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Dear Jade

To Jade Amoli-Jackson, author of Moving a Country.

Dear Jade,

Congratulations on the publication of your collection of poems called Moving a Country. I want to encourage lots of people to buy it (click on the link to go to Amazon!)

51 Moving Country

Your poetry (and your involvement in your play Souvenirs) demonstrate the power of words. The power of words to help heal and the power of words to tell other people about other lives. I looked at video clips of you and other members of the Freedom from Torture Write to Life group here speaking about the value of writing – ‘I would have run mad,’ you say, without the writing.

No one leaves her home unless she is running away from something or someone has driven her away. I am telling you. I have first hand experience of that. (pxi)

With these words you begin your introduction, My Painful Journey, to your collection, Moving a Country. You write about your childhood, family and life in Uganda. Your good life, with your husband and three children changed with a new government in 1985. First he was taken and killed, then your father and twin sister both died, your children were abducted and finally you too were taken.

It is wise to be good to people even if they are not related to you; that’s why I am still alive. (pxiii)

Your were helped to escape and came to London, were given leave to remain and have since become a UK citizen. You were assisted by the Medical Foundation, and now in turn you volunteer at the Refugee Council.

In the first section in Moving a Country you look back affectionately to lives connected to your past in Uganda. The second section looks at your flight and troubled times in Uganda. I found this section very dark, hard to read. I can’t imagine the pain associated with the poem Gone within a Second, a cry in darkness for your missing children. Others refer to the everyday losses: food, drink, clothes, transport, language. The title poem is eloquent about the loss that you experienced on moving country and about the memories that persist. The first verse is …

Moving a Country

Move the evergreen trees
Meandering rivers
Lakes and seas
Wild and domestic animals
Birds of all sizes
Pack them all up
Place in the suitcase of my brain

In this poem I like the way you present some of the things that go to make a country, the impossibility of transporting them, and then you shift suddenly to tell us you have them in your head. The following verses become more powerful and more moving as they refer to your life and people you loved in your country. In the remaining sections your poems reveal how fragile a person’s survival can be and how torture undermines self-respect as well as inflicting physical damage. Yet you are generous, even when you had so little, and readily acknowledge the assistance you received from organisations and individuals, such as your writing mentor and editor Lucy Popescu.

You have written that story-telling helps heal and rebuild lives. For readers, your writing helps us understand a life that has been very different to our own. I have been moved by your poems. And amused by some. I laughed out loud at the poem English Ladies, and the one you read in the Tate – Marriage proposal with a shaky start.

I said in my last post that I don’t blog about poetry and then in the very next posting the subject is poetry. But it is important that people write poetry. And important that they read and know the things of which you write, to understand that people are being treated in despicable ways. And this knowing brings an obligation to do something. In my case, I support Freedom from Torture and I write about your writing to encourage others to read it. Your voice should be heard.

Whenever I have met you, Jade, you have greeted me with friendliness and warmth and I have seen you laughing and smiling with your friends. This post is a tribute to your spirit and is written with very best wishes for your future in writing, and in your life.


This post is about a collection called Moving a Country by Jade Amoli-Jackson. She is a member of Freedom from Torture’s Write to Life Group and performed in the group’s play, Souvenirs. Catriona Troth blogged about the launch in June of Moving a Country here.

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