Tribal fighters turn traditional rules of warfare into modern law
Mendi in flames as rioters threaten more destruction

Bougainville poetry collection is appearing at a pivotal moment

Raymond Girana

Raymond Girana’s first collection of poetry is approaching publication and PNG Attitude writer PHIL FITZPATRICK has written this foreword for the book which places it into the context of the recent turbulent history of Raymond’s Bougainville home.

TUMBY BAY - There is no doubt that more than anything else the civil war in Bougainville was a human tragedy of epic proportions. Not only did it take a huge physical toll but it had a profound psychological effect on the people of Bougainville that lingers to this day.

The question that many Bougainville people are now asking themselves as the countdown to the independence referendum draws closer and closer is could it happen again?

There are good reasons why they should be anxious. At the local level they are under pressure from international mining interests, local business people and some politicians to re-open the mine. At the national level they are confronted by a government that is making it very plain that they may ignore the results of the referendum if it doesn’t suit them.

It is this anxiety, even fear that informs the poetry in this collection.

The author does not take sides on the question of independence nor does he unnecessarily rake over the past or opportion blame. His central message and heartfelt plea is for peace, unity and harmony, no matter what the outcome of the referendum.

It is a very timely message that will hopefully help the Bougainville people to start thinking deeply about the issues involved and make up their minds which way to vote. That they must vote is not in doubt in the author’s mind.

The poems in the collection are a mixture of conventional verse, prose poetry and free verse.

To my mind, Melanesian poetry works best as free verse or prose that is not confined by rules and conformity. A prose poem essentially uses the fragmentation, compression, repetition, metaphor, heightened imagery and rhyme of conventional verse to produce a kind of hybrid that suits the Melanesian voice.

Of those prose poems and free verse that caught my attention in the collection one really stood out. It is the poem ‘Referendum Prayer’.

I think this poem, with its simplicity of presentation and heartfelt message, sums up the whole  purpose of the collection.

It is a poem (or prayer) that should be regularly read in churches and meetings all over Bougainville.

“Be with me
As I put ink on ballot
For a future that has to be peace
A future that is harmonious.”

This is a timely collection at a pivotal moment in the history of Bougainville. Ray Girana should be congratulated.


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