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Two new & enjoyable collections of poetry from PNG

Moments in a LifetimePHIL FITZPATRICK

Moments in a Lifetime: Short Poems by Julie Mota, JTD Desktop Publishing, 2016, 28 pages, Available from Amazon Books for US$3.60 plus postage.

Silent Thoughts: Exploring Poetry by Jordan Dean, JTD Desktop Publishing, 2017, 96 pages, Available from Amazon Books for US$3.75 plus postage.

ONE of the ways of judging the success of the Crocodile Prize in its early days was to look at the number of entries coming from Papua New Guinea’s 22 provinces.

We knew that there were variables involved, not least the uneven penetration of digital services in the country, but we assumed that if a province was well represented word would spread about the competition.

Just as Simbu was one of the most highly represented provinces, West New Britain was one of the most under-represented. Sometimes there were no contributions at all from there.

It is therefore a pleasure to report that, while not originally from West New Britain, there is now a writer and poet based in its capital, Kimbe, who is spreading the word.

It is also encouraging to note that Julie Mota’s new collection of poetry has been produced wholly in Papua New Guinea.

We last heard from Julie in a prose piece about growing up as the daughter of a soldier in the PNG Defence Force. She also is represented by a poem about Rabaul in the highly successful women’s anthology, My Walk to Equality.

In her latest book, Moments in a Lifetime: Short Poems, Julie concentrates on her personal journey and her observations about the daily lives of ordinary Papua New Guineans.

She asks: “Has life changed much in the past few years since independence?

“How has the different aspects of traditional lifestyle changed and to what extent can we say that urbanisation has had an impact on our local, indigenous cultural practices and its human relationships?

“In the same instance, when social spaces are displaced, physical spaces tend to lose their cultural significance and in turn affects the social connections and networking.”

Consistent with these themes Julie reflects on how the traditional ways in which stories and anecdotes were told in villages using what she calls “figurative impressions of nature”, that is, deriving the lessons in life from the observation of the natural world.

Silent ThoughtsReleased at the same time as Moments in a Lifetime is another poetry collection by Jordan Dean, Silent Thoughts: Exploring Poetry.

The poems in this collection are essentially what Jordan refers to as “random thoughts I’ve scribbled over the years”.

Most people would be familiar with the process. You are wandering along day-dreaming and suddenly something crosses your mind and makes you smile (or frown) at its perspicacity and you chew it over for a while and then forget it.

Unless you’re a poet, of course, then you are inclined to write it down because it could come in useful later.

Jordan, being a meticulous type, has rendered his random thought-poems in different poetic styles and ordered them accordingly.

As Ed Brumby, who provided editorial assistance, said:

“Like all poets, Jordan Dean has a sentimental soul and this collection of musings, meditations and observations reflects his gentle, romantic view of the world and his willingness to take his time and make the time to observe, absorb, reflect and record what he sees and feels in sometimes simple, but always special poems.”

In both collections, short-form poems and haiku are featured, some rendered in Tok Pisin as a form within a form.

I enjoy reading poems in Tok Pisin and loved both collections. I think you will too.


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Michael Dom


That's a fantastic idea, John.

I'll be hailed as a quack. Flying duck!

It's paradoxical that I lost hours of sleep in the creation of those soporific verses.

John Bennett

Michael - I have a brilliant idea. We write to the Insomniacs Association and tell them to stop taking those dreadful sleeping pills. What they need is Dr Dom's soporific poetry.

We could adorn you in a white coat, sling a stethoscope around your neck, put you on television and tell the good viewers that all they need to get to sleep is two of Dr Dom's soporific poems and a glass of water.

The drug free, pain free way to better sleep!

Once you hear Tales of an Assistant Pig Keeper or Pig Keeping for the Modern Man, you will be nodding off in minutes.

I will be ordering Dr Dom's poetry from Amazon tomorrow morning, and thank you for enlightening this world.

Michael Dom

Hi again John Bennett, my books are also on Kindle.

And it's magically special and rewarding to hear that you're children fall asleep reading my book.

Paid in full already.

Sorry that I've run out of copies to send you myself.

I've given away my last batch.

Good poet, poor salesman. Ha,ha, ha!

Michael Dom

Hi John Bennett, thank you for asking about my books. They are available on Amazon.

My sister is definitely easier on the eyes.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I am unable to get royalties paid directly to the writers because the CreateSpace account I use is in my name Daniel.

If you want that to happen you have to do what Jordan has done and set up your own account.

I was hoping more of our writers would do that but I'm not having much success.

And, as Jordan will affirm, the royalties we receive for helping people publish their books is very small and doesn't even cover most of our expenses.

Jordan Dean

Publishing is peanuts. I can do that in a day. The problem is exposure and getting it on the shelves of bookshops and libraries around the country.

I've been thinking of approaching few of the bookshops to sell some of my books. Not for profit. Just want people to read and appreciate poetry or our literature.

Another thought that popped up is the provincial days in Pom. In future, I might rent a stall and sell the books during Milne Bay day. Or I could fly down to Alotau in November for the Kenu & Kundu festival, rent a stall and sell my books.

Another smart way is to rent one of the incubation hubs set up by NDB at Waigani to sell the books. I think it goes for K900/month. Of course, we have to do aggressive marketing on social media to get potential bookworms attention.

Have all these ideas floating around in my head but I just don't have the time to do it. Have a demanding job. Sigh!

Daniel Kumbon

Rashmii, we in Enga province like people who talk and express themselves.

I wish many of our PNG writers could talk and express as openly as you do.

Many PNG writers can say, ‘I write because I love writing.’ But do they mean that?

I also write because I love writing. I used to write with Dr S Winduo, Malum Nalu, Jack Lahui, Laouja Kouza, Francis Nii in the 1980s. It's all there in 'PNG Writer' and 'Ondobondo', simply written PNG style.

If I were after money, I would stick to writing for the papers and magazines like 'Paradise'.

PNG books might not be quality but I believe some people want to sample something new. We can’t possibly speak for other people.

It makes me happy when I see one or more sales made by my books per month. I don’t know about other writers like Baka, Francis, Michael, Samantha etc.

The point is, how many PNG writers would want to see the $1 or $2 royalty paid from their books to be paid direct into their accounts?

How can Pukpuk Publishing make arrangements with Createspace to allow this to happen?

I do not intend to hurt Phil after all his efforts but I would like PNG writers to talk, share their views and find solutions.

Writing secret text or email messages is not how to deal with the situation.

Rashmii Bell

Without taking the focus away from the original intent of this article (congratulations to you, Jordan:)), I'd like to pick up the points made by Daniel and Phil.

Yes, it is becoming increasingly tiresome this pitting of in-country against diaspora PNG writers.

Daniel - I think it's fair to say that the majority of PNG writers who contribute to PNG Attitude start with a level playing field in that we all have access to the numerous individuals within this online writing community.

The bonus you, Martyn, Francis and I have had is that we've exposure to an international literary festival, ie, BWF16. How we have individually utilised these opportunities comes down to individual effort, not location.

The same goes with publicity and marketing of published work. Again, I can assure you we are on a level laying field, especially when it comes to funding, ie, needing to rely on our own resources and in doing so, using that efficiently so it is most effective.

Pukpuk Publications is a fantastic and encouraging publishing organisation and, based on my own experiences, it encourages young and emerging PNG writers to affiliate whether for advice, mentoring or publishing.

`Daniel Kumbon

Phil, thanks. Its such a good suggestion worth trying.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I agree that comparing writers in different countries is not really useful Daniel.

All the writing published since the Crocodile Prize was initiated has been proudly Papua New Guinean.

If we had tried eliciting clones of Australian or American writers we would have given up fairly quickly.

Papua New Guinean writers should be writing for Papua New Guinean readers. Papua New Guinean children should be reading Papua New Guinean writers in their schools. If that's not a commercial proposition so be it.

Your comment about Papua New Guinean oral literature is interesting. The oral stories I have heard I've enjoyed immensely.

Maybe there is room for audio books in Papua New Guinea? It would fit in well with the music industry.

Worth a try?

Daniel Kumbon

Phil, you have just written off every piece of literature Papua New Guineans have published since Crocodile Prize was initiated in 2011.

How can you compare PNG writers with talented Australian writers?

English is not our language.

I wish you could hear oral versions of what we are writing in our own 800 different languages.

Independence came too soon for us before we mastered the English language.

I can remember Sir Tei Abal (in his poor Pidgin) arguing against early independence in 1973 at St Paul’s Lutheran High School.

I am his proud son, but not famous.

Mind your English words.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I don't know of any established publishing houses publishing books by Papua New Guinean writers Daniel.

And if such publishers exist I don't think they would be interested in the sort of books being written by Papua New Guinean writers.

Many talented Australian writers, who write books of a style that are saleable, still have trouble breaking into the market.

Publishers want to make money first and foremost and they tend to stick with a few tried and trusted writers and only occasionally take on new writers.

I only ever made money out of a few of my books and then only pocket money.

I've made much more money out of journalism but even that is drying up with the Internet taking over.

Francis is right. If you want to be a writer in Papua New Guinea you have to do it out of the love of writing, not to make money.

Sad fact but true.

There is an upside of course. If you write without profit in mind you can write quality literature.

Donating your books to schools would be a wonderful gesture - make you famous maybe.

John Bennett

Michael Dom - Are any of your books available in bound form? I want to buy for my two PNG pikininis (genuine, tru blue, rock solid, rolled gold Chimbu meri) here in Australia.

I can download your works but printing them involves a lot of loose paper, and we want to be able to read when traveling. They also read your works before going to sleep (for the soporific effect).

More than happy to pay (including direct transfer to you if required). Tell me how to do it.

Have not had the pleasure of meeting you, but met your sister, who was decidedly prettier than you.

Daniel Kumbon

As sure as hell, Francis Nii, there is no money to be made in PNG through writing.

With the absence of marketing and public relations it’s harder to make even one sale through self-publishing.

Who are you if you are a writer based in PNG?

I feel MWTE continues to be successful only because of the hard work put in by Rashmii herself, two launchings and with assists from AHC etc.

I published my first book ‘Climbing Mountains’, a small pamphlet, the same size as Jordan and Julie’s books with Oxford University Press.

That book made me some money. I received regular royalty payments in the first couple of months. And I had signed a proper contract with them.

I have made a loss self-publishing four books through the current arrangement through Pukpuk Publishing.

I still have two boxes full of unsold copies which I consider donating to schools here.

I would encourage budding PNG writers to first seek out established publishing houses before considering self-publishing.

Anyway, congratulations Jordan and Julie to the growing list of PNG authors - custodians of the literary fire.

Michael Dom

You're welcome Julie, and well done on this recent collection.

Julie Kondi

Thanks so much for the review and thanks Jordan for promoting my work.I am based in the village outside of Kimbe and internet connection has been difficult since March.

I want to say thank you to everyone especially, Jordan, Phil and Michael Dom who reviewed my first book and to everyone who has been supportive.

Sincere gratitude as well to Rashmii Bell for promoting our work in the My Walk To Equality anthology.

Francis Nii

Good one, keep writing. As we all know and have mentioned many times in many places, there is no money in writing a country like ours but we do it for the love of it. So keep going at it.

Jordan Dean

Thanks Francis. I am currently editing another PNG lady's poetry collection. Also trying to write a novel and short story collection.

Francis Nii

Congratulations Julie and Jordan.Well done.

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