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The writers: Michael Dom – pig keeper as PNG poet laureate


THERE seems to have evolved two distinct poetic forms in Papua New Guinea.

The first is akin to American ‘slam’ poetry, where attention to conventional rules such as rhythm, cadence and rhyme are disregarded in favour of free-flowing pieces that look like prose poetry but are often simply associated thoughts strung together in short sentences.

Some of these pieces are very effective, especially if there are internal rhythms and consistent imagery and message. Others, however, are simply what might be called in modern parlance ‘fake poems’.

The other more sophisticated traditional form is practised by poets familiar with the technicalities of poetry who strive to make their works inventive and relevant within distinct boundaries.

These more erudite poets are far outnumbered by freestyle poets, probably because successful adherence to form is much more difficult to achieve.

Michael Theophilus Dom is a practitioner of the second form. He has studied poetry in great depth and exercises strict discipline over his creations.

Michael is an agricultural scientist with the National Agricultural Research Institute presently entrenched in postgraduate studies in South Australia. His first poems and prose pieces that appeared in PNG Attitude in 2010 and were published under the pseudonym ‘Icarus’.

Icarus is the character in Greek mythology who attempted to escape from Crete using wings made of feathers held together by wax. Ignoring his father’s advice he flew too close to the sun and the wax melted, sending him crashing into the sea.

Michael obviously thought that this cautionary tale about failure through hubris would remind him to be careful when writing contentious poetry often critical of the government.

However, sometime in 2012, he must have felt comfortable enough to identify himself and he started to regularly contribute poetry and the occasional essay under his own name to PNG Attitude and other publications, including international ones. He signed off Icarus with this verse.

Michael has been a vocal commentator on social media, often as vociferous and outspoken as Martyn Namorong. He is a passionate supporter of Papua New Guinean literature and, very importantly, a mentor for young Papua New Guinean poets.

In many circles, he is regarded as Papua New Guinea’s unofficial poet laureate – especially as he has been regularly published overseas - but he often refers to himself simply as the ‘Assistant Pig Keeper’.


Sonnet 3: I Met a Pig Farmer the Other Day


At the foot of Mount Giluwe we met
A place where they say ice falls from the sky
We spoke of pork and the lack of good vets
As we toil’d in his village piggery
Each planning how his stock would reach market
Did we both share a wish that pigs could fly?
Agriculture is our backbone we say
(Rhetorical ruse on farmers always)
From the highlands to the coastal islands
The struggle to feed ourselves never ends
Yet in our grand plans for development
We have forgotten what that really meant
If you met those who’s unheard voices cry
You too would join me in questioning, why?


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Ed Brumby

Michael 'Bard to the Boars' Dom is not just a superb poet. He has a finely honed intellect tempered by a profound humility and sense of self which is evident in his frequently self-deprecating and always sharp sense of humour. He shares with Marlene Potoura (and me) a fondness for Winnie the Pooh.

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