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A collection of sublime Melanesian verse from a poet of perception

Evari - Nanu SinaKEITH JACKSON

Nanu Sina: My Words, A Collection of Poems by Caroline Evari, paperback, 84 pages. JDT Publications, 2019, $3.75. ISBN-10: 1096713942. Available from Amazon here

NOOSA – Most of the poetry in this collection by Caroline Evari is pocket-sized, most of it has a big impact and all of it continues the wonderful tradition of demonstrating that much of the best writing from Papua New Guinea comes from its poets.

Phil Fitzpatrick and I have often remarked about the music that seems to occupy the soul of Melanesian writers and the openness of character that enables emotions to be on display rather than suppressed.

Both attributes lead to fine writing and are seen in ‘Nanu Sina’ ( ‘My Words’ in the Oro language) and they resonate through the poems in this overdue collection of the author’s thoughts, opinions, reactions and observations towards life, love, relationships, family, nature and events.

Caroline Evari, 30, was born in Vanimo but is of Musa (Oro) and Waema (Milne Bay) extraction. She is married with two children and studied computer science and mathematics at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Motivated to share her poetry through the Crocodile Prize national literary contest, Caroline says she is grateful that these awards, established in 2011, “gave an ordinary poet like me a voice and a platform”.

Caroline adds, “I like consider myself a student still growing wings under the literary prize”.

As this volume shows, those wings have learned to fly and the poems, organised into four categories – Conflicts, Relationships, Hope and Family, show great maturity as they wrestle with some of the complex issues that challenge Papua New Guineans today.

Caroline has written elsewhere (‘My Walk to Equality, Pukpuk Publications, 2017) that “as women, we ask for permission to do a lot of things, but the first thing we need to do is to give ourselves the permission to be great…. Your mind is your greatest enemy, not the people around you.”

Her poetry is eminently accessible, as this extract from Corruption illustrates….

The change in humanity
The filth in bureaucracy
Stolen beauty
And captive wealth
Floats in the cloud of corruption

While, amidst the scorn of those who make life immensely difficult for the people of PNG, there is also apprehension as I Wonder shows….

I wonder why everything looks so perfect
Yet we get ourselves involved in fatal things
I wonder if people do learn from their mistakes
Every day we are climbing rugged hills
I wonder what will eventually happen
To me in the end
And sometimes I am afraid my heart will stop beating
Or I could end up walking down the wrong road

Anyone who has lived in Papua New Guinea, or even visited for more than a few days, will understand the importance of relationships and the emotional investment that is made in them, as is well articulated in Be Near Me Always….

When night falls and the place is quiet
Make me believe I am not alone
Creep up beside me in the darkness
That I may feel you’re right here
Crawl into my thoughts
In the silence of my sleep

And in A Mother’s Words To Her Child….

Come lie in my hands dear child
Let me rock you in the palm of my hands
Let me embrace you with the warmth of my chest
I will comfort you from all storms
I will protect you from all danger.

Caroline Evari has selected some wonderful poetry for her first collection. And she has found a conscientious publisher in Jordan Dean, one of two Papua New Guineans who offer this most worthwhile service to PNG authors (the other is Francis Nii).

We compliment Caroline on her achievement and look forward to more from her inner Thalia, the Greek muse of idyllic poetry.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

That's a really good point Caroline. I guess poetry is not formally taught in schools in many PNG schools in much detail so would-be PNG poets have no real point from which to proceed except from what they informally observe. In that sense it's not like the other forms of writing taught in schools.

That point gives credence to the theory that what we observe as poetry in Papua New Guinea today is truly a locally developed version.

Caroline Evari

Thanks so much Michael.

Lindsay - there are indeed so much potential for Safia and all the neighbouring villages. This achievement is represents us all and that's why I gave a local title so that my people could relate yo it as well. This is just the beginning.

Phil - Given poetry is not something we learn but develop out of passion and observation plus a way of identifying talent, most of us (as you've highlighted) write in an unnamed form.

People who understand our history will accept and understand how we Melanesians express ourselves.

Lindsay F Bond

Caroline, congrats. There will be those who ask (in the cliche) "can any good come out of" (in this case) Safia, a location rather hid by its hills. To which the reply is demonstrably definitely affirmative.

What's more, you are leading for others, and lending light to many more yet who feel constrained by seemingly insurmountable constraints.

Juxtaposition of words and whims, out of Jumble of hills and mounts (in analogy of horse racing) will become known as a lineage of thoroughbreds.

Michael Dom

Long awaited, this will be good. Thank you, Caroline Evari.

Philip Fitzpatrick

While a minority of poets in Papua New Guinea have endeavoured to follow the traditional forms of poetry a larger majority has refashioned the concept to present a local form of free-flowing, unstructured work featuring spontaneous thoughts and ideas.

This local form has some of the characteristics of what is known as prose poetry or free verse but it probably owes its origins to a more traditional style of oration that sits somewhere between song and storytelling.

Of late too has been its evolution through the lens of social media, which strips away elaboration and subtlety to its barest bones.

This Papua New Guinean form is only called poetry because it is laid out in familiar poetic sequences incorporating brief lines following each other in blocks of text.

For the purist this is a kind of heresy. They see it as a second-rate, fake and lazy version of a classical form of literature.

However, apart from the fact that it eschews normal poetic rules this local version still incorporates many other poetic elements such as imagery and emotion.

In that sense it is a legitimate form of literary expression.

Perhaps if it had a name of its own the purists wouldn’t be so critical.

Much of the ‘poetry’ that I read on PNG Attitude and in the collections that cross my desk fall into this unnamed category.

This is the case with Caroline Evari’s recently published collection Nanu Sina: My Words.

Consistent with the above thoughts I think Caroline’s choice of title is very apt. The collection is indeed comprised of her words and it is these words, rather than anything else, that are important.

Keith has also pointed to the importance of the words in this new kind of Melanesian poetry and says it is an "openness of character that enables emotions to be on display rather than suppressed".

I would also agree with him about the professional way that Caroline's collection has been rendered into print by Jordan Dean.

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