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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.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Too much sugar and alcohol

Talk about having “the poetic licence to write”.

For writers that slogan can lead to a lot of trouble in a lifetime.

Those troubles begin with success stories and develop into creating new rules and laws for oneself and then, on the pretext of avoiding the paparazzi, succumbing finally to the dismal after effects of severe self-imposed seclusion or exile if not self-inflicted pangs of sugar and alcohol. 

Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? But that is precisely what every aspiring writer wants to become, eventually.

Give a Papua New Guinea writer a million US dollars in prize money and what do we have? A very lonely individual who’s escaped God knows what in his home country and he’s in Europe or South America somewhere having forgotten all about his tribes and clans and relatives.

Turn the coin and you are looking at the life of a celebrity in a larger culture like the US, for example. Notice how striking the similarities are. The equation remains as simple as can be: first, the desire to write; second, the will to become famous, rich and secure; and finally, the inevitable downhill regress.

Question to ask now is: “Is Papua New Guinea really free of these pitfalls that come to us from other cultures?” Thank God not one single Papua New Guinean writer has become a millionaire yet.  If that happened our entire perspective of the world outside would be different.

But going through that mathematical equation again points to certain factors that we must be aware of as writers.

First, there is the general rule of having “the poetic licence to write.” This means, simply, that we can break as many rules as we like in order to write, publish and become rich and famous. We cannot do so by following each rule in writing step by step. That can prove time-consuming for some.

But the enormous pitfall to this rushes up suddenly to meet us the moment we start breaking rules. In poetry, for example, we see this uncanny habit as not sticking to the rules of rhyme, rhythm and precision. Each line of poetry ought to be carefully planned and executed so that you could put those same words into song and sing them quite easily. Breaking rules denotes writing what is regarded as “free verse” or “free style.” Alleluia, that’s where some of the troubles begin. And off we go, breaking as many rules as we can, and who cares what professor so and so in English says about grammar. The important thing is that we see our names in print, we become well known, and of course we have a fat bank account. Alleluia again, because we give ourselves that “poetic licence” to do so.

The pitfall to this is the amount of material reward we get.

And the worst consequence of it all is when we break rules in order to create new ones for ourselves. We become the master of our own craft. And we can remain on top of the world for as long as we take great care of ourselves physically. Creating own rules denotes inventing new ethics and morals and a writer has the talent and ability to do that. What the society does is willingly or otherwise follow the whims of that writer.

And then we look at the second facet of this idea of breaking rules and creating new ones. Here, we look closely at what fame and fortune can do to us. The more followers we have the more money there is added as profit to our sense of creativity. So we celebrate. And in the process of celebrating we wake up one morning to discover that we have consumed too much. Too much sugar and alcohol? Exactly our point here.

The third and final facet of all this is the decline to nonentity and total oblivion. If we have not been careful with our lives, our talents and successes, our wealth and moment of fame, then the fall from grace becomes inevitable. Self-doubt, lack of acknowledgement, belief and trust in a deity of individual choice that redeems, forgives and saves – these become the order of our day.

Storyboard sometimes feels saddened by events that surround this last point. We can, as writers, become so famous and rich that nothing else besides may matter. We may command others to do things to our bidding. And when we do someone a bad turn there is no need to apologize. We make ourselves become invincible that way. And invincible things often turn out to be self-destructive; so much so there is no turning back. He who pays calls the tune, goes the old proverb. So we call the tune, we party, we drink and make ourselves merry. Too much sugar and alcohol, eh? We succumb to our own downfall at will.

There is, however, a way out of this. And that is when we regard our own moments of creativity seriously. All our sense of creativity is awe-inspired, and it comes not from within but from outside. We are no longer the custodians of our own creativity. We become vessels through which some external power needs to express itself. And if we take all our writing as such in totality then it is true we are safe.

A writer in society is like a captain of a sailing vessel. He must consciously be aware of how to sail that ship despite rough waters. Last week we read about the plight of those on mv Rabaul Queen. Storyboard could not help associating that experience with his own life, which had been unsparingly cruel and punishing, along with the quieter, calmer experiences of those Anglicans of long ago who sailed these same waters where the disaster struck.

Bishop David Hand, in his autobiography, Modawa, wrote about his own experience on this particular stretch of water.

“...in my trawler St Lawrence, which Bishop Strong had spared for me through the Papuan mission, we took two days and two nights to do the normally 13-hour run from Arawe to Dregerhafen in March in a mountainous sea with visibility nil. Everybody aboard was flat out except my magnificent and dependable Stan Wesley, our skipper, who held the wheel himself for almost all the way. As we cruised into the calm water of Dreger Harbour I said, “God bless you, Stan. Were you frightened?” And he said, “No, Father Bishop. I had committed the boat into the hands of God and his holy angels, so I knew all would be well.”

The southerly drift of the Solomon Sea rebounds from East Cape and the Rabaraba/Cape Vogel Basin causing a formidable apex just off the coast of northern Momase. One has to read the anger of the waves with humility there in order to surf through. Bishop David’s skipper was from the Wereura Rabaraba area where the sea is quite often deep blue and serene looking, but perilously vicious in February and March.

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