Favourite titles

Favourite titles
Whether it is "Redefining literary techniques and devices", "Justifying Papua New Guinea Literature", or "Translating the Bible into Anuki", these offer valuable reading for the paperless student of literature, and indeed the best sort of literary entertainment you can get out of Papua New Guinea. Check them out either on Soaba's Storyboard or The Anuki Country Press.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Return of PPP and Gideon's Bible

A sight to behold at the Waigani Campus: the famous steps leading heavenwards.

Once, a long time ago, storyboard was listening to his class mates perform a song at their school’s assembly hall. The song they sang told the story of an adventurous young man going abroad and then returning home in his latter and grumpy years to catch himself reading Gideon’s Bible in his own study. This reflective type of storytelling would later become known as magical realism which writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez found fashionable. But it’s a good way of remembering things – particularly those that we regard as memorable.

Storyboard mentions this because as he walked to work recently at the Waigani Campus a young man stopped him and gave him a free copy of Gideon’s Bible. He suddenly remembered the song of his class mates in his younger days. Then as he continued his walk towards the University Bookshop a cover of a Papua Pocket Poets (PPP) series from the 60s and 70s caught his eye. Two wonderful things happening once all over again, thought storyboard and strolled over to his office.

So what’s the big deal about PPP and Gideon’s Bible?

The big deal is that literature is taking on many new shapes and forms. When we consider PPP and the Gideon version of the Bible we are looking at the phenomenon of sustenance and continuity, particularly of those literatures that are meant to last forever. But they are also allowed to take as many forms and shapes as they can in a given age. Sometimes they can get repeated over and over, particularly through the internet, someone somewhere along the line is bound to say, “Hey, that’s illegal. You are not allowed to write that because it was my idea in the first place.” But, those are some of the disappointments for some writers at one time or another.

Those disappointments brushed aside, we consider the format of any form of literature nowadays as overall important. When we look at the size of the Gideon Bible storyboard was given, it is small enough to be carried in one’s breast pocket. The size of a PPP collection of poetry is just about the same, only a little larger. But the good thing about both types of publication is that no matter how much time causes us to forget either one of them they are there all the same and they are bound to pop up at one time or another.

Both are fundamentally important necessities in the life of anyone who cares to read.

The Gideon Bible shapes and moulds a young mind to grow up strong and steady while PPP encourages that same mind to prosper creatively. Somewhere along the line there may be some conflict of interest developing. But what matter. They are both literature anyway. And it is nice to preserve them in the format that both assume.

Talking of preservation, and the phenomena of sustenance and continuity, Ulli Beier had handled this handsomely in the early 60s and 70s. He started a creative writing program that sought to preserve as much as encourage, sustain as much as become of itself a useful commodity if not utility in the classroom environment. The Gideon’s copy felt in the pockets would be as useful as the PPP scrap book brought into the classroom.

On the subject of sustenance and continuity there is a new kind of “face lift’ being done to the PPP series by the University Bookshop. The series will be revived with reprints of the old pocket books as much as new titles added to it. Of new titles, storyboard is aware of some good ones now being written with fresh experimentation in the areas of literary techniques and devices. Here storyboard has in mind poetries in the spirit of those being written by Lapieh Landu of Divine Word University; aside from looking at The Crocodile Prize, their authors could also consider the PPP series as handy material made available for the literature student.

Of the literary significance of the PPP series, what could be more tantalising than what Ulli Beier himself says as the founding father of this publication.

“When I accepted an appointment to the new University of Papua and New Guinea to teach literature, I vowed that I would not impose Eng-Lit on the students! My research showed that there was nothing available – especially in poetry. I found a collection of Malay folk-poetry, and a selection of verse from the Pacific area – both in German. I translated them into English, and these PANTUN and TAAROA became the first titles in the proposed series.

In 1967 I spoke to the University's preliminary year students who had expressed interest in studying literature as undergraduates. I issued them with a tape-recorder and instructed them to record, during their vacations, traditional poems and songs in their own languages,

As a result of this exercise, and translations into English, texts evolved as the basis for the first publications of Papua new Guinean poetry. These became part of the Papua Pocket Poets published from 1967. From the series' over fifty titles, we have selected a representative list including poetry from Indonesia, India, Nigeria, Aboriginal Australia, the Pacific as well as Papua New Guinea.”

That commentary will be included as an introduction to every volume of the PPP series reprinted. There are just about 40 titles that are to be reprinted, among them Kasaipwalova’s “Reluctant Flame” and “Hanuada” and the most colorful of folk poetry collections like "Aia" by Allan Natachee and "Warbat: Tolai Love Songs" by Apisai Enos. The new titles will carry similar commentaries depending on who does the compiling and editing.

But, delicate reader, you can probably see storyboard’s point here. Let’s go for that pocket-sized book. It matches perfectly with the bank card in the bilums that we dive for every fortnight.  



Tom said...

Hello, my name is Tom. Your blog is very interesting and I love it! Too bad Australia beat PNG in rugby league but those big hits from your team were awesome! Please visit and comment on my blog at

The Anuki Country Press said...

Thanks, Tom. I had a look at your blog and it looks cool. Send me some poems. You know, those gallant types; like the ones about how the Kumuls finally got round to beating the Aussies...