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The special place of poetry in PNG

Words of Paradise  Poetry of PNG (Jacket2  Anthony Madrid)
Words of Paradise:  Poetry of PNG (Jacket2 Anthony Madrid)


TUMBY BAY - I read quite a bit of modern Australian poetry, as it turns up in the newspapers and journals that I read, but quite frankly most of it doesn't do much for me.

On the other hand, Papua New Guinean poetry and prose continues to be a joy and fascination.

Even some of Australia's much lauded poets, like Les Murray or Clive James, both of whom died in 2019, don't appeal to me.

I think the last Australian poet to interest me was Judith Wright, although Maxine Beneba Clark, who has an Afro-Caribbean background, writes some astute political verse.

Some of the stuff that is published in the very poetry friendly Australian Book Review is pretty horrible.

I think I've tried to argue that poetry, especially free verse, has a special place in PNG because of its links to traditional song and storytelling, and maybe that's the difference.

George Orwell, the English writer and essayist, often made a distinction between verse and poetry. He implied that poems rendered in rhyming couplets or other traditional forms are not necessarily poetry, whereas many in free verse are definitely poetry.

Apart from a dedicated little band of enthusiasts, poetry in Australia (and probably the US and UK) is not popular among the general public, as Orwell avowed.

I wonder why this is so. Perhaps it is the deafening sound and influence of TV and social media that drowns out poetry from the consciousness, although the same influences also occur in PNG with apparently lesser influence.

Maybe Orwell was right when he said, "We live in an age in which the average human being in the highly civilised countries is aesthetically inferior to the lowest savage".

Whatever the case, it’s great to see poetry regularly published in PNG Attitude.

It's also good to see the amount of PNG writing now appearing on the blog. It seems to have gained momentum in the past few weeks, which is really great.

Some of us old white farts who have appeared on the blog for many years are happy to see this occur.

Some of our contributions may appear to be reactionary, overly critical or half-arsed because we are no longer close enough to PNG events.

Perhaps our contributions need to make way for the growing band of PNG commentators who are in a much better position to make pertinent and sophisticated observations.


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Michael Dom

You're pretty sharp for an old white fart Phil.

(Hmm, that sounds like a poem....)

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