Mulumba’s first poetry collection is relatively an easy read. Comprising 51 poems on 58 pages, it’s separated into 5 sections; Rhythm and Rhymes, Cakes and Candles, Riddles of Fortune, Thorns and Roses and Gospel Truth.
In Rhythm and Rhymes, he covers different areas of social life, its vices and virtues and where the lines are too thin to see a difference. In Letter to the Pontiff, I feel Mulumba was at his most candid, most honest and most artistic in the entire collection. It’s not so much the rhyme as the symbols he picks on in this poem to relay one Priest’s struggle with priesthood. Phrases like
“…academy of celibacy
has kept me alive in faith
but dead to the world…”
after which he makes a strong point and says
“Food is aplenty
and so is my flesh” noting the struggle he faces in his existence that should be heavenly but is presently carnal.
In “Musambwa and the Moon” he tackles the old age stories of mermaids in Buganda culture in three short but impeccable stanzas showing poetry is indeed about economy of words.
There are many other poems he pens that talk about unexpected topics like sports, secondary school “sosh”and then more common aspects like history, culture and more. He is very bold when he pens down “Groans from the cathedral” in which he recounts the a murder/rape scene in a cathedral.
In “Cakes and Candles” Mulumba seems to be celebrating particular people. It’s the shortest section with four poems.
In Riddles of Fortune he continues his social commentaries on different topics like the government, war, poverty, alcohol. However I feel he best expresses his art in “Thorns and Roses” which is a section dedicated to love and sex. His imagination and craft seems to get a high when he talks about this particular topic. In poems like “Odyssey”, “Memories”, Symphony from the shadows”, his poetry becomes more vivid. (Either that or my imagination seems to go on a tangent). In my opinion it is his most intriguing exploit because when he sums up with the section “Gospel Truth” you get the feeling it is more like an ordinance rather than an expression of real tribute.
And that’s part of my criticism. In his more thrilling poems, Mulumba seems to be himself because you can identify with what he’s talking about. His images makes sense, his sentence structure too. It doesn’t seem belabored like some poems where he might have chosen a theme and decided to write about it.
Secondly, I feel that he uses inverted sentences a little too often. Phrases like “At the sinking sun I gaze”, “Inside me fear kindled”, “Traffic policemen in the shadows stand” etc. Not every poem has them but a lot of them do, and the more I came across them the more I felt that Mulumba was not being as creative as he really is.
Nonetheless, I commend Mulumba on this first collection. There’s a lot of poetic device one can enjoy in the collection.