Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Poetry Has Certainly Changed

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I was mighty impressed this week attending a casual social networking event where there was poetry recited. Most of the poems were read off Blackberries and I was happy that modern technology could be applied to an ancient art.

The poets themselves were equally young and the messages just as appealing. The language was easy to comprehend and I just wondered how teachers of literature could adopt this style in teaching poetry in school and making it come alive in the classroom setting. For those of you like me who were told that literature was compulsory while at school it was not a question of love at first sight.

First and foremost the selection of poems to be learnt in English Literature included classical poems by English poets written in not so modern lingo. The ones that seemed to be the teacher's favourite were the ones where the poet seemed to be depressed and we the students were asked to detect the tone and appreciate the how the poet chose words that best brought out his feelings (for some reason it was mostly men).

Being introduced to African poetry while in secondary school I was personally happy to learn that poetry does not have to rhyme. The topics in the African poems we were told to study were either about Africans living abroad for the first time and feeling nostalgic or about negrtitude; the need to be seen and acknowledged as an African.

Still at secondary school I came across the rather long and humorous poem "Song of Lawino' by Okot Bitek and I was more than happy to translate the few Swahili words in the poem to my West African classmates. At university the poetry classes with Professor Wangusa a renowned poet himself were fun.

I will never forget our first lesson with him whereby he scribbled the word 'ouch' on the board and told us that it was a poem and that we should go ahead and discus it. Yes ouch! Poetry unlike song, does not need instruments, singers or even a recording studio to be enjoyed.

You can read a poem quietly in the privacy of your room. Or loudly to no one in particular. Or better still listen attentively to poets themselves read out their own poems live. If you feel you have a burning issue you would like to put in an artistic form go ahead and jot it down you would be surprised there is a poet in each of us.

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