NOOSA – Michael Dom, an established and most readable poet, has in recent years occasionally delved into the intricacies of translating his poetry between English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu.
Translation of this kind is a high art because it goes beyond the literal into often complex metaphors that do not translate readily from one language to another.
That Michael has mastered this complication is a great tribute to his attention to the poetic form in these three languages.
Now he is on the verge of publishing a collection of poetry with translations in English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu (the lingua franca of Papua) with bonus poems in Bahasa Indonesia and in tokples Sinesine, an endangered language spoken in the Sinesine-Yongomugl District of Simbu.
The book – a little misleadingly titled ‘Tok Pisin Poems’ - also contains three essays in which Michael expresses his thoughts about the use of Tok Pisin and local languages (tokples), particularly in writing poems but also as part of developing a unique literature for Papua New Guinea.
“In some ways this is already happening,” he says. “For example local drama groups who present public plays in Tok Pisin and the very active local music industry.”
Bit Michael says that, when it comes to literary endeavours, most people tend to think that English is the only language ‘good enough’ to demonstrate their skills and capacity to write creatively.
“This is a silly notion that needs to change in order for PNG to really have a thriving creative writing culture,” he says.
“We are a truly creative people who reach into the depths of our own ancient heritage and languages to create uniquely PNG literature.”
Others views on Tok Pisin in PNG literature
“Three features of the language promise well for its future life and development:
its syncretic [melding] capacity and its resultant incremental growth;
the imaginative life it embodies and the new forms of figurative expression it is rapidly evolving;
the successful use of Pidgin by New Guineans as a creative medium”.
Tok pilai, tok piksa, na tok bokis in Kivung: Journal of the Linguistic Society of Papua and New Guinea (1971)
“Papua New Guinea’s writers needed to create an ‘acceptable Niuginian English, a national type of English’, just as the Americans and Australians had. This was necessary because of the sheer diversity of languages in PNG. Ultimately both the oral tradition as well as the newer contemporary literature needed to come together to create what Enos felt was ‘national unity through literature’.”
Dancing yet to the Dim Dim’s beat in Contemporary poetry in Papua New Guinea (1987)
“Papua New Guinean writers need to talk to each other and determine what their literature means and how best to interpret and present it. There is still a lot to be discovered before a definitive national literature evolves. Regional differences, for instance, may be significant.”
Comment on Toksingsing: danis bilong yumi iet in PNG Attitude (22 July 2020)
“There are no hard and fast definitions of ‘literature’ although there is general agreement that literature is the written expression of our culture, makes us think about ourselves and our society, allows us to enjoy language and beauty, and to reflect on and record our thoughts on “the human condition” – emotionally, socially, ideologically and politically. There can be no doubt that TP, in written form, can satisfy all of these criteria.”
Tok Pisin is well equipped for PNG's literature in PNG Attitude (26 May 2013)