Momis bows out with 'sense of fulfilment'
Still doing the tough yards

Diction: terse, complex, specific

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Noun: diction

The choice and use of words and phrases in speech or writing.
"Wordsworth campaigned against exaggerated poetic diction"

The style of enunciation in speaking or singing.
"She began imitating his careful diction"

PORT MORESBY - It could be argued that ‘diction’ is what poets are all about, but we all know that that’s too simplistic a notion and we don’t get off the hook so easily with trying to know what poetry is all about.

However, diction is undoubtedly an important element of a poem, or for prose writing and, in fact, for language use in general.

Personally, I’m less bothered about what poetry is about and more interested in the poem and how it works, what it does; each one individually, as it comes my way.

That’s where application of diction becomes a distinctive touch, a particular style or a nuanced expression, like the difference between talking to the girl of your dreams and your bestie whom you always joke around with about whatever.

Recently, I’ve commented on poems by Stephanie Alois and Gideon Kindiwa, where better use of diction was argued.

It’s a ruler I beat myself with quite regularly so I’m sharing the misery equally liberally. That’s poetic justice not social justice.

Here’s a lesson from my long term torture. Sometime in 1995, very early on, I penned this poem:

When It Falls

Like a rock
Made of rain
When it falls
Feel the pain

Hear the beat
Faster now
Times so sweet
Hour after hour

Eyes and hands
Teeth and hair
Far she stands
Does he dare?

Touch and smell
Food and wine
Naivety quells
The young hearts pine

Butterflies and flowers
Chocolate cakes, red roses
Time was never theirs
So the ending closes

Like a rock
Made of rain
When it falls
Feel the pain

Hear the beat
Slower now
Times so incomplete
Hour after hour

The elements of simplicity is clear, rhythm and rhyme transition from fast to slow (stanza 4 to 5) in-line with the pace of the story. Longer words stretch out the lines (stanza 5) slowing the enunciation and thereby rounding off the pace.

The ending two stanzas then reverse the sense of emotion in the repeated stanza (1 and 6). In fact, changing only one word, “sweet” (line 3, stanza 1) to “incomplete” (line 3, stanza 6) changes the entire meaning at the end.

Not bad for a beginner.

Then after about 10 years of fooling around with longer phrases, lines and verses in poem construction I tried my hand again at the terseness of diction.

Lost messages

Tacit passages
Swollen with perspective
A tongue to rupture
Hemorrhaging, explicit
Ink blots and such
For some to swab
But not for you
No, not for you.
Somnolent. Indolent.
In your wisdom
So it seems.
Lost messages
Hold no meaning
Or thoughts would speak
And tongues
All be silent.

Complex word choice without a lengthy sentence provided intense imagery, “Hemorrhaging, explicit”, and mixed with base words re-familiarizes us with an alternative image “Ink blots and such”.

Then, using repetition strategically in simple lines, affords density of meaning, “But not for you / No, not for you. / Somnolent. Indolent.”. The diction stretches and contracts the poems meaning in a short span.

This poem is still one of my personal favorites, for which I admire the skill yet still do not quite understand how I put it together, as if it was not really me doing the writing.

The poem took on a life of its own and I was just lucky to be along for the ride.

Choosing our words carefully: a rant in line may be a rant in time

In literary history there’s a commonly bandied expression 'What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet'.

This quote is alleged (the right word for this criminality) to have come from Shakespeare, but in fact is a well accomplished bastardisation (supposedly ‘masterful editing’) by Edmond Malone (4 October 1741–25 May 1812), an Irish Shakespearean scholar and editor of the works of William Shakespeare (Source: Wikipedia).

He was a lawyer from a wealthy family so he had plenty of time to argue semantics.

The actual passage from which the quote is extracted reads:

“’Tis but thy name that is my enemy:
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague,
What’s Montague? It is not hand nor foot,
Nor arm nor face. O be some other name,
belonging to a man!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other word would smell as sweet”

Malone removed the line “belonging to a man!” and thereby opened the pathway to the nonsensical argument that we can call anything by any other name and it would still bear its essence.

I think we call a spade a spade, shait is shait and nonsense is always nonsense; it’s what it does that counts.

Malone took Shakespeare’s specific reference to a person’s name and made it the general context.

That seems quite silly to me and of course Shakespeare was providing a more nuanced story of family feuds and the big nem battles which often leaves youth on both sides lost in life with or without an identity.

Try this: go up to a Black Lives Matter protestor and tell them that bearing the title black doesn’t matter because you could be white and you would still be oppressed. (Yeah, let’s see how that works out.)

A broken clock…

No, I won’t take wisdom from an infatuated 14-year old girl child who killed herself over her “love”. It’s sad for her that her boyfriend came from a different family but that’s life.

A name does matter and how and why a name matters is important.

My name is Michael Dom. Calling me Uncle Tom is an insult. There is genealogy, history, meaning and reason behind my specific name and the label.

But Dom is not the entirety of my being it is only the origin point of inherited and other familial character traits. The name says little of my personal orientation nor my intention, nor my future contribution.

Similarly, calling me black or brown is labeling me with a broad category and does no justice to the singularity of me as a being in my own right. Of course my life matters. Don’t be daft.

Good Diction Matters.


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Lindsay F Bond

Dear Baka, your mention of 'traditional ballads' as poetry, is a first (as much as I can recall) in this blog. Long been waiting to sense a glimpse of ballads, since John Waiko wrote a while ago. John mentioned structure in teh recounting of tales and telling, but only alluded to a rhymic of preserved recollection while also advancing with generations. There is more to see on this?

Michael Dom

Hi Lindsay,

That's an interesting perspective and touches on an agenda that I've been thinking about.

Some if not most of the best appreciated and good poems are universal, i.e. the poems portray universal aspects of the human experience.

In that sense even the most intensely personal poems have an appeal because they come from experiences (naïve) that each of us may have, or may have observed or even may only imagine (sentimental).

In that sense poetry exists in a multiverse of sorts, which even in the singularity of each of us, as individual human beings, we are intimately involved.

Yet that does not suppose that we are the same, nor I think would some multiverse identity of ourselves be presented with and therefore express precisely the same response to the same experience.

It's a bit like a mirror image where ones left is anothers right.

(Maybe that's the same as ones rights are anthers responsibility.)

We may reflect and we may reciprocate to each other.

Hi Baka,

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

I think your advice to poets to follow their own way of writing and expressing in their poems is spot on.

The poets skills are universal but how we apply them best is always individual.

What we enjoy very often is having someone like Leonard Fong Roka come across who has a particularly unique style of his own.

But even then the skill he uses and the fundamental basis of his expression, and the desire to make that unique expression, is something we all share.

Our human nature is equal but our talents are individual.

What we struggle to do as writers and poets is find our own unique voice.

That's a worthy objective because of what we give back to our fellows.

Like you I also find the traditional chants and songs, the naïve poetry of them, to have their own fascination.

The sometimes obvious sometimes subtle difference, the individuality of the poem, was what I tried to deliver in Eh, mi seksek translated to Och, Ah'm crazy.

The idea was the same but the expression provided nuanced differences, eg seksek is not the same as crazy in straight definition (that would be longlong), but the crazy is understood in the intended meaning.

That's good use of diction. That's good poetry.

That was my take on the experience and its expression but another poet will have a different way.

baka Bina

Wonderful. Dr. I trust that members of Poetry PNG are reading the pig dokta's eloquent discourse on some of the finer tips of writing Tok Singsing.

I dont do much Tok Singsing but I read what is posted on Poetry PNG. I learn a lot being said through these posts but that does not push me to write Tok Singsing.

My encouragement to all those who contribute to Poetry PNG to read up on the tips that he provides here. Does that mean you copy your style to his way of Tok Singsing. I would not suggest it but you could learn something. In 'When it Falls' I didnt know that Tok Singsing can have speed - rhythm and rhyme transition from fast to slow. thank you, that is something I can use in my style of writing - prose.

Dr keep on your good work. And oh, you know that our traditional ballads were poets. I have been transcribing some of my traditional songs and ballads and have realised that these songwriters played with words to bring about new meanings and uses. We'll talk about that some time. cheers

Lindsay F Bond

There is some wonderment in science that not only a universe, there may be multiverse (and here I am not alluding to poetry). This supposition encounters conceptually, that of anything we have at this planet (Earth) there might and perhaps must be further examples albeit not yet detected by humans.
That is to say, of any in this world, such as Michael Dom, other examples are elsewhere.
Yet in the diction of this comment, it seems improbable. Michael surely is both singular and a joy.

Abel Rudolf

I have learnt that PNG ATTITUDE helps much on sharing PNG literatures by PNG owned writers. As a student of Divine Word University (Madang Campus), we're encouraged to contribute writing towards PNG literature. Our lecturer is encouraging us his students to write about PNG literature. We are currently taking a Unit called 'PNG Literature' and this motivated me to write about PNG in literature.

I have some work on literature about PNG which I want to share through PNG ATTITUDE.

Please can you help me share my literatures?

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