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Michael Dom: A young poet comes of age

Michael Dom 2
Michael Dom - "Picks up the ordinary and mundane, and projects it on to a page and makes us see what we are unable see on our own"


26 Sonnets: Contemporary Papua New Guinean Poetry, by Michael Dom, JDT Publications, March 2020, 66pp. ISBN-13: 979-8621-24-062-2

Free download 26 Sonnets eBook by Michael Dom

PORT MORESBY - I have great respect and admiration for the bold and measured language in Michael Dom’s poetry.

Reading this collection assured me that Dom is willing to take up forms of poetry that are structured and articulated through very specific rules of construction.

He is willing to explore through such forms very complex social and cultural world.

I recognise that the forms used are the sonnet and sijo, two different cultural platforms for poetry. Though I am curious how Tok Pisin poems can fit into these forms, I think we can learn that the frames of expression are there; all we have to do is give it flesh and life through poetry in our own language.

Poetry is a special language that engages with the deep unconscious of a human being. Expressing the deep unconscious takes a special kind of person whose poetic sensibilities are expressed in sharp words.

A poet with the sixth sense can see, articulate, and string together words that tell a thousand stories. A poet recreates the world to make sense of it.

Michael Theophilus Dom has that special gift of poetry. He has sharpened his words every time he writes a new piece.

Dom is a young poet who has come of age. He has the ability to pick up the ordinary and mundane, and project it on to a page and make us see what we are unable see on our own.

He shows us a different worldview to the one we have been living and breathing our whole life.

He is a great poet in the making. In a line of poetic tradition since Alan Natachee, Kumalau Tawali, John Kasaipwalova, Apisa Enos, Russell Soaba and this writer, Michael Theophilus Dom is quickly securing his place among the great poets of this nation.

Finally, just as much as I valued reading Michael Theophilus Dom’s wonderful and powerful poems, I invite all readers to follow this young poet on his journey to greatness.


Sonnet 3: I Met a Pig Farmer the Other Day

At the foot of Mount Giluwe we met
A place where they say ice falls from the sky
We spoke of pork and the lack of good vets
As we toiled in his village piggery
Each planning how his stock would reach market
Did we both share a wish that pigs could fly?

Agriculture is our backbone we say
(Rhetorical ruse on farmers always)
Yet in our grand plans for development
We have forgotten what that really meant
From the highlands to the coastal islands
The struggle to feed ourselves never ends.

If you met those who’s unheard voices cry
You too would join me in questioning, why?


Sonnet 21: Petty O’Neill, Scary but Still Petty

Despot toddler with a pot of honey
Using Haus Tambaran like a dunny
So smart and cunning to take our money
Lawyer’s gowns are the skirts of your mummy

Poor academics wave you blow-kisses
From underfunded ivory towers
Trammeled airmen joined unemployed masses
But now you know that some will not cower

‘How does anyone dare question me?
I am the PM: “It’s all about me”
Poster boy of the MDR-TB!
Fawned over by Eggins on Em-TV!’
If Pete’s not a wannabe Mugabe
He's being scary, but still very petty.


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Michael Dom

Naïve poetry

A literary article worth reading.

Daniel Dahlstrom. 2018. "Naïve and sentimental character: Schiller’s Poetic Phenomenology." Aesthetic Reason and Imaginative Freedom: Friedrich Schiller and Philosophy., pp. 110 - 121.

'The distinction between naïve and sentimental poetry is easily misunderstood. Schiller is by no means claiming that a poet is always and necessarily only naïve or sentimental. The exclusive disjunction “either naïve or sentimental” stands, but only for a given poem or part of one. Thus, although he mainly treats the two forms as parallel with ancient and modern poetry respectively, Schiller reminds his readers that the distinction is not a matter of time, but “manner” .'

'The concept of poetry itself is nothing but the concept of giving humanity its most complete possible expression, whether it be in a condition of natural simplicity where all human powers are acting harmoniously in nature or in a cultural condition where such a harmony is nothing more than an idea.'

"neither the naïve nor the sentimental character can completely capture “the ideal of beautiful humanity, an ideal that can only emerge from the union of both” (Schiller, On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry).

Michael Dom

Some say what they mean
In the writing of it
Or write what they say
Without feeling it mean

Others say what they feel
Without writing it mean
Or feel what they say
With the writing of it

Some write what they mean
With or without feeling
Others say what they feel
With or without meaning

Why say what we feel
And mean what we say
Then write it with or
Without meaning to say?


Francis Nii

I like this description of Michael Dom by Ed Brumby in his foreword to Dom's recent anthology titled 'Dried grass over rough cut logs'.

"As his previous anthologies and prizes attest, Michael is a highly gifted poet and wordsmith, acknowledged and admired by his readers and peers," Ed writes.

"He gives full flight to his talent and creativity throughout this anthology, exploring style, metre and, occasionally, typography and layout as he yet again pushes the boundaries of his craft...."

Mike is truly a gifted poet and I had the pleasure of publishing his latest anthology.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I like Michael Dom’s poetry. His poetry contrasts markedly to the free flowing prose poetry that most Papua New Guinean poets favour.

Michael largely sticks to the traditional principle of poetry as an interplay of words and rhythm that follows established rules utilising rhyme and meter that dictate the number and arrangement of syllables in each line of whatever style he is following.

His particular oeuvre mostly features sonnets but he uses other forms as well. I think he likes to experiment until he masters each form.

There are very few other Papua New Guinean poets who follow this strict traditional pattern. Wardley D. Barry-Igivisa is the only other name that springs immediately to mind.

I can understand the reluctance of these other poets to adhere to traditional poetic precepts. Among other things it is hard work and expertise is usually a long time coming. It is something I have never mastered.

A sonnet, or any other form of poetry, poorly done with clumsiness and irregular meter usually results in a product that comes across as doggerel.

I think what Michael and Wardley are about, and both of them have mentioned this in passing, is the professionalization of Papua New Guinean poetry.

That, of course, is a laudable aim. If Papua New Guinean poetry is to take its place in the world it has to be able to compete with the poetry of other nations.

This doesn’t mean that it must suborn itself to what is being written or has been written in these other nations. Imitation is never a good idea.

There is enough raw material in Papua New Guinea to produce a distinctive style of poetry within the commonality of accepted technical precepts.

What must be avoided at all costs is the colonisation of Papua New Guinean literature and poetry. It would be very tempting to go down this path but the end result would be a second rate product similar to all the other things that have been colonised in the nation.

This doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the free flowing prose poetry written by many Papua New Guinean poets.

If you are in love with words and ideas the urge to get them onto paper is understandable. Some of this poetry can also be very powerful.

Such poetry also has a nexus with traditional cultural forms of expression which would suffer if translated into a stricter form.

Just like naïve art, naïve poetry has a place in a nation’s literature.

I don’t think that Michael, in striving for professionalism, is disparaging such poetry, although I do detect a hint of that among literary academia in Papua New Guinea. Such snobbiness is unfortunate.

I’ve got a collection of Michael’s published works and I’ve sent copies off to friends both in Australia and overseas and have received good feedback.

My hard copy of '26 sonnets' is yet to arrive but I’ve read the digital version and thoroughly enjoyed it.

My most recent hard copy purchase was his 'dried grass over rough cut logs', which also features work by New Zealand-based Samoan born poet Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’I.

The combination of Michael and Faumuina’s poetry in one volume is well-worth thinking about, particularly in the context of Papua New Guinea’s place in Pacific literature.

I’m also intrigued by their relationship but that’s another story that I don’t think Michael is about to reveal.

There is also some cutting satire in there along with some of Michael’s less traditional poems, including visual efforts.

What I also like about this volume is that it was published by Francis Nii, himself a not bad poet. '26 sonnets' was published by Jordan Dean.

It’s great to see these wholly Papua New Guinean publications slowly emerging. That’s what the Crocodile Prize was all about after all.

Lindsay F Bond

A suggestion for thanksgiving at Eucharist and where eucharist is not well understood: In these COVID-19 days, that PO'N is not PM.

Lindsay F Bond

This looks a 'must read' widely across PNG.
This sets the pace for discourse in all PNG.
If tough at trough, Dom's humour's at trot.

Ed Brumby

It's been a while, and well worth the wait. Michael thoroughly deserves the title of PNG Poet Laureate

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