams of my bed separated

Rent apart by the accusing schemes of rhyme

So this is who you left me for?

A beat up, beatnik, free verse-whore?

To rhyme I said

Baby you’re still a part of me

Damn right! rhyme replied

I gave you a hickey you’ll never hide

 

What are you worth? Asked verse in self defense

Nursery rhymes? You couldn’t battle mother goose

You’re like verbal diarrhea

words on the run, they must be footloose

See I can do what you do, but I put it to better use

There’s nothing in a rhyme

You’re worth a dozen for every dime

And I ain’t got a bill below a Benjamin, but

I’m generous so let’s reach a settlement

I may have sunk to your level of scheming

But I’m called free for a reason

Sky is the limit,

I’m still above your dreaming

 

Verse and rhyme were fighting

Dropping flow, hitting so low, below the belt, biting

Alternating, I couldn’t decide who I was dating

They would have both been ten if I was rating.

 

It started on the page or maybe in my head

But it ended in the bed, a hot pot of freestyle

Lets all take a turn and stir it up

Do it simply because we’re able

It was a threesome, so awesome

they even spanked me with the ladle

also awesome and then some.

I’ll admit it if you ask me

I was promiscuous with poetry

But look, we had a baby poem

and we named it after me

And P.S, I hate to have to hide

But don’t tell poetry I’m seeing prose on the side

 

Everything must belong somewhere

I can’t rhyme off the top of my head

but I let the words spill from my mind

like locks pouring off dreads.

I’ve been writing these poems for years

or maybe they’ve been writing me…

You see,

that’s how words play with me

and we’ve been playing since we were kids.

Forget Barbie dolls, easybake, nintendo, tonka.

My allies were mad, magic, willy wonka,

my heroes were mad, magic, Dumbledore,

twice through the wardrobe, magic doors.

Now I don’t read like I used to.

I spend all my time writing

and all my writing I spend insighting.

Not raising riots

but raising hopes, self help.

Searching for my third world health

so I can give it aid, commonwealth.

I still feel growing pains

lookin to move potential to kinetic gain.

Thinking hard up against a red brick wall

soaking in sun and silence.

The drip drop of last night’s rain

a sparse snare drum tick-tocking in my brain

my lyrics ever the same

thus my music is my shame.

And what is shame

but my refusal to admit myself

into the VIP room

even though I own the club.

But, I’ve been scared

dreaming phallic symbols and fear.

So I cut my hair

because I dreaded my identity.

I went bald to get the strain off

like stress was in my follicles.

Forced to live one step at a time, every day-ing.

My mother says just keep praying

but belief is a task that’s thankless.

I wanted recognition so I gave up, faithless.

I left life, but life was after me

and if you knew how life loved me

you’d be envious.

Because of love i live now,

I give it all

the skin, the content

even the core

then give some more

with burning passion.

But still, I play it cool, yes

I remain calm like The Roots.

I’m taking off

fitted wings on my boots

looking for golden pastures, silver fruits.

I play flutes

people follow

and sometimes they swallow

my seed, like bird feed

from this poet’s tree.

Only, they didn’t know it was me

call it androgyny,

because suddenly, everyone wants me.

Little dicks, big dicks

I’ve met many Richards in my time

and they ask me to give it up.

I could but I’m mising

since my spirit started rising.

I give verse my all plus ten percent, tithing

laughing at the bank, plus to and fro

as I’m depositing reams of lyrical.

I don’t go to church but I’m spiritual

that’s why the tellers spread my gospel

into every savings account.

Freedom doesn’t come at a discount

because it should be free,

there’s no interest rate on simply being

that’s something I couldn’t see.

It took a beating to make me, see

this poetry slammed me up against the wall

and took my lunch money,

bullied me into these rhymes.

So, I had to compete, verses versus verses.

It left me so broke

I had to count my blessings

since I was out of curses.

I don’t make money from verses

but refuse to work for purses.

Yes, because I’m lazy

and maybe cuz I’m blazing

but mostly cuz I’m writing

freak rhymes like Jekyll

even mister Hyde is hiding.

Taming words is kinda tricky

now I’m monster just like nicki

can’t let go the mic is sticky

flow so sick, it’s icky

viral, flu season.

Kids, go see the pediatrician

better yet, the mortician

since I’m killing competition.

Yeah, I talk big game

hit the ground running

meanwhile I’m punning

performing cuz I can’t not

recover fast if I fumble

and ultimately,

I’m humbled

to be

both the vessel and the content.

If poetry is the superhero

I’m the sidekick,

delivering punch lines and all the right hooks.

So, study me like a book

to learn how one ending

is just another start.

Graduation.

Now I’m elevated,

airborne, levitated.

Left my friends in awe

and all my enemies devastated.

I may be competing

but this is more than a contest.

Everything, it must belong somewhere

finally, I’m in context…