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A poet’s journey 1: How to behave in poetry

Dom_MichaelMICHAEL DOM | Winner of the 2012 Crocodile Prize for Poetry

IT IS VERY REWARDING as a poet to have touched people who have read and enjoyed my poems, many of whom I’ve not had the chance to meet in person.

Winning the Crocodile Prize Award for Poetry this year put icing on the cake. Poetry as an art is flowering again in Papua New Guinea and I am honoured to have been selected from amongst a host of talented poets for this national literary award.

To me writing poetry is a voyage of discovery. I am discovering more about the world and how I view life as a poet in every new piece of writing I commence.

While continuing to take part in this literary competition I’d like to share with other aspiring poets what I have discovered on my journey.

Firstly, here are some words from William Hart Smith which have inspired my writing: ‘How to behave / In Poetry: / Give things back / What they already have.

In this poem Hart Smith suggests that to write poetry is to do more than use rhyme or rhythm or the skills, techniques and forms of poetry.

Rather, writing poetry is about doing things a certain way; it is how we think, how we interpret what we feel and how we communicate the message – how we approach our topic – how we behave as poets.

Writing poetry is returning the beauty and truth of the subject/object which is the focus of a poem. Writing poetry is reminding us all of our common humanity, what we know and believe about ‘the good and the bad in life’. Writing poetry is helping us to renew our relationships with the people around us and with the world we live in.

But for a poem to return Beauty and Truth, it must be refined by Practiced Skill; for a poem to remind us it must Capture our Imagination; and for a poem to renew us it must also Challenge us.

I have been working over five of the six poems below for the last year, but the first in this series, Oasis, was the first poem I wrote back in 1995. Oasis has no structure while the second poem is a quatrain with seven syllables in each line including the title.

The third poem, Olosem wanem nau Ongagno, was written while I was ‘thinking in Tok Pisin’ and it is allegorical. The invented name Ongagno is a palindrome.

The fourth poem follows the Japanese haiku form and combines three separate verses into a whole theme.

The fifth, Soliloquy for frangipani in bloom, is prosaic and relies on diction and alliteration to describe contrasting images of a frangipani tree in bloom used as a metonym in this allegorical verse.

The sixth is based on the Persian ghazal and it has five couplets of seventeen-syllables in each line.


Life is a Desert
Desire a Mirage
And Love an Oasis.

About Creativity

Creativity is like…
a skilled game played by mortals
where the greatest prize of all
…is like Immortality.

Olosem wanem nau, Ongagno?

Ohh, barata bilong mi Ongagno,
bilong wanem yu toromoi
kumul bilas bilong yu?

Na traipela tit bilong pik ya,
em ino mo pas long bros bilong yu.
Ating yu lusim igo bek long bus o?

Na tu, mumu pik bilong kaikai,
na gris bilong rabim long sikin,
yu ino redim mo.

Ating singsing bilong yumi nau,
em ino inap swit tumas olosem bipo?

Oooohh, barata bilong mi ohh!
Olosem wanem nau, Ongagno?

Haiku for frangipani in bloom

nocturnal bouquet
of frangipani in bloom –
olfactory fruits

teasing aromas
adorning a young girls hair –
swaying moonlit palms

moths seeking nectar
flutter, flower to flower –
new buds at sunrise

Soliloquy for frangipani in bloom

Softly, softly fading flowers, with tender cream-white petals & glowing yellow hearts;
Send their heady-sweet bouquet, wafting blissfully on an evening breeze.

Fallen blossoms scattered around its trunk, knobby with scars, blackened sap & broken branches.
Wounded by time & chance or those with uncouth hands & hearts as harsh as weapons;

Remember that there are better things yet in store, better days yet to come, even in bad years;
Our words, my friends, my fellow poets, should be like frangipani in bloom.

When itinerant swarms of drugged bugs plan to pillage those perfumed treasures & gorge;
            They find their search is all in vain, but for being lured into some secret service.

Sometimes in relationships

Sometimes in relationships our love defeats our lust, but sometimes not;
Sometimes in relationships our peace is kept by trust, but sometimes not.

Sometimes in relationships we, each to each, are hurt and held and healed;
Sometimes in relationships we share our mind and heart, but sometimes not.

Sometimes we are lost lovers, our lives blaze with brighter bursts of passion;
Sometimes we are best friends we balance with compassion, but sometimes not.

Sometimes we are up-in-arms night and day; our battle’s are fought and won;
Sometimes we are at-loose-ends and struggle to be one, but sometimes not.

Sometimes we are with others, together we entertain family;
Sometimes we are you and me; two is good company, but sometimes not.


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Michael Dom

Feeling is great, yes, but a poets art is how to communicate this.

Poetry should be from the soul; a soul communion.

Only then can we leave the rest unsaid.

Jeff Febi

Arranging your heart (feelings) in form reveals beauty in its purest form. Tintin blong mi tasol.

Peter Kranz

Michael - Never forget that poetry should be from the heart not the brain. Form is good, but feeling is great.

And remember Robert Graves -


Leaving the Rest Unsaid

Finis, apparent on an earlier page,
With fallen obelisk for colophon,
Must this be here repeated?

Death has been ruefully announced
And to die once is death enough,
Be sure, for any life-time.

Must the book end, as you would end it,
With testamentary appendices
And graveyard indices?

But no, I will not lay me down
To let your tearful music mar
The decent mystery of my progress.

So now, my solemn ones, leaving the rest unsaid,
Rising in air as on a gander's wing
At a careless comma,

Jeff Febi

Wonderful read and yes it is true 'writing poetry is a voyage of discovery'.

First a poet discovers him/her true self, then finds out about what others may potentially be thinking or experiencing as he think for them and finally he/she mingles and flirts with the thoughts of nature and the amazing world we live in.

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