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.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

71 Father of the Man

Dedicated to the memory of all those who perished on MV Rabaul Queen in February 2012

By Ge Abolo

The land, the sea, and the sky are swathed in deep orange. The sun is on its final leg of descent as the boy finds him sitting on the beach - legs crossed, arms folded in front, staring blankly at the  masterwork. He sits down quietly next to him.
They stay like this for long moments; watching the spectacle, not speaking.
 “I should have gone with her,” he whispers. The boy turns to him, then turns back to look over the sea.
“I should never have let go of her hand,”
“I think they’re dancing and singing now; just there, on the water’s edge,” the boy pipes up.
“The angels. They are dancing - right there where the sea meets the sky.”  The boy picks up a small driftwood branch close by and points it at the descending glorious sun.
“Hmmff.”  He scoffs then falls silent, ignoring the boy.
The child continues, unperturbed by the condescending reaction from his companion. “They like beautiful lights, like sunset light, because their bodies are made only of lights.” 
They both fall silent, each in their own train of thought.
Minutes go by. Out on the reef’s end, the surf is breaking softly, signalling the changing tide. The scorched reef - a good three quarters of a football field - is caught in the kaleidoscopic lights, bringing momentarily to life its corals and rocks and whatever else that is now exposed. The white-sandy beach is bathed pink as it continues unbroken down the south coast of the island. The minutes go by.
He comes to and shakes his head. “I should never have let go of her hand, should not have, never have…..But everything was happening all at once, so very fast.”
 “Three big ones hit us, one upon another too quickly. Suddenly, we were going down into the water – people, cargo, everything! It was very, very rough. She was saying a prayer as I reached for her hand and still saying the prayer when we jumped,”  he pauses for breath.
The boy stares at him, daring not to move a muscle, lest he change his mind and stop talking again.
“The rain was pouring down heavily and the wind ….  kept on crashing, one huge wave onto another.  She was still in my hand as we surfaced, but not for long; another big wave swallowed us, and when we surfaced again, I realised she wasn’t with me.
A pause.
“I don’t know what happened, why her hand wasn’t in mine anymore. I tried to find her but…,” he trails off, his voice cracking at the seams but he successfully finds the handle and steadies it.
He shakes his head.
“I couldn’t find her.  It was just too rough, too much panic and confusion, and the dawn light wasn’t good. There were many, many others too; the rescuers just couldn’t find them.  And they spent days searching.”
He falls silent eventually.  The boy waits for more, but nothing else issues.
Out over the sea, the perfectly-round luminous sun has dropped onto the horizon, rendering the world the deepest crimson and still and dreamlike. The boy stares, enthralled; even he pauses in his faraway thoughts and pays some attention. They watch as the sun drops past the water line. 
“They are very strong. I don’t think the wind and rain would have stopped them,” the boy says finally, looking up into the sky.
He glances with some confusion at the boy. “Who?” 
“The angels. Mum’s angel and the angels for all those other people.”
“Why do you keep saying that, Daddy?!” The child turns to him with open bafflement and a touch of exasperation, and as their eyes meet, a flash of memory crosses his mind. The man sees himself at home - at another time; a lifetime almost - his head bowed in prayer, his wife and son with him. He looks away across the sea, shamefaced but not really caring either.
“They would have flown straight down and picked them up, then flown up again… to Heaven.” The child continues quietly.
A minute goes by.
“I should never have let go of her hand,” he whispers again.
The boy turns and stares at him for a while. Then turns and picks up the driftwood again and starts digging the sand beside him.  Refusing to look up, he mutters:  “That’s all you ever say!” 
“You never say anything but that! Ever since you came back.  Just now, you said some things, but I know when we go back to the house, you’ll just sit there and whisper that same thing over and over.”
The father stares - immobilised, tongue tied.
“You don’t piggyback me anymore. Or hold my hand. You don’t even call me by my name.” The white driftwood now turns into a full earth-drill flying up sand as one thrust becomes more pronounced than the last.
“I know you are very sad because Mummy isn’t here. I am too, Daddy.” The child’s little voice breaks so dangerously he almost loses it, but with visible willpower beyond his years, he steers it back on course. The driftwood drill, however, keeps its onslaught.
“She is gone and it’s like you are gone too! I see you but it’s like you are not there too! You just sit there …. I am waiting for you to call me but you don’t even call me!”
He notices his son sitting there, on the sand next to him, really notices him this time – his little frame, how his small shoulders have drooped, his bowed head, the little right hand clasping and driving the stick – and he realises the last time he looked at his son this way was some six months ago, when he and his wife were farewelling the boy and his grandmother at the Buka wharf before they boarded the ship for Rabaul. He realises the boy sitting next to him looks different from the child he farewelled; this one looks older and weary and very sorrowful. Suddenly, something akin to lightning or an electric shock cuts across the pit of his stomach and he feels a familiar tightening around his throat.
“Why don’t you call for me anymore, Daddy?,” the driftwood takes its most violent plunge and stops erect  like a dead mini tree stump as the first sob escapes from the little body.
He can’t take it anymore. The lightning has forked and re-forked by the hundreds inside of him, he feels his stomach filling and heaving with torrents of grief and remorse and sorrow, the flood pushing mightily against his already-constricted throat. His eyes burn with boiling tears.
“Oh, Joshua!”
He lunges for his little boy and crushes him to his chest as the first wave of violent sobs, guttural and from some hidden place beyond his stomach, slams into his body. The sobs come, wave upon tumultuous wave, ferocious and furious and uncontrollable. He lets himself go to the mercy of his storm, allowing it to burst forth, rage forward, to roar freely. On and on the tempest rages, as he clings onto his little boy until, finally, the gale abates and, soaked and exhausted, they settle into a slow-rocking, hugging, sniffling cove.
He looks up at last, wipes his face, then his son’s. On the boy’s face, he lingers - touching this gently, wiping that softly as he peers into his only child’s visage.
“Josh.u.a.” He lets the name roll over his tongue, syllable by syllable, so deliberately that he feels another tide of emotion well up and his eyes blur again.
Through his tears, he picks up his son’s hand. The palm is purplish and the young skin tender from the violence of the digging. He holds it to the left side of his chest and, still searching the little face, feels his heart rise to his mouth. “I promise never ever to let this one go.” The tears drop and he lets them.
Then he turns his son around, sits him on his lap and draws him to his chest. They stare out over the blackening sea.
 “Do you think I have my own angel too?”  he asks after a while.
“Yes. Mummy said everyone has their own angel. You have yours too.”
He looks up into the night sky, lost momentarily in a faraway thought.
“Do you think Mummy is up there?”
“Yes, Daddy.”
A pause, but only the smallest one this time.
“Thank you, Joshua.”
“For giving me your hand.”
“What’s that mean, Daddy?”
“Someday - when you’re older - I’ll explain it to you.”
Up in the sky, the stars burst forth, in unison and in such multitudes that it seemed someone had just sprinkled the sky with twinkling, sparkling dust for a show. He closes his eyes and inhales the salty sea air deep into his lungs.
 “It will be a bright, sunny day tomorrow; a good day,” he says.
Then he whispers into his son’s ear. “Are you hungry?”
Joshua nods.
“Then, time we went in.”
They get up and, without another word Adam hoists his son onto his back and piggybacks him up Kesa Beach toward home as the sea lays quiet and docile beside them.

 This short story by Ge Abolo was ranked number 71 when it was first entered in the 2012 Crocodile Literary Competition and worked its way up in popularity and the judges findings to number 3 by the close of that competition.

Storyboard likes this story because of its Heminwayan and Raymond Carverish appeal in subject matter, on a February 2012 Papua New Guinean tragedy that cost hundreds of lives. The events talked about in this story are true.

Ge Abolo is the pseudonym of a talented writer known to the Crocodile Literary camp, to Storyboard, Steven Winduo and many other well respected PNG writers. She appears under a pseudonym here due to reasons quite justifiable to us in many respects.

Friday, 21 September 2012

When ignorance is bliss: poetry, trolls, toads and the curse of anonymity

Margaret Daure... taking the Writers' Forum to the higher stations of creativity.
Man is a creative being.

Creativity is his birthright.

But that claim of birthright needs to be justified somewhat so he creates a certain field of academic discipline known as literature. Literature then becomes a worthy preoccupation enabling man to undertake much research into that area of creativity in order to justify his existence as a creative being. In addition to literature he creates other disciplines of study such as Philosophy, History, Psychology, Mathematics and the pure and applied sciences.

Everything done in the discipline of literature is purely imaginative. Thus, the use of the word fiction. Nothing of what is done in fiction is true or factual. But that activity alone strikes us as fascinating because it contains a certain amount of truth about humanity that cannot readily be denied or brushed aside as false.

The study of literature also helps us improve our own sense of viewing things around us. We may read about a fictitious character whose examples as a hero we would like to follow, for example. He may be a role model in one way or another and in following him we improve ourselves as human beings.

Literature also helps us develop a conscience for ourselves. Notable scholars of literature sometimes refer to this notion of conscience as developing “a faculty of judgment” for ourselves. We empower ourselves with the ability to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.

Yet despite all this creative or imaginative activity there is this impeding phenomenon of us not being able to tell the difference between fact and fiction sometimes! When is fiction “fiction” and fact “fact”? Some critics refer to this notion as distinguishing form and content. Everything about literature revolves around just those two entities: form and content. Both are inseparable according to our literary experts, as inseparable as W.B. Yeats’ rhetoric utterance: “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

Literature also, in the final analysis, forms the basis of a people’s culture. So then, as Papua New Guineans, whatever it is that we write must reflect the culture that we represent. You probably heard of the phrase, “A writer is the product of his society”.

The above are the seven basic points about literature. These are viewed as standard attempts at defining what literature is at schools and universities throughout the world. It is imperative that a literature student becomes aware of these seven points of literature before embarking on serious study and research of the discipline. To all our writers these points also serve as important tools to keep in mind when setting out to write poems, short stories, essays and plays.

All these points are important for us to consider as they help us to strive for those higher stations of achievement in creativity. This has been the topic of my talk at our Crocodile Literary workshop observed at the Australian High Commission on Tuesday, 11th September 2012. Although the main theme of the talk was intended to be on the trolls, toads and the curse of anonymity in creative literature, I have decided against letting the real trolls and toads of PNG literature become the cause of distraction in our main objective – which was to seriously ensure that the whole workshop was a success as a prelude to the presentation of the Crocodile Literary Prizes which would ensue the following evening.

But regarding the “trolls” and “toads” we are glad that our colleagues of writing particularly those at the Writers’ Forum of the National Weekender have improved tremendously over the last seven months or so, under the tutelage of Margaret Daure, the editor of the National Weekender. The forum is now no longer flooded with pseudonyms (the trolls, the toads, the mean pseudonyms) but with people who are genuinely interested in writing the best as part of Papua New Guinea literature.

Under Daure’s mentorship each poem submitted for publication in that forum is carefully edited with room for improvement for her contributors, among them David Soroda, David Kumbako, Daniel Sakumai, P. Naringi and others. Although traces of plagiarism are still apparent as unwanted insertions here and there, Margaret Daure takes every step necessary to carefully mentor each of her poets. Each poem that finally appears in print shows evidence of a master craftsman at work, in shaping and moulding each word, each turn of phrase, each stanza; in chiselling and honing them, as it were, until the result we see is something closer to excellence in creativity.

We commend Margaret Daure for the good work she does for her poets. Writers from the Milne Bay Province will certainly be proud to learn that Margaret comes from Duria Village, in the Ahioma area. Good on you, editor.


Monday, 17 September 2012


 This year’s list of the Crocodile Literature Competition Prizes amazes as much as ever.

Two writers from the Rabaraba district, themselves Baniaras, continue to fascinate their followers from that part of the Milne Bay Province in being part of the proactive group of writers that constitute the prestigious Crocodile Literary Camp.

They are Imelda Yabara of Mukawa village and Russell Soaba of Tototo.

Since 2005 the former had vowed not only to emulate her senior colleague and compatriot in PNG literature but to surpass him by aspiring to the higher stations of perfection in creative literature. And kept her word she did.

Imelda Yabara becomes this year’s winner of the Ok Tedi Mining Prize for Women's Literature (Dame Carol Kidu Award) for her short story, My Name is Sandy and her poems In Bed with Me and Way Out of Reach.

Already her followers and relatives alike in her part of the Milne Bay Province were celebrating in tune to the mood of the nation’s 37th Anniversary Independence festivities with that win. Words of congratulations came from Rabaraba and Baniara, including followers and relatives in Australia.

The Anuki Country Press now further congratulates Imelda Yabara’s win, along with Russell Soaba’s award from the British and American Tobacco (PNG) for “a lifetime achievement in Papua New Guinea literature”.


Monday, 3 September 2012


Tuesday, 28th August, 2012.

Rose-Anne Wendy Soaba was laid down to rest.

She was 6 months old, still-born. A tragic moment for the Soaba family.

What is it in the way of losses for which we do not wish to seek answers? O sorrow, deep sadness!
Rose-Anne, Rose-Anne Wendy, a grand daughter to-be. 

                May her soul rest in peace.