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Dom’s poetry receives Pacific praise

Faumuina Tafuna'i

| Flying Geese Productions

CHRISTCHURCH - Poet Michael Dom’s two newest books are being praised for their illumination of life in Papua New Guinea and as a “treasure chest of a special type of poetry”.

Dried Grass over Rough Cut Logs and 26 Sonnets: Contemporary Papua New Guinean Poetry were launched this month.

Veteran writer Professor Stephen Winduo describes Dom as a poet who has come of age.

“He has the ability to pick up the ordinary and mundane, and project it onto a page and make us see what we are unable to see on our own,” says Winduo.

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

“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.”

Pioneering Pacific poet Professor Konai Thaman said of 26 Sonnets: “This collection tells me more about PNG than most of the reference books I’ve used and/or recommended to my students.

26-sonnets“The passion, humility, honesty, as well as the determination of the poet to share important human issues facing his community and the concomitant link between those and what is going on globally, make this collection unique.

“This is of course not to underestimate the collection as a treasure chest of a special type of poetry – the sonnet, and although this form originate from elsewhere, Michael has used it successfully, contextualised and made it his own, including the Tok Pisin poems, for our education and enjoyment.”

Dom says the sonnets collection spans 15 years. He says the form is easy to describe but difficult to master.

“We have our own way of writing,” he said. “People talk about authentic cultural voices. For me, authenticity is about expressing ourselves honestly.

“I wasn’t trying to make a collection of sonnets but I could see it was a useful form.

“The sonnets have a certain potency in the way they can deliver a message. I appreciated what it was doing for my writing.”

Dom won the coveted Crocodile Prize in 2012 for his poem, Sonnet 3: I Met a Pig Farmer the Other Day, which is included in this collection.

Dried Grass Over Rough Cut LogsDried Grass over Rough Cut Logs features all new poetry by Dom.

He says the title of the book refers to the Tok Pisin term bush materials, which has a wider meaning encapsulating Papua New Guinea and essentially its people and home.

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

“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."

The book includes a clutch of poems by Samoan poet Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’i.

Faumuina was previously published in Fika (2006) and is a spoken word poet, particularly on issues affecting Pacific Island people such as sea level rise, heritage and self-identification.

Both books were published by independent PNG publishers. Dried Grass over Rough Cut Logs by Francis Nii, and 26 Sonnets by JDT Publications, which is owned by Jordan Dean.

“I don’t think of publishing these books in terms of importance, for me, it is a necessity - to gather these poems and publish them,” said Dom.

“The important thing is to express our culture in literature."

Three Dom books - 26 Sonnets, Send Words as Gifts and O Arise! - are offered as free downloads from PNG Attitude at


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Michael Dom

Surely I'm doing what I can to make my poems available for young folk everywhere and especially PNG.

Is it working? I don't know.

And I'm sure there are rhymes and rhymers out there just waiting for a reason, Lindsay.

Lindsay F Bond

Yet to be that young folk of PNG find themselves spell-bound in your literature, Michael, and endeavour to emulate your achievements.

Is there anything in PNG villages that is on par with English language 'nursery rhymes'?

Can these, if any, be broadened to regional and national recognition?

Even at my age I recall the sense of delight in mastering stanzas of word plays.

Michael Dom

Coming soon Jordan.

By way of promotion: Jordan put in a very professional effort on the book, and although the poems did not require textual editing I am sure that this is one area where Jordan would also do his utmost best at - that is what his spell-checking told me.

Jordan Dean

I thought 're-thing' was a typo. I googled the word but couldn't find anything convincing so I opted for 're-think'. I know Michael has a good explanation.

Well done champ Michael. That's the type of exposure our literature needs.

Stephanie Alois

I like this phrase: “The important thing is to express our culture in literature."

Truly inspiring and motivating since Papua New Guinea is continuously globalizing, at least preserving our culture in literature will keep our culture alive for all ages to come .

Well done poets of Papua New Guinea!

Michael Dom

Hmm, I note the editing of "re-thing" with "re-think".

Jordan Dean made the same edit in the manuscript preparation.


Let's get into it then.

Coming soon.

Michael Dom

In her review of 26 sonnets Konai wrote about the need to "re-think and reclaim our own approaches to appreciating if not attempting to find solutions to issues such as community conflicts and contradictions, politics, education, environmental degradation, social and interpersonal relationships..."

This idea of literature and specifically poetry is shared with Winduo, who writes: "We must accept our writings as the process in which we speak for ourselves. Until we speak for ourselves we cannot claim to be living the way we believe we are living.

It is from the voices we hear in books, stories, plays, and poetry of our writers that we come to some conclusions that we live in a responsible society. It is from these voices that we learn about our sufferings, we acknowledge the contradictions in it, and we seek ways to solve the conflicts in our societies."*

Soaba, the existentialist, is of a different mind. As Winduo notes, "A writer, according to Soaba, is someone who searches for and finds meaning in the various social productive forces of society."*

Fundamentally, to me, these different perspectives may be at the heart of resolving the dualing agenda of PNG literature, aiding understanding ourselves better versus encouraging activism on our issues.

I am certain that my poems and those of a few poets walk the thin line between these agenda.

That may actually be where a poet belongs.

*Steven Edmund Winduo, Transitions and transformations: Literature, Politics and Culture in Papua Ne Guinea (2013), UPNG Press and Bookshop and Manui Publishers

A rich source of literature history, inspiration and analysis, these excellent essays are recommended reading.

And Winduo's poems are of the intriguing PNG cultural heritage.

"In solitude with the spirits
A silhouette
Dances against the blaze
Letting words and chants re-echo."

(The Dancer)

At 3AM that's exactly right!

Philip Fitzpatrick

“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.”

There's nothing shy about Stephen Winduo. His poetry is quite nice though.

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