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Pomong u’tau - my Bougainville poetry manuscript

Pomong u'tauLEONARD FONG ROKA

A WEEK OR SO AGO, my mate and Papua New Guinea’s award winning poet, Michael Dom, shot me an email.

He asked me: ‘Have you thought of making a submission for book publication? I know your blog and PDF format is easy for sharing but I believe there is value in a published book’.

This kind suggestion provokes me to tell more about my poetry dream.

A highlander, William Mania, was my English teacher at Arawa High School in 1997 and he was the figure that had my class writing poetry.

But I never made it to the top until I was enrolled at the University of Papua New Guinea in 2003. Here, after reading poems and stories by students in the University News bulletin, I got a rough poem published. This publication was actually the catalyst for giving me the courage to compose poetry.

When I unofficially withdrew from the university in 2004, I was into writing in the comfort of my Tumpusiong Valley in Panguna, Central Bougainville.

And my style of writing developed in the bush where there was not a professional writer beside me. That’s why my style is 'raw and edgy' as Phil Fitzpatrick once described it. But I have to admit that plotting is not in me; I type as it comes to my mind.

I have never gone through the painstaking process of proof reading by a friend—since there are no people around me interested in good reading—and I am an introverted when wanting to talk with someone about my wishes.

But I do have good reasons to write the way I write.

To me, my trouble torn island home Bougainville in the Solomons and its problems are personalised simply because my immediate family was inside them from the beginning.

I consider it is my right to write about these things in a Bougainvillean manner; we need a voice out there. Bougainville needs to be heard and felt by the world. Her long history of struggle for self determination must be known.

From another angle, I see that, with the ongoing peace and development process in post conflict Bougainville, we need to build the spirit of nationalism so that people can accept each other beyond the divisions created by the civil war. We need to create a space where Bougainvilleans understand what actually was the problem of their homeland.

Writing and distributing literature on the island is one area in which I see promise.

I write poetry with the hope that my works can create oneness in the mindset of Bougainvilleans for the pacification of hearts and minds; and create a sense of identity, of belonging to a certain place that is the Solomon islands.

But so far, I have not reached out to readers across Bougainville. I am getting most of my writing into the many blogs that my people have no access to.

I had that dream to publish but money is a problem with me, thus I bombard the internet with my poems, short stories and articles of Bougainville conflict related stuff.

With the hope of publication, last year I created a poetry manuscript entitled The Pomong Utau of Dream’. The title may make you wonder what it is all about. Pomong is the hamlet in the Kupe Mountains in the hinterland of Arawa where I grew up as a child and utau is ‘clay pot’ in my Nasioi language.

This manuscript is 175 pages in length and hosts 150-plus poems that I have being writing since 1997 (although moreso since 2003).

But after setbacks on my campaign to secure a publisher for Bougainvillean stuff, I decided to go into blogging to share some of the poems. They have attracted attention and some ended up in the anthologies Crocodile Prize 2011 and Crocodile Prize 2012 of the Papua New Guinea national literary competition.

I designed my poetry manuscript in a way that it would be appealing to all Bougainvilleans, starting from the cover page.

But the significant thing about this is that it is writing from an island that has gone through the Pacific’s bloodiest war since World War II and, as PNG Attitude puts it, this is writing from a ‘lone Bougainville voice’.

Comments

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Rosemary Kaiye

Leonard - I think you have very good articles and poems about Buka and I wish that you should publish a book.

Phil Fitzpatrick

'The Pomong Utau of Dream’ seems like a perfect candidate for Create Space Leonard.

You can upload it and have it available on Amazon for sale worldwide for no cost.

I've just uploaded my Inspector Metau novel, Francis Nii's new edition of Paradise in Peril as well as Crocodile Anthologies 2011 and 2012. I'm still proofing the first three but the 2012 anthology will be available in about a week.

Drop me an email if you like.

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