Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva is the face behind one of the fastest growing poetry platform in East Africa, The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation which she began so as to encourage women who write poetry and also to promote African poetry. Beverley, who describes herself as a passionate poet, tireless mother, exuberant long-distance swimmer and lover of travelling and nature has two poetry collections to her name. The first collection is titled Unjumping and the second one, which highlights Beverley’s interpersonal relationship with the church, sex and politics is titled Dress Me In Disobedience.
Beverly, who holds a Masters of Fine Art Degree in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, is also the founding president of Bukoto Toastmasters Club, a platform that conducts training in public speaking and leadership.
She spoke to Nation.co.ke about her literary favourites and fantasies.
Which one book do you hold so dear that it can’t possibly be lent out?
Best Loved Poems, a selection of The Classics, including Emily Dickinson, T.S Eliot and Seamus Heaney. The second is The African Saga by Associate Professor Susan Kiguli.
Your favourite childhood book?
Naughty Amelia Jane by Enid Blyton and the entire St Clare’s series by the same author.
Who is your literary crush? (Not a book character but a real person you admire in the lit world).
From a recent trip in China, my literary crush is poet Liu Zhang, the equivalent of Okot p’ Bitek in Uganda. He is a humble yet remarkable Chinese poet who lives in Hebei and the Government erected a statue in his honour, outside his humble home.
What’s your greatest fear?
I do not have fears necessarily but I do sometimes get anxious that children in Uganda will never realise what it is like to live under good governance with servant-like, dedicated and patriotic leadership, which supports wholesome education, modern technology and the creative expression of the arts.
Most embarrassing stage/writing mistake ever?
In China in the Hebei Province, during the Second International Poetry Forum of Shi Shangzhuang on September 24, I was asked to sing a song from my culture. I absolutely forgot the words to one of the songs in Lumasaaba, which I wanted to sing. Instead, I sang this common Kiswahili song, “Jambo, Jambo Bwana”.
I told the audience where the song was from but as soon as I had finished, the words to the Lumasaaba song came back to me.
If you were to dine with three writers dead/alive, who would they be and why?
Only three? Okay. Enid Blyton, Okot p’ Bitek and Emily Dickinson.
Most unforgettable character from a book?
Paul Kalanithi, who wrote his autobiography, When Breath Becomes Air, about his life as a brain surgeon, telling patients of their imminent deaths and guiding families on palliative care, until he too was diagnosed with cancer. He wrote about his struggles in the most breathtaking, deeply emotional and unforgettable way. He died and his wife completed the final chapter of the book. I cried so hard after I read it.
Another unforgettable character is Anne, from Anne of Green Gables. I cried too. I think it’s always the characters whose lives make me cry.
Which book do you wish you had written and why?
I actually completed the first manuscript this year and now on the editing process.
Greatest craft sin you have committed?
It’s going to Google and Wikipedia to find basic translations and facts about Uganda.
If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you?
The African Saga by Associate Professor Susan Kiguli, Unbowed by Professor Wangari Maathai and Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy.
If you weren’t an artist/writer, what would you be?
I would be a doctor; creating dialogue with children and adults alike, as a way of diagnosing illnesses, administering medicine and leading them to recovery.
Any other fun/interesting thing you’ve always wanted to tell readers?
I am a long-distance swimmer. Swimming is one of the best ways to separate myself from others, to relax and to exercise my mind and body. Not many people swim non-stop for hours on end and so when I’m in a pool, I know that I have created a small universe for myself and my thoughts. Lap after lap, I dream, plan and get fit. I also swim because I need to lose 70 pounds of weight. (#Lovingmybody)
I also have three children. Giving birth is not a hindrance to a career. We have as much opportunity as women and men who don’t have children and mothers should continue planning purposefully and achieving magnificently, in their careers and personal lives.
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