How Lit Goes: Passion Pays!

Before there was the pen, there was the brush

At first, writing was not really a task that would take me a long time; rather, drawing would.

From primary school to the 10th grade, I was addicted to drawing.

I loved art so much that my elder brothers and sisters used to tell me that I would end up dropping out of school or failing out.

Unfortunately, in fall 2010, I was forced to stop drawing (even though it was my passion and I had planned to pursue my studies in a school of art in order to become a good painter).

I didn’t fall in love with writing until 2011.

And then a poet was born

I was in the 3rd form of art (in other words, 11th grade in secondary school)., however, I remember that I had been inspired to write poetry someday after we were taught a French poem in 7th grade.

The poem was called “Le Souffle des Ancêtres” (“The Breath the Ancestors”) by Birago Diop, a Senegalese writer and poet.

I took my plum and started writing my very first verses that year.

After I fell in love with writing, my priorities shifted.

I started devoting my time to researching new vocabulary and reading borrowed books from my school’s library.

Photo by Daian Gan

I discovered that music was a highly effective muse (as I was a dancer). Instead of being a theater actor, I had performed during the intermissions of shows and plays.

Then in 2014, I took part in a national competition for composing pieces of theater in English. It was organized by the Ministry of Education, High Teaching and Scientific Research (as it was called at the time).

I wrote a play that depicted the violence against women in my culture and our parent-focused marriage traditions (which formerly didn’t allow children to choose their life-partners). I therefore included some of my poems I had written.

I was selected among the five best laureates who were awarded on July 3rd, 2014.

I concluded that passion pays, so I kept on writing.

Photo by Javon Swaby

I dreamed in verse

Growing up in a place where reading and writing opportunities were slim, remaining motivated wasn’t really easy, but I kept the fire burning.

My dream was to publish my own book one day.

At the end of my secondary studies in 2014, I was waiting to start my studies at the university. I used my extra downtime to continue writing and decided to concentrate more on poetry.

By the time I started my studies at the University of Burundi in the Institute for the Applied Pedagogy, I had written a good number of poems.

I endeavored to write more and more in the hope of becoming a worldwide African poet like Birago Diop and Bernard Binlin Dadié (my favorite poets). These poets remain my role models to this day.

In 2017, I got the idea to make my first collection of French poems. I wanted to publish it internationally.

It was not an easy task; however, I didn’t miss an opportunity to hope.

One day, after class, I asked my American Literature Professor, Dr Thérèse Toyl about the procedures of writing a book and getting published (my teacher had published her works in the USA).

How do you write your poems?” she asked me.

I replied that I used my blue pen and wrote on A4 papers.  She advised me, therefore, to copy all my poems in one copybook to keep them safe.

If it happens that you accidently pass away before your book is published,” she added, “your poems, if they are safely kept, can be published by your children or your friends or even other persons who may be interested in your poetry”.

I took her recommendation into account. Her advice was like that of a mother talking to her own son.

Devoted to the page

Photo by cottonbro

Considering the advice from my professors, every day after class when there were no assignments or work to revise, I locked myself in my bedroom and started copying all my poems and other works (pieces of theater and essays) that I wrote (in French and English). At the end, I had filled two copybooks of around 100 papers.

When it was time to type my French poems on a computer (to arrange and correct them), before sending them to a publishing house. It was not easy to get a computer (I didn’t have my own).

I started typing my poems every evening after my classes and during the weekends at home locked in my room to avoid disturbance. In two weeks, I had finished typing all my 65 French poems composed between 2011 and 2017.

Bound for success

Though writing is tiresome, it was not as difficult as getting proofreaders.

I followed the guidelines from my professor at the university and all required procedures to write a book. After addressing my correspondence to another professor from the University of Burundi, asking her to help me with correcting my poems, she accepted.

I accept to correct you because it is in my everyday task, but I don’t want my name to appear in your book’s pages.”

I was very happy to hear such kind words from that professor after asking so many people who declined because they did not have the time. When we met and discussed the correction process, she urged me to print my poems and give them to her.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

She corrected my work twice and provided me with some hints to create a better collection of poems. I worked on the poems for around three months before sending the file to the publishing house.

Fortune finally struck

Looking for a publishing house was a headache.

First of all, in Burundi, there is only a single publishing house officially and internationally known that can provide the International Book Number (ISBN).

I had to do research on the internet. I started doing so and some would send the invoice through email with around 1500 USD and 2000 USD to pay as publishing and edition fees. It was really hard on me. I only had a monthly stipend of 30,000 BIF (almost 10 USD) which I used for displacement and buying school materials, and other expenses.

As I had the habit of posting my poems on my Facebook account and page daily or at least weekly, I asked to join the group of poets called “I.P. I Des poètes comme nous” (I.P.I Poets like us). Suddenly, after my request was approved, I posted my first poem in the group.

Photo by Brett Jordan

After, they liked and commented on my posts, I saw a sudden message on Messenger from an Italian editor.

I have been scrolling your Facebook profile and I have seen many poems. How can I help you? I can publish you here in Italy and all over the world.”

His message was like my redemption.

After reading it, I bounced on my bed!

We chatted until 2:00 AM bargaining on the amount I would pay him. He started from 450€ and reduced down to 150€ as I explained to him that I was still a student. Though I hadn’t that sum in my pocket, I accepted.

Since that day onward, I started look for supporters.

Some people didn’t understand why I was looking for support to publish my book. After a time without getting any support, I reached out to the University of Burundi.  The university welcomed me as a parent would welcome his lovely child.

Thanks to the univeristy’s great financial support, that of CRDS (Centre de Recherche en Didactique des disciplines et des Sciences), and the support from my former classmates, my friends, and acquaintances, I paid the publication fees for my book.

On March 29, 2019 the University of Burundi awarded me “A Certificate of Merit” in recognition of my publication. I am still grateful for that unforgettable award and the support.

And still I dream on

Given that writing has been my daily task, I can assume that even my current job as a journalist is the consequence of my publication. Despite all the challenges I faced, I managed to overcome.

So I leave you with this,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.