Nick Makoha

Nick Makoha (b. 1974, Lumino, Uganda) fled Uganda’s civil war and Idi Amin’s tyranny as a boy. The childhood hobby of poetry became a sense of vocation when he completed a degree in Biochemistry in the UK. On daring to quit his London nine-to-five banking job, he set fire to his suits: ‘I did this to remind me that I did not want an easy way back. I wanted to give my all to the art of writing.’

The poet Kwame Dawes, teaching at Arvon, first made him feel like a poet: ‘He asked me, ‘What type of poet do you want to be; one that obscures or one that reveals?’ Till then I felt like I was treading water but after that conversation I was aware of a burning purpose forming inside of me.’ That purpose is manifest in Kingdom of Gravity, a searing, mysterious contemplation of exile, fatherhood and violence.

His advice to young poets is advice that he has himself received and found helpful: ‘Poetry works best when you serve it daily with reading, writing and conversation. Read what you like, read what you don’t like, read what you know and read what confuses you.’

Forward Prizes History:

  • 2017 Forward Prizes for Best First Collection, shortlisted for Kingdom of Gravity (Peepal Tree Press)