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It’s International Poetry Day, so we asked along Ray Sigimet

Raymond Sigimet
Ray Sigimet - "A simple poem or story with a simple message can inspire change"


DAGUA - I started writing poetry as a form of personal expression when I had my first piece published on PNG Attitude in September 2015.

It was a poem about my daughter who was born in 2011 and it expressed the awe and wonder she brought into my life.

My daughter exuded an inner strength and zest for life which inspired me.

She was also growing really fast and, when she started talking about going school, I realised that I had to leave something for her to enable her to find her strength and remember me later on in life.

This was when I started to jot down a few stanzas and lines.  

In my poems, I mostly write about things or issues that I read, hear or see happening in the country or region. I am always in awe of Papua New Guinea and try to capture in my poems its social changes and challenges.

My poems are mostly about life, politics and justice, land and development, family and home, spirituality, and self and identity.

I believe that humans have shared experiences that transcend time and space and when these are captured effectively in a simple poem or story with a simple message, the reader is able to relive those experiences, relate to the poetry and perhaps be inspired to create change.

I am originally from the Dagua hinterlands of East Sepik and I'm the third born in a family of nine. I can trace my pre-colonial paternal ancestry to a warrior-mercenary ancestor during the 'taim blong spia' [time of the spear = territorial wars].

My grandfathers on both side were among the first few within their clans to leave their Prince Alexander mountain hamlets and travel by boat to Madang, Lae, Salamaua and Wau before World War II.

My relatives never imagined I would one day create works of fiction like poetry and short stories and I'm the only one in my family who writes creative pieces read by a mass audience. My families have since been supportive and encouraging as they saw my writing find its place on PNG Attitude and get shared in social media.

Some family members and extended relatives have commended me and told me they can relate to the messages of the poems I published last year in two collections.

A few weeks back, I was invited to give a talk to Grade 7 and 8 students of a primary school. Their teacher wanted me to talk to them about myself as a teacher-writer and inspire them in their learning.

I talked about what learning is, the importance of reading, having a good imagination and the magic of writing.

The highest point of my life as a writer was having my poems, short stories and essays previously published on PNG Attitude republished in book form last year by Jordan Dean of JDT Publications.

After a lifetime of holding other people’s books in my hands, I now held two small books of my own.

As a teacher-writer who has been teaching for 10 years now in rural schools, my students’ proficiency and ability in English and English writing is a concern to me.

Ray & his books
Ray and the two collections of his writing published last year

In my lessons on reading and writing, I use examples of my own writing to guide and motivate them. I tell them “If I can do this, you can also”.

Personally, I find writing to be therapeutic and relaxing. The creative state of mind is like a reflective meditation that helps me to soothe my nerves after a challenging day or hectic week in the classroom.

PNG’s oral traditions should be recorded in writing. From my experience, many village-based students are losing touch with the traditional identity and culture captured in the ancient stories and songs.

The intrusion of western knowledge has resulted in many of the old stories and songs being relegated to memory. I believe these tales and songs must be preserved in audio and in writing, although I know it would be a mammoth task to do this.

I believe Papua New Guinean writers and poets have a traditional and national duty to preserve ancient oral traditions by capturing them in tales and poetry. Chinua Achebe uses ancient proverbs from his tribal region throughout his novel ‘Things Fall Apart’. That is what PNG writers and poets should be doing before our ancient oral traditions become lost.

PNG at this time needs a national literature that must speak of the aspirations of the people after more than 40 years of independence.

In the past, black writing and poetry ignited pro-independence sentiments. Now the writing of our time should speak of the years after independence, the changes since the turn of the century and the path to the future.

Writers and poets must use their tools to record and capture aspects of the country’s history and culture, both old and contemporary.

Writing and poetry can inspire change and set a direction for the country. PNG’s shared culture, identity and history can be reflected within our writing giving our country and people a voice and purpose.

Writing and poetry also serve as platforms for the people to participate and communicate with the world in this age of mass media and information technology.

Mirror on the WallFinally, for International Poetry Day, here’s a Tok Pisin poem I like. It was originally published on PNG Attitude as well as in my book Mirror on the Wall: Selected Poems, Short Stories & Essays’.

Wara Kalap

Naispela wara kalap
Long maunten antap
Kol blong en i nais tru
Harim em lap stap long yu
Taim em i ron kam daun
Na kalap paitim ston

Naispela wara kalap
Em ron yet na kalap stap
Em yu yet lukim long ai
Aninit long ol bus diwai
Nogat narapela i olsem
Ples wara kalap long en

Dispela wara kalap
Stap long naispela hap
Em i ron na kalap i stap olsem
Bipo yet long lapun tumbuna taim
Kam taim blong papamama
Na nau ol pikinini na yangpela tumbuna

Dispela wara kalap
Em kalap isi na i no rap
Save kolim nek na tingting
Na tu ol narapela samting
Taim bikpela wara i rap na doti
Em nogat tru, em klin na kalap isi

Gutpela wara kalap
Long taim blong pait na lap
Em yet gat stori blong en
Taim yu pait aninit long bik san
Na yu sot win na nek i drai
Kam kolim nek na lukluk long ai

Gutpela wara kalap
Long maunten antap
Em ron yet na kalap stap
Stap long naispela hap
Em kalap isi na i no rap
Long taim blong pait na lap


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Raymond Sigimet

Thank you Phil, Joe, Jordan and Michael. And thank you Keith for having me along on the day. I've now noted the date.

Michael Dom

Good stuff Raymond.

Jordan Dean

Well done Raymond. Happy to assist PNG writers publish their books.

Joe Herman

Enjoy reading your poems Ray. Thank you for sharing.

Philip Fitzpatrick

That's a great piece of writing and a wonderful poem Ray.

I remember reading the poem when it was on PNG Attitude and I made a copy for my PNG literature file. Nice to know it made it to your book.

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