Clarisse had the idea of writing poems...
Come rain, hail or shine, having a goal and a passion, combined with hard work, can help you achieve your dreams. This is how Clarisse has lived her life, despite not being able to see. Today she is a poet who has won numerous competitions with her spoken words. We chatted with this Ni Nyampinga, and she shared where her talent comes from and how it has impacted her life.
When we visited Clarisse, we found her at home in Ndera. We were warmly welcomed by Clarisse and her friend Anisia who is also blind. They were wearing sunglasses and holding white canes in their hands.
Clarisse, who is 29 years old, had the idea of writing poems when she was at high school. On the day of the school’s anniversary, she heard a wonderful poem which ignited her passion for poetry.
But even before starting to write poems, Clarisse has always cared about helping people who are grieving, especially her friends who would confide in her. “My friends often shared their sorrows with me but I didn’t know how to comfort them. Later, I realised that writing poems could help me share a message of healing,” she said.
One day, Clarisse recalls, a friend shared the challenges she faces as someone whose legs have been amputated. Clarisse decided to write a poem for her, reminding her that she is loved, and that her future is bright. The poem made her friend very happy and she no longer felt alone. From that time on, Clarisse understood that her poems could be a source of healing.
Clarisse’s passion for poetry has only increased. Even when she is sleeping she will get inspiration for a new poem. She is most creative when she is in a quiet place. Once she has the words, she types them out using a Perkins Brailler - a machine used by blind people that types with small nail-like materials that pierce the paper. Although printing her work can be a challenge because she does not own a Braille printer, Clarisse has overcome this by working with a school for the blind in Masaka. The school has the right tools and she can borrow a machine to print her work when she needs.
Clarisse told Ni Nyampinga that she has not only faced the problem of printing, but also discrimination from those who don’t value her and think she won't amount to anything. Some people, she said, don’t even believe that she is the composer of her poems. But these challenges haven’t stopped her from following her passion.
Clarisse, who has completed a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology at the University of Rwanda, told Ni Nyampinga that studying psychology has helped her to identify topics to write about. She first observes what people are going through, and then knows what message to give them. Clarisse, who has reached an advanced level in writing poetry, shared with us the source of her motivation: “When I started to develop my talent, my purpose was to spread a message of solace. I live with my parents and they encourage me to never give up on my dreams.”
Clarisse’s friend Anisia has also been inspired by the poems. Telling us how they have helped her to develop her musical talent, Anisia says she now sings in public. Clarisse was and remains her role model.
“I have achieved a lot in writing and presenting my poems, including building self-confidence,” Clarisse says.
Today, she shares her poetry in different ceremonies such as weddings, which has helped her earn an income. Clarisse says she is also proud of her success in different poetry competitions, including one organised by La Benevolencija, a non-profit organisation that works to promote unity and non-violence in society, and raise awareness about the importance of equal justice and empathy. After the judging process, 20 poems made the finals, and Clarisse’s topped the list!
Clarisse says she enjoys poetry so much because it helps make her feel calm: “It helps me to relax. For instance, when I am not feeling well I write a few lines and suddenly I feel much better.”
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