The young poets society: from Kuala Lumpur to Gaborone

At 17 I figured it would be liberating to move to a new place where no one knew me. I could learn to be an adult and get my undergraduate degree. This place turned to be Malaysia.

I got there a year later, bright-eyed, naïve and pessimistic. Yet hopeful. After what seemed like forever of looking and trying to find people of my kind – a clique I could actually relate to like the one I found in high school – I reconnected with a friend who introduced me to an awesome bunch.

Like one another, we wrote everything we felt on paper, napkins, any surface really.

I learned soon after starting classes at Limkokwing University that the society we had planted ourselves in was not only reserved but it was also not welcoming to people of any race that wasn’t theirs. That somehow ended up being what I wrote about the most… and love, of course.

At the end of the night we sat back and reflected, figuring that maybe this was more than ourselves and we were willing to see it through.

So, my five newly-found friends, one old friend and I met once a week in someone’s living room to share our poetry and stories, laugh and just be. We sometimes hit an unintended hiatus; school, travels and life got in the way. But a few months later, we would find ourselves in someone else’s living room.

The first night was magical; a bunch of verbose and lively individuals came together, strangers and friends, to celebrate where they come from. We figured it would be fitting to theme the first meet that way, so we could introduce ourselves to one another. A second session was in the dairy by the time we parted, this was something we had to do again, and we looked forward to it.

We were apparently not ready for what came, the second time around.

Friends had invited their friends. The living room we were in was too tiny to have all of us sit comfortably; there was very little food but we made it work. Some people had heard about the good food and wanted to have a taste, some came for the poetry. Everyone came for something and they got more. Some ended up unintentionally sharing their crafts: paintings, song, drawings, poems.

We did not know that we had started a movement.

There was amazing energy and joy. At the end of the night we sat back and reflected, figuring that maybe this was more than ourselves and we were willing to see it through.

We did not know that we had started a movement.

By the end of my third year, we had picked up loyal members of the organising crew and had moved out of living rooms to a mamak (restaurant) a couple of blocks away from the complex most of us lived in. Some of us got invited to other local literary events, poetry slams and even TedxSingapore. We had a good run. But we knew we would graduate soon; we had hopes the remaining crew could carry on with the movement after we left, and they tried but they eventually gave in. They said things did not feel the same.

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Meanwhile, here in Gaborone some of us were trying to settle back in. We would meet up and reminisce; we missed the intimacy and energy of the sessions; we missed the travelling and how a lot of things were affordable, like good food. But we found a way to have a Botswana-based session. Our friends in Nairobi – Kenya, did first. We are Poet’s Passport, so it seems only right that we not only travel as individuals, but as a movement too. The National Museum in Gaborone has become our home.

Gauta Eyman, a vibrant 25-year-old mom and blogger at Journals of a Wind Inspired Writer, is a Poet’s Passport regular. Quoting the amazing Umebinyuo Ijeoma she performs one evening, with her eyes closed like she can actually see it. ‘You are a strange woman, alive with three generations inside you. You walk like you have lived on earth before.’

We talked about what brings her back. She thinks that although creative circles in Botswana are very limited, Poet’s Passport is exceptional, different. The magic that comes together here really touches some place familiar within her, and it’s a feeling she carries even after leaving the sessions. It is that very same feeling that keeps us writing and returning to share all our stories.

Even though the sessions aren’t exactly the same as the first, they are still built on the same foundations. We registered as a literary art NGO with plans to do more eventually than just host sessions at the museum. Some day these plans will translate into actions, wherever we all are.

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