PORT MORESBY - Imagine reading through a collection of poems only find out that they were written throughout a decade by a young woman struggling through life.
The 85-page book of poems mostly came as an extraction from a young writer’s Grades 11 and 12 school journal and is titled ‘Nanu Sina’ (‘My Words’).
Looking back on her journey, Caroline Evari of Popondetta, who penned her poems as a way to express her emotions while a student in Port Moresby, does not feel that her journey was unique from any other young Papua New Guineans navigating through life.
Her book captures a decade journey and discusses the four main themes based on conflict, relationships, hope and family and raises questions on fear doubt, love, regret, persistence, motherhood and children.
“I wrote in the evenings during study times, early in the mornings and during quiet times,” says Caroline reflecting on the time it took to write her poems.
She also realised she wrote better when she felt stressed from worrying or having self-doubts. However, she says not all her poems are structured around the same topic.
“My poems are centered on my observations and general topics related to society,” she said.
Perhaps having those experiences written down during those emotional moments have led fans to describe her work as beautiful and perceptive to daily issues.
Popular writer and blogger of PNG Attitude, Keith Jackson described Caroline’s book as a collection of “sublime Melanesian verse from a poet of perception.”
Others enjoyed reading her poems while a few have used it for their purposes.
“My girls have not been able to put the book down,” said one fan. “They read it every night.”
While another one said: “Reading your poems brings me memories of the time you wrote a beautiful poem and I had it read at my brother’s funeral.”
To Caroline, having those experiences written down was an important way of managing the emotions that any teenager would have felt at that time.
To have actually published it into a book she wants her readers to know that it’s okay to have doubts, fears and uncertainty as a young person but not okay to have those emotions build up and have a negative impact in their life.
Caroline says finding someone to talk to is a good way to take off the pressure but if you’re anything like her, then write them down in a diary or notebook.
“Let all your frustrations, confusions or fears walk all over the pages of your journal,” said Caroline.
“One day,when you have matured in life and gained enough confidence, you can look back at your journal and be able to see your journey painted all over it.”
That’s what Caroline has been able to do. To look back and be amazed at the journey she took as a teen to an adolescent and finally as a mom with two kids.
Attracting to people to a craft is important to an artisan and similarly, as an author Caroline feels it is important to have her readers resonate with her poems.
Caroline grew up in a family of seven and her dad comes from Musa in the Oro province and Waema in Milne Bay, and is a retired mechanic. Her mother is from Musa and is a full-time mum.
In the late 1990’s Caroline grew up in Popondetta and missed out most of her early childhood education but made up for it by attending her elder sister’s Grade 5 classes.
In the mid-2000’s she was sent from Popondetta to attend the girls’ secondary school at Marianville in Port Moresby.
It was there that the young writer developed her love for poems and remembers spending quiet times writing in her school journal.
“Poetry to me is what I’d like to call a fancy way of expressing one’s feelings,” said Caroline, going on to say that the beauty about poems is that it does not necessarily follow a certain rule in literature.
“It is the best way of expressing yourself,” she said.
Caroline describes poems as a lyrical composition adding that if one can imagine the impact of a lyric then they would be able to understand how beautiful a poem can be.
The drive behind writing poems came about as a way of expressing her loneliness and missing out on parental love.
“I was the youngest in the family of seven and had to leave my parents in Popondetta and go and live with my older siblings to attend school.
“In a way, it made me miss that parental love and care and made me see poem as an outlet to pen all my frustration and experiences.”
During her university days, Caroline had about 65 collections of poems but was still uncertain about the direction in which her writing would take her. In 2015, she began planning the publication of the book but wasn’t able to get it through because of a lack of inspiration.
“The idea of getting my poems published came when I entered the Crocodile Prize competition. I compiled the poems electronically from 2014 to 2015, extracted them onto a template I downloaded from Amazon.com and sorted them in 2016.”
But the urge to publish would become strong after she joined the children’s writing project with the Library For All.
“Seeing the final product of my stories from Library for All really motivated me to get my long overdue collection of poems published. So, when I was inspired to get it published, I got JDT Publications who assisted me with editing, cover page and publications.”
JDT Publications is run by Jordan Dean, a well-known Papua New Guinean writer who has a Facebook page where he has helped so many aspiring writers. Apart from publishing, JDT also offers editorial services, branding and social media marketing and customised illustrations.
There are about 85 poems in Caroline’s book and by deciding to give a local name to it, Nanu Sina from the Yareba language in Musa in Oro Province, the book places more value on her origin and her local dialect.
Her journey has come with a lot of support and help through kind comments, friends reaching out to ask her for advice on publishing and more people asking her to buy her books.
“As an author, it gives me satisfaction knowing that the book is a significant achievement to me.”
But having a role model to look up to is something the young writer says, has really helped her grow as a writer. Caroline has since been receiving mentoring from popular PNG writer Rashmii Amoah Bell on how to write and promote her own books.
Rashmii Amoah Bell’s contribution to PNG literature has challenged many female writers and helped bring out discussions on issues affecting their lives.
“Rashmi Amoah Bell as we know is a Papua New Guinean woman who edited the ‘My Walk to Equality’ book which is the first book that contains a collection of writing from Papua New Guinean women…. how good is that,” said Caroline.
Apart from publishing, Rashmii solely promoted and marketed ‘My Walk to Equality’ where it had its copies purchased and distributed successfully.
Overwhelmed with joy that she’d managed to finally put her words into the beloved, hard-copy form of reading which we call books, Caroline hopes Papua New Guineans would see how important it is to publish stories into books than contributing to social media platforms.
“Because a book is your unique product and you as a writer own the copyright to it,” she said.
“It is a rare thing in PNG for people to become ambitious about publishing book but the moment you publish a book and hold the hard copy for the first time, it gives an amazing feeling of achievement and gives you a whole new perspective.
“Imagine if Facebook, Twitter or Instagram ceased one day, you would lose everything. But when your work is compiled in a book, it stays on forever.”
As a new publisher who’s taken the risk, Caroline wants to see Papua New Guinean writer’s emerging. “Papua New Guineans are great story tellers,” she said.
“If we do not capture all our stories right now, they will one day disappear from our minds and lips.”
For Caroline writing is an art and is something anybody can do where it needs a strong motivation to face challenges in a country like PNG.
To aspiring writers who have tones of manuscripts locked away Caroline advises that commitment to writing gets the job done and unless you’re not committed than you lose focus and end up procrastinating your book.
She has also advised on being prepared to pay the price in order to produce quality work and to also make the right connections to the right people to help support their passion for writing and publishing books.
Caroline recently received her first twenty copies of the book while her first copies have been sold out so far.
Over the coming months, she will be conducting a series of school talks to NCD schools and would like to ask language and literature teachers to reach out to her on email firstname.lastname@example.org should they want her to visit their schools.
Excitingly, Caroline is looking at giving the first 10 copies of her book to the first 10 schools that invite her to speak to their students on her writing and publishing journey.
Apart from her own book, she will also be giving away several books such as Crocodile Prize Anthologies and books authored by other Papua New Guinean writers.
Caroline has already been invited by three schools in National Capital District and is now busy with several book projects including children’s books, another poem book, a collection of myths and legends, and a book about her career journey.
When Caroline is not working, she spends her free time writing and has already authored several children’s story books for the Library for All, contributed to ‘My Walk to Equality’, the Crocodile Prize competition and to spillwords.com
Caroline who works as a team Assistant with the World Bank Group says she receives a lot of help from her supportive husband and loves spending time with her two beautiful kids, Zechariah who is 3 and Nehemiah who is one.
Looking through her book of poems Caroline sees a young woman who has finally found her passion, found love and is unafraid to face challenges in life.
“It’s is all about taking the risk and finding your passion,” she said.