Chole Richard

‘Angst’, ‘Anger’

Two words that the editorial team of the all-girls poetry anthology, ‘A Child is A Seedling’ found themselves confronted with from time to time in perusing the anthology manuscript.

Initially, the editorial team provided thematic subtitles – childhood, womanhood, peace and hope – and love.

But then there is anger and angst which transcend most of the poems. They reveal that young people are living with pent-up feelings of anger and inner turmoil. 

‘The charms of my smile conceal my pain,’ Iga Samuel quotes Mariam Abdinur, one of the contributing poets, ‘but my eyes betray hurt untold’ – lines that perhaps best encapsulate my central concern here.

‘And this, perhaps, is the one query the collection poses for us to ponder, why are our young voices pointing to more angst than gaiety and calm’, Iga raises the alarm in his review.

Young people, especially in the transitional teen ages are confronted by conflicts and dilemmas arising out of peer pressure, identity conflicts, body changes, family issues, gender matters, and so forth. In the anthology, these issues override ‘gaiety and calm’, with some of them truly troubling, and begging for answers.

During the recently held all-schools, two-day poetry writing mentorship held at PMM Girls’ School in Jinja, my engagement with the young participants consistently revealed the angst in them. So, it wasn’t an issue confined to twenty-six poets in the anthology. They were simply a representation of a wider cast of young people.

Perhaps this partly explains why the testimony of one of the contributing poets, Illero Jemimah (in the picture) appealed strongly to the young audience during the panel of discussions on Day II. She was very open about the fact that her poems are rooted in her hardships and those of others.

She said that she witnessed firsthand how many girls were claimed by the COVID-19 pandemic to early marriage. She felt the urge to write about their painful life experiences.

‘Seeing that pain inspired me to write’, Illero said.

‘My life was a painful one’, she said. ‘And then the only thing that could speak to me was a pen and a paper.’ In writing, she found the solace she needed. ‘I did not have anyone to run to and talk, to pour my heart out, maybe cry on that shoulder, but I had a pen and paper.’

As if to echo the words of another contributing and prolific poet, Palvy Badhan. In her poem, ‘I Write’, Palvy earnestly pleads, for pen and paper, ‘…my only treasure’, not to be taken away from her:-

I will be the greatest pauper,

If I lose them

Through ‘A Child is A Seedling’, Young poets have been able to find relief and safe passage to channel their anger and angst in a world that probably does not understand them well. Hopefully, the anthology contributes as a voice to understand and bring forth the complex matter. Perhaps the title of the anthology should guide us best in approaching the angst of young people: with the fragility of a seedling.

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