Falling isn’t dying: Interview with Uganda poet Betty Kituyu

Betty Kituyu is a Ugandan writer who marries science and art. She is the author of theBetty Kituyi  closeup award-winning poem, Falling. MAI Trainer Lawrence Darmani interviewed Betty about her writing journey at our recent workshop with the Uganda Faith Writers Association in Kampala. 

Here is Falling:

The rain is gently
clapping at the rocks
outside my kitchen.

Its music
my desert.

A new song forms,
the sound of raindrops
washing my face.

The rain is steadily
taking me home
by twilight.

I am learning
from the weeping clouds
that falling isn’t dying.

Q: What is the story behind your poem Falling
I wrote this poem when I was down with a migraine and in a lot of pain. The rain kept pouring steadily and gently the whole of this day. It was perfect weather for my condition. As I stood at my kitchen sink to watch it, I found I liked the way it fell – gently – and how it was received by the rocks. There was music in all that, and I liked it. It healed me. Then I heard a knock on the door, and Moses, my fiancé, stood tall before me. The rain had steadily brought him home. I cried.

But it is the last stanza that surprised me–I am learning from the weeping clouds that falling isn’t dying. Those words just came to me after much editing of the poem. They resonated with me and stood strong and powerful in meaning.

Later at the Beverly Nambozo 2012 Awarding ceremony, everybody was talking about Bududa, the rain and mudslides (a natural disaster that hit the area). Then it occurred to me that my poem was prophetic. As I stood up to give my speech as a third-place winner, I told the audience that I came from Bududa.  They were so surprised. I also told them, “The rain fell in my village and my people died, yet my poem said that falling isn’t dying.” At that moment I began to believe that the poem had a personal message for me and my people. “Maybe there was a meaning to this death in my village, maybe dying is not the end,”  I told the teary audience.

(See Betty’s remarks at the awards ceremony)

Q: How has the success of this poem affected your attitude toward writing?
I have learnt to pay attention to the small moments in my life.  My poem which began at the kitchen sink has traveled vast distances across the world and is being read by students and people from all walks of life.  This has both humbled me and uplifted me to write and share my work more.

MAI encourages creation of literature not only for Christians but for the general reader.  We also focus attention on publishing for other oft-neglected audiences, such as children, youth and the poor.

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