First, really excited about making it to the long-list. I’m an award-winning author, poet, playwright, culture exponent and governance consultant. I’ve got two books to my name – a collection of poems titled Parliament of Owls published by Native Intelligence under the Contact Zone Series with Goethe Institut (2016), and the 2017 Burt Award winning novella “A Boy Named Koko” published by Longhorn Publishers (2017).

I write for fun, for money, but I also write to cause fury and make us angry with ourselves and the world around us, so that we can change it. Writing is my form of advocacy. I tend to see myself as a gadfly that goads the steed of society out of slumber (to quote Socrates). I think that’s what every artist should consider themselves to be, or should at least strive to become.


Why were you inclined to submit for the #Babishai2020 haiku award?

I love haikus – the form, the invisible force that lingers on despite the brevity of haikus. It’s a way of saying poetry can be short and sweet without necessarily being caged in rhyme.


What was your process in writing this particular haiku below?

ringed with its papers
and tracked like jailbird on bail
the immigrant lands…

I don’t really think about this poetry like that; but I can say my process was chaos, anarchy, mental stampede, ideas colliding, moments of silence, questioning, doubts, literary pangs of pain, and the birth of a 5-7-5 haiku; all in under 3 minutes. I remember writing the third line first and the poem fell in place, in reverse. The poem was triggered by the arrival of a migratory Osprey bird in Kenya that flew over 6,000 kilometers from Finland. The interesting thing is that it had a reference ring on its leg; and it got me thinking about the fate of migratory birds, and that of immigrants, what freedom to them looks beyond the borders that chain them, and the illusion of freedom. The bird died a few days later.


In your opinion, what is the future of African haiku?


Well, hard to tell but it definitely looks promising; poetry in general is increasingly becoming more appreciated in Africa and the world. For a long time, poetry has been confined to the lowest rung of the literary ladder. It’s changing – shrubs are becoming trees, and trees – a forest; and haikus are somewhere in this fecund literary forest.


How are we able to share about this haiku experience, with Kenya, and the world?

The BN experience? It’s been great. Well, I’ve never been long-listed for writing a three line 17 syllable poem; if it happens – like in this case, it means there is some truth that won’t go away, that makes a reader question or wonder. Besides that, being long listed alongside other poets means there is something that is both common to us and to the literary community. I cherish this experience because you hardly come by it; I mean poetry awards in this part of the world are few, not to mention poetry awards for haikus.





I am Andrew Herbert Omuna, a teacher by profession. My passion about arts has been evolving with changing times or state of mind at the time. I love film, writing, art and travelling. One of my poems; Ode to the yellow party, was published in the Best New African Poets 2016 anthology. I write most of the time when I feel there is some idea that sparks my desire to put something down on paper. And although these don’t come that often, when one comes, even the other ideas that have been kept in the back do come up during this creative moment. I also write as a way of speaking my mind on paper, given that most of the time is spent on observing what is around me. These moments help me create some path for hopefully publishing a collection one day.

My inclination to submit to the #Babishai2020 haiku award wasn’t abrupt. I had one time applied with a full poem, although it didn’t make it anywhere that time. When this opportunity availed itself again, I thought it better to try out with the haiku. I had never written any haiku before, but with the basics of a 5-7-5 format, I decided to take on the challenge. And because I first saw the call for submission on the night of 31st Dec 2019 – 1st Jan 2020, I knew I had to try something new and make this a year for writing more often, and if possible, compete.

After seeing the call for submission for the haiku, it was then about doing some research into what made a piece be called a haiku. Although there are regular and irregular forms of haikus, I stuck to the regular form of 5-7-5. On the days I saw the call (night of New Year 2019-2020) and when I wrote the haikus (night of 1st March 2020), it was about what I loved most and what I was going through at the moment. I was doing the night shift on those days and yet I also loved my sleep. This was the first haiku I actually wrote that night. It had to be something about sleep and the many pieces of advice I had heard about too much sleep. With the idea sorted, the rest was about making choice of words fit within the 5-7-5 format.

the morning rain falls

endlessly hugging thy sleep

frozen ideas die

by Andrew Omuna

The African haiku, as is with many other forms and genres of writing, might get swallowed up by the generalization of academic theories often formed for other kinds of “reading.” If the future for the African haiku is to blossom, I would like to see content revolving around our community. Relatability is very important. Although the origin might not be African, the uniqueness of our experiences, adaptability to the form, having more calls for haikus, could help create a role within the vast free form of poetry generally known by the greater African population.

I would think of creating an awareness drive with other poets, performers and writers, to challenge themselves by creating haikus as part of their works. Since majority of creative writers are more familiar with free verse poetry, getting into this space will create an extra experience of brief poetic forms. Publication of these haikus, whether in paper print or online would help push this experience to a global milestone. Lastly, since the haikus are brief, the chances of them accompanying other forms of media is great. Art pieces, outdoor displays, creative art classes can all lend a hand in pushing this experience to more people in Uganda and around the world.