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.

Sunday, 21 September 2014


The joy of feeling poetic about all that surrounds us... be it the weather, the atmosphere, sounds of nature, voices in the distance... or simply silence in a semi-rural urban setting. But most times it is that feeling that poetry says it all for us... we love the word freedom, don't we?

Oh for the love of freedom

Of that I write

A fullness of being

Like the blossoming of a flower

As the sun rises in the East

That liberty is sung

In emblamatic trills

By the Bird Of Paradise

Arise ye sons of this land

Oh for the want of freedom

Have many perished

Yet we sit inhibited

While our freedom is trampled

By greed and ignorance

Our forests are taken

As nature cries out

And the land screams

Your freedom! Your freedom!

Take not for granted

Oh for the sake of freedom

Must we stand united

To experience an expansion

In the infinity of our being

From mountain to sea

We are yet to find

The meaning of freedom

The price that was paid

Our past waits for justice

While our present anticipates

Copyright 2014 by Mlee Tee Kendi

Monday, 15 September 2014


We conduct creative writing workshops through the social media as a way of encouraging our literature students to discover what the world outside may think of their work. A lot of our students are new to the world of arts and letters, many never having the chance of reading literature in high school. But they come to us with a great sense of enthusiasm and this is the thing that encourages us in turn to regard their work with care. In the long run we realize we must do something in favor of their talents not only for their own benefit but also as a way of giving them the opportunity of developing what we have now come to recognize as Papua New Guinea Literature. Your comments on each student’s work would be highly valued.

The following is an example of the sort of feedback we would like to see.

A Review of ‘Wonderland’ (poet un-named). Wonderland is a poem posted by Russell B. Soaba on Facebook as a means for soliciting comment toward the works of his creative writing students at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG).

While the request by Russell Soaba on Facebook is for comments, it is my choice to do so in the form of a brief review as I wish to give the exercise full justice as opposed to cursory commentary.

‘Wonderland’ (a title which I suggest be changed) is a short poem to be celebrated for several reasons. This is the voice of a University of Papua New Guinea first-year creative writing student – thank God the institution offers the course at this level! It is evidence the university recognises that creative talent and voice is present in its students prior to arrival at university. It is also evidence the university is committed to cultivating such voices into what may be a collectively confident and vibrant voice representative of the nation of Papua New Guinea and indeed, the Pacific. Nowhere is such an activity more important than in this nation given its diversity of tongues and its pressing contemporary problems – such complexity needs voice and writing is its most powerful medium. Creative writing is its most appropriate and necessary medium for if this is not recognised and nurtured, Papua New Guinea’s stories will be told by outsiders. Yet, here it is, one young voice taking form under the tutelage of a master. This is reason enough for celebration.

This voice is young, raw, containing grammatical errors (as has been pointed out by other commentators on Facebook), obviously an attempt, and lacking in confidence: but far from being its weakness, these are the reasons for its beauty. The poet is already a poet but has not arrived at this knowledge. This student already possesses what creative writing instructors struggle to teach or build into students: an eye for the world, a compassionate eye. Not every writer possesses this.

While the rudiments of grammar need improvement and its leaning toward clichés ought to be reduced if not eliminated, the poem already has a pit: that core at the heart of self-expression; that solid, hard pit at the heart of a ripe fruit; that stone pit that harnesses flesh and holds the entire DNA of a botanical species. In a poem, the pit carries its soul. In ‘Wonderland’ the poet articulates the pit, the soul of the poem; then hurriedly dresses it with frills, unnecessary words and lines – a feature of his or her insufficient confidence.

Allow me to explain. ‘Wonderland’ is a poem of only about eight lines or less. In its current form it comprises twenty-one lines, which in my assessment, has thirteen lines that are not needed. Following is the full poem with twenty-one lines as it appeared on Facebook:  




Sun emerges the eastern horizon

Fogs engulfs the entire Huli valley

All nearby woods all silent

Except Ega Alua with the help of other species

Sings the sweetest melodies in praises

Meanwhile mums too all ready awaken

Melodies of singing tumbunas would be heard in every house

Mums do so, while preparing breakfast

The only favourite penalia hina (kaukau)

Days are always quiet and calm

Human yellings and laughter could be heard rarely

What are wonder

My wonderful land – Hela

Where my amplicle cord is buried

Where my flesh will decompose

Your memories would alway vivid

I wish to fly over to you, but

Situation does not allows

Would it be Ok?

Would it be possible?

I will only come after four years.


In my view, the poem does not begin until Line 13: ‘My wonderful land – Hela’; this is the powerful first line to draw one into the poem. The preceding lines, while descriptive of the area and its daily life, is unnecessary; a distraction from the pit of the poem. I would even remove the word ‘wonderful’ as the soul of the language itself reveals to us that Hela is wonderful, making the word redundant, an unnecessary appendage that disturbs the flow of the poem.

Really, the poem begins at Line 13 and concludes at its given end but I would suggest that Line 16: ‘Your memories would always[s] [be] vivid’ be removed to avoid cliché. So the whole poem would read:


My Hela!

Where my umbilical cord is buried

Where my flesh will decompose

I wish to fly to you

But situation does not allow

Would it be okay

Would it be possible

I come after four years?


When it is reduced to these lines, even a foreigner such as I can feel the agony of the poet. I can almost touch the heartbreak of the poet’s inability to visit his or her home until a lapse of four years has occurred – and it is a tragedy. The greatest thing about this poem is the poet is seeking both an apology and permission from the sacred land itself, from the world that he or she calls home. This is the soul, the pit of the poem.

The question one may ask is: What happens to the other lines? My response is: They make another poem and it is important to not include it as part of the one extracted above. So if the poet is creating a portfolio of poems, these could be part of the section on Hela in the Huli Valley of Papua New Guinea. The lines on sunrise, woods, bird and insect song, early morning cooking fires, singing women and local delicacies are rich and if corrected for grammar with the removal of clichés, would become a powerful poem as well; and if placed next to the extract above, would make Hela tangible for readers. These lines need further working to allow us as readers to feel, smell, see, taste and hear the life of the Huli Valley, and Hela in particular.

My word to the young poet is: You are young but old in spirit. You carry your homeland and your people well in your thoughts – do not cloud it with too many words. Have the confidence to shed decorative words and stick to the soul of each idea you carry. You are already a poet. Do not be afraid of this. Embrace it. The world will know the Huli Valley and its many beauties and tragedies through you if you stick with it and persevere. Take criticism well but in the end, hold your own. Hold your own with confidence.

 Mary D. Rokonadravu


31 August 2014

Saturday, 17 May 2014


From the diary of an old villager to town:


An unsung hero not many people hear and know about. But he is one of those responsible for UPNG’s fight against the dual salary structure of the entire public service and many private firms operating in Papua New Guinea. 


He’s known simply as Joe Mangi. He comes from a region of the country, the mid Waghi Valley, where people carry Toyota land cruisers on their shoulders over boggy and muddy patches of roads and place them on dry soil for easy driving instead of the other way around…  


In the 1980s and 1990s Joe Mangi, along with the other members of the National Academic Staff Union, led the UPNG administration into agreeing to certain terms and conditions currently dictated by the Salary Monitoring Committee – that all should get equal pay for the same amount of work, such as the expatriates and the nationals. He won his case as the then President of NASA, but he would be displaced, obviously, for political reasons.


Today, public servants right across the board and across the country enjoy some of the benefits of what Joe and his colleagues had fought for – DMA, field and risk allowances, accommodation allowances, the gagging 7.5% phenomenon,  anything to get closer to bridging the gap… The fight continues. The dual salary system still exists. But those greedy scavengers within the public service itself know how to manipulate the system to fatten themselves up as individuals while the rest of the entire workforce suffers. And will continue to suffer so.


One fine day, we will all receive equal pay for the same amount of work we do. But for the moment my expatriate colleague gets thrice more than what I get even though we do the same amount of work. Come Christmas holidays and he travels in style to Vienna, to Paris, to Dubai, to Tokyo, to Toronto and Beijing or Cairo. UPNG pays all of that. And here I am, stuck in this little hole as always, not knowing where the next dough will come from for me to feed my family….


We need only thank people like Joe Mangi for taking that initial step successfully in fighting for equal pay for the same amount of work done. A long time ago, it was the women predominantly who suffered that terrible economic fate. Today, we are all in the same boat, wherever we are, in whatever country we find ourselves in...
...and here's the funny part 
A lone traveller, a kind of globe trotter, and a very, very rich one at that, comes to the Waigani Campus one day and in her capacity as academic and researcher asks for board and lodging. She is granted a room which she shares with a 4th year student in Literature. Next, she asks if she can enroll for the basic law degree, a program that runs for 4 or 5 years. UPNG checks her credentials and decides to reject her application on the grounds that she already has a PhD degree in another area.  Her English is perfect, her Spanish pretty much the same and her Japanese just as good. She appeals. UPNG still says no. Her roommate says, “Let’s go see the old villager. May be he can help.” But even the old villager’s advice to the influential hierarchy goes unheeded. So everybody gives up. And that’s that. End of the story.
Then the literature student goes to the old villager again and says, “Sir, I would like to publish a book. It’s a kind of tri-lingual affair. Would you be able to help?”
“Gladly,” said the old villager, “if that is the last straw in our so-called fruitless endeavors. Now I must wonder what UPNG was thinking when it rejected your roommate’s application for a law degree.”
Today, the book is published. Its contents appear in three languages: English, Tok Pisin and Spanish (Argentinian). It enjoys a good number of hits around the world. But that is the way of internet publications.
As for our collaborator on the book: she is happily married to a fine young man and is indeed happy in her home of origin, Japan. Ah me, oh my… if only UPNG could have some kind of foresight, even hindsight… how much that basic law degree would mean to the world, especially if it came from UPNG, the premier university in the Pacific!

Sunday, 6 April 2014


I happened to be at Central Waigani, Friday 5th April, 2014, and what I saw there fascinated as much as intrigued me.

Fascinated because the place looked new, there were rumors it just opened up as part of that great family supermarket idea from CPL.  And intriguing because when I finally got to looking at what was inside I was taken aback somewhat by the vast selection of goodies at the groceries and, most important to me, the assortment of wines at the supermarket’s “liqueur land”.

The new building I soon discovered would become known as Waigani Central. Could that be an assumption on our part that we have a new architectural rendering and topographical landscaping arrangement bound to become known, simply, and should we say, the Graceland of Port Moresby city? Oh, but one doubts if we could be wrong there.

Over the last six months or so that I have ventured from my humble village surrounds to this part of the country’s sentiments of urbanity known as Port Moresby city, I have seen many sites and heard stories attached to each. There were stories of new buildings cropping up here and there; and there were stories of who was doing what with such and such. I tried interviewing as many as I could from the laymen up to those who claim ownership of these so-called new buildings in town. But rarely have I heard one as enchanting as the grand CPL (City Pharmacy Ltd) idea of the family supermarket.

“Ours is the ideal, sir,” a simple shop assistant would quip, handing over a cup of coffee at Bon Café. “And if you’re looking for a weekend family hide out,” a cleaner would join in, “Waigani Central might be the place to consider, sir.”

Surely the whole country has changed much over the years. And surely again each city is slowly taking up that urban idea of the metropolis in so many different forms.

But for the moment I began liking this new family supermarket idea coming from CPL. Gone are the days of BP’s, Steamships, Bank of New South Wales and related coastal trading enterprises throughout the land and its humble rural islands. Those were the days when the villager stood back and marveled at new buildings that came up or simply stood in awe whenever names such as Queen Emma of the South Seas were mentioned. But to us, all this, what we see now, seems to be beckoning us, asking us for our participation, as it were.

Here everyone is invited along, to view the range of medicinal remedies displayed, the groceries and their variety of offerings, the cinemas (space permitting, we assume), and the eateries at various sections of the new Waigani Central set up. I may get the chance to visit other centres of our country in due course. But for now CPL of Port Moresby seems to appeal as much as intrigue me somewhat.

Every new company that sets up shop in town has its principles and ideals to pursue. As ordinary as we are, and according to the climate of varying opinions of the times that we live in, we might feel, let us say, a little left out. But I doubt that would be the case with CPL. Somewhere in the not so distant future someone within the management of this vast business enterprise might say: “All right. Let’s have enough of this – this profit-making palaver and other hang-ups. Let us rather go visit schools, hospitals, sporting facilities, churches and charity homes, and share our ideals and business sentiments with them.”