PNG's first heroes: warriors who laid the foundation of a nation
Bougainville’s future hangs in balance

Let’s give our kids the opportunity to read wantok writing

At Another CrossroadsMICHAEL DOM

SOMETIMES we try to cook up convincing arguments to back up our case. Sometimes someone else gives us the arguments.

But last night, while thinking about whether to petition Papua New Guinea’s parliament to provide more PNG-authored books to our schools - and whether or not it was a good idea - a simple thing happened that galvanised my confidence that a petition is the right thing to do.

I’m studying in South Australia and my partner Isidora was at home in PNG giving baking lessons to a colleague’s young daughters.

While they were relaxing in the lounge waiting for the dough to rise, the girls happened to come across a copy of my first book, At Another Crossroads, sitting on the coffee table.

These are the text messengers Isidora sent me:

Isidora: The girls found your book under the table.

Michael: What book?

Isidora: At the crossroads.

Michael: Whose girls are in my house reading my book? (I can be a meaner when I want to be.)

Isidora: (Ignoring the meaner) Peter and Tony’s girls are here to learn to bake.

Michael: Oh, ok.

Isidora: They found your book – you should see their faces – complete silence. Then slight smiles. And all of a sudden… Uncle Michael em brain box ya!!!

After laughing a little, I recalled that there were two books left from the 28 copies I bought at the UPNG Bookshop to help with sales. They cost K50 each, which is pretty steep for most PNG pockets.

Such charming and loyal friends I have, they insisted I give them a free signed copy – thanks guys. I owe the UPNG Bookshop K1, 400.

But hey, what’s the price of fame?

Anyhow, there were two copies left after the last ten we sent off for another worthy cause, so I messaged back to Isidora.

Michael: You can give them each one book.

Isidora: Really!!! Wow…they are in complete silence!!!

Isidora: (A few minutes later) Peter’s big girl’s fav…Beauty is in da wata. Everyone is beaming and going frantic!!! Giggling like a child given a lolly. Rahab is going… “I will covet it”. She says she will put it into her bilum and take to school every day for inspiration. And they say thank you. Other girls are saying as soon as it hits schools, they will take their signed copy and preach to all their friends… Author is our uncle and we got the first copies and they are signed.

Isidora: (An hour later) Oh no…while waiting for the buns to come out…we’re all reciting poems. Rahab is willing to study the Anthologies and select her fav for reciting. Natalie, Peter’s daughter, is eager too.

And that’s all it takes, folks.

I don’t have any better argument to offer for the benefit of getting the Crocodile Prize into the hands of young Papua New Guineans.

My good mate’s son and little daughter read my book and agreed, “Uncle Mike is cool”.

So I want to thank these kids tonight – Rahab Giri, Natalie Wamblia, Gwendalyn Peter, Zulicca Pewa, Mikael and Osmond Yalu. You make all this worthwhile.

K1,400 is peanuts – those reactions were pure gold.

I think about my fellow writer’s in PNG and wonder at the stories they have about the reception of their books back in their homes and communities.

The struggles and triumphs, the pride and joy; all of that shared good stuff!

Think about what would happen if we multiplied that by many more writers and many more books.

I think about all the other schoolkids who might know an author and how they would feel about bringing a signed copy to school to show off to their friends.

I think about how they would contend that “their uncle/aunt was cooler” because of their writing.

The Musing of an Assistant Pig KeeperI think about this at three in the morning when I’m 3,000 kilometers away from home. I’m awaiting a shipment of 30 of my latest book -The Musing of an Assistant Pig Keeper - to arrive so I can haul them back to PNG as luggage.

Writing is our labour of love and we pay for it too.

We don’t need official recognition – the kids give us that.

We don’t need government approval – the kids endorse us.

But what we do need is that kids in PNG are given the same opportunity to read their wantoks stuff. And that is something I believe every government has a responsibility to do.

____________

At Another Crossroads, a collection of poems by Michael Dom is available from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/At-Another-Crossroads-Collection-Poems/dp/9980879211

The Musing of an Assistant Pig Keeper, poetry and prose by Michael Dom is available from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Musing-Assistant-Pig-Keeper-Poetry/dp/1490505970/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431121834&sr=1-2

Comments

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Lapieh Landu

On fleek Michael - on fleek for sure! The children, they are the future, they are the ones that matter.

They are the generation we want to influence, they are the ones we want to entice into buying this great idea!

And by the way, I love the cover of your book! I couldn't think of anything more stunning than a bilum draped idea.

Good stuff!

John Kaupa Kamasua

Michael - That's the magic, and we would hope that people can sometimes see our arguments for PNG's own authored books by our owns sons and daughters to be read by children in the schools in PNG.

I imagine the ripples that will create throughout the country, if more books written by Papua New Guineans are read by children.

Phil Fitzpatrick

That was a generous gesture from Michael Dom, Mathias.

I wonder whether other PNG writers might like to emulate him?

Michael Dom

Hey Mathias, that's good news. I'm glad you guys met Maima - he's a top fellow.

It's my very great pleasure to have the books placed in SWA's awards for literature - man yupla mekim bikpela wok tru!

SWA is as strong as the rocks it is built on, eh laka.

We'll kill a pig for you guys some day soon, ah.

Please pass my greetings and very best wishes to the students and staff of Rosary Secondary in Kondiu.

Especially congratulate all those students who made the great effort to enter the competition - well done!

Sponsorship of the second place prize from the "Estate of Icarus" has a story to it, which one day I might relate.

Enjoy the book; keep learning more every hour of every day.

Mi tu sumatin stap long Adelaide. Em i long we ples tasol kol blong em sampla taim olsem ples blong yumi iet.

My only regret is that I was not able to bring them myself, if only for the chance to steal one of those cans.

Cheers to the SWA crew!

Michael Dom

Thanks for the vote of support Ed, Robin and Corney.

Mathias Kin

Oh yes, another catch up news also, Michael.

Yesterday 9th May was SWA's birthday so after we had completed our two days marking the Secondary School's literature competition at the Kundiawa LDH school, we decided that we should celebrate this day.

For these two reasons: SWA's birthday and because we had completed a very tiring two days of marking.

We were on a second bottle/can when a text message came through Jimmy Drekore's phone. "I am at Warasimbu with the items from Michael Dom, how do I catch you in town?"

Five minutes later, young Maima from Mul South Simbu turns up at the Back Packer Motel with a box containing 10 of Michael Dom's "At Another Crossroads". Thank you truly Michael.

These books will be given as winning prizes for the Simbu secondary school literature competition at Kondiu next week. Michael, your kind gesture is already getting your books into the hands of Simbu children.

Corney Korokan Alone

Well done, Michael. Telling other people's stories of success, jubilation, downtrodden to Downing Street, pig farming to parliament and triumph with passion such as this is a powerful pitch.

Keep to this path for a good measure (minus the meaner) and you will be sure to see wonders.

Robin Lillicrapp

A new wrinkle on "Tripela lik lik pik," where your musings become folklore and required reading, Michael.

Ed Brumby

Spot on, Michael: It's all about the kids - and their parents and extended families and wantoks. We want them to be proud, not just of the authors, but also of what is becoming a truly national PNG literature.

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