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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.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Poems from the Crocodile Literary Competition

Photos courtesy of Ketsin Robert and Storyboard.
The 2011 Crocodile Literary Prize Competition recorded 178 entries in its poetry section. All of them represent the enormous amount of potential Papua New Guinea has in producing the best in poetry.

The themes of these poems range from custom and traditions or pasin, patriotism, heroism, self-assertion and appraisal to love, life, death, gender issues, environmental concerns, freedom of speech, conflict and resolution. Some are mildly told, others with great passion and pride. But they all represent a new generation of writers whose ages range from 11 to 35. Of a milder piece is a poem by the 11 year-old Nemora Poawai, simply titled as Poem:

I have a mother, do you?
That’s great that you have one too
I would have no other than to have her as a mother
We talk to each other from day to night
She’s like a big light
That shows me the way day and night
That’s why I love her and because she cares about me.
Then there are those that revolve around the subject of freedom of speech, a topic many writers become vocal about, such as this poem by Nini Costigan:
Freedom of Speech
How can I be free of me
When I'm not seeing what am really I
How can I salvage sanity
When I fight the one I cannot see
How can I blame insanity
When all is my; is my stupidity

All good poems are usually simply written and it is a good critic who manages a clear explanation of them so that others less familiar with this particular genre in creative literature will be able to decipher their meaning. Thus, the subject of freedom of speech as seen above: the persona feels gagged somewhat in that struggle to achieve self-expression. It is as if the persona feels the need to express a sentiment, but is inhibited by the self that ties the bond of imprisoning. Can the poem be about a society, a community of people, which might be finding it hard to express itself? Perhaps. But the poet’s duty is to witness that particular moment of metaphorical “imprisonment” which could be seen as self-censure even imposed use of control on freedom of speech. As we read the poem we feel we are struggling with the persona to express ourselves, and as it is always with us human beings there is the tendency to blame something else for that moment of struggle.
Some more good poems were found in this section of the competition. There were those that talked about loss and hope of salvation, such as the poem Lost Island by Gelab Piak, part of which is represented as follows:

We are like those locked in rooms
Crying, praying: all hope lost
Not knowing where we are
We are all around you
We cry to you, begging you to find us
All we ask is for someone to comfort and love us
Or we’ll fall deep into the arms of a vast
Blue ocean of loneliness
Kissed by the waves of anxiety
Like a lost island
Then there is a poem that actually promises hope and the will to return to one’s origins as Lapieh Landu’s I Will Return illustrates. It is a little too long to be printed here but the part that is cited sums up the main theme of the poem.

I cannot return now
For a distance I have travelled
To see this promised land
That dim dim had painted
Where knowledge was endless
And happiness so infinite
I wave goodbye to you
My home
There are so many other good examples in this section of the competition that we could cite here spacing permitting. But perhaps it is best we end up citing parts of those expressing some of the habits relished by the present generation, like the poem by Martyn Namorong titled Mobile Phones.
I love the jokes
Sent by sick folks
They are clean and dirty
And always witty

I hate chain messages
Coz they’re outrageous
Totally meaningless
And downright useless

The above poems and so many others are currently being viewed by the judges and the winning entries will be announced on the 15th September as part of the Independence celebrations. There will be a prize giving ceremony observed immediately after a workshop where the competitors will be introduced, and there is also word doing the rounds that this is going to be one of the prestigious literary competitions ever held in the country.    

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