The god of truth is dead so speak your own
Let’s be more objective about our police

A pity so few of our poems come in translation

Dom pic
Michael Dom - Papua New Guinea's unofficial poet laureate writes on the topsy-turvy ride that is indigenous literature

| Ples Singsing - A Space for Papua Niuginian Creativity

| Vernacular Traces in the Crocodile Prize: Part 2 of an essay in five parts

English translation by Ed Brumby | Tok Pisin original follows

LAE - When the Crocodile Prize began in 2011, the first poet to write in his mother tongue was Jimmy Drekore, who provided an English translation for his Dinga poem, ‘Advice from a Warrior’.

Wana elge pikra / Son don’t go too far
bi panamia, kanre pa / there’ll be ambush, careful you don’t push
Nenma unawa kanre, Kuman meklanna / When your fathers are here, you’ll step closer
Nene hone pikra / Never go alone

I think this verse goes to the heart of our current thinking: ‘Nenma unawa kanre / Kuman meklanna / Nene hone pikra’ - Your forefathers’ time remains / Come close / You cannot leave’

This is a story about the time of warfare, when elders and leaders taught the young men how to fight. They were told to stay close and not separate from the group as they would be exposed to the enemy.

Drekore’s poem reminds us that listening to sage advice from parents to Papua New Guinean men and women will help maintain and strengthen traditional customs, culture and thinking and make them and our communities and workplaces strong.

Drekore is a poet who knows how to write in a way that supports the traditions and language of the Dinga people.

He doesn’t write empty words illustrated with empty ideas just to promote himself.

Jimmy is known as a ‘bush poet’ and this is true. His writing has its roots in ‘the bush’ and in the people’s traditions.

Drekore was unique in having a Dinga language poem published in the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2011.

So far, no other writer has made their mark by using their mother tongue or Tok Pisin in this way.

The following year’s competition, although especially successful, produced a 375-page Crocodile Prize Anthology 2012 containing only two Tok Pisin poems.

One of my poems included in that volume was the first time I had translated a poem written in English into Tok Pisin.

‘Where we lived’ (‘Ples we mitupela ibin stap waintaim’) is a poem I really like. It’s also been translated into Hiri Motu.

There was the wind that night, a sign
Tempestuous love affair of earth and sea
And we did not know that
That time would soon be at an end
We spoke of the barren grapevine
And listened in silence
To words left unsaid

Hanuaboi ai lai ekau, una na toa
Tanobada bona Davara edia lalokau dagedagena
Bena ai na asia diba
Una nega na dia daudau baine ore
Gabani vinena aherevalaia
Bena dege dege rahu ai ahakala
Hereva ta sehe gwaurai

Keith Jackson described the poem as voicing the regret in the hearts of the people that the Melanesian way is little understood as a distinctive cultural expression.

A narrative poem I wrote, ‘Yobwandaruanem’ (Strong Timber), which wasn’t included in the anthology, had a reference to a song composed by our forefathers that told many stories.

When, along with my fellow students at Gordons High School, I sang this song on Culture Day in 1990, I thought it was just another traditional language and thought no more about it.

My poem, Yobwandaruanem, is about a much-loved leader who provides a stable life for his people and about the people’s traditional dancing and songs.

Another poem by Bernard Sinai, ‘Trupla Man’, is directed at men who assault women, who boast, who are stubborn and don’t behave like true men:

Trupla man ino man bilong pait / A true man doesn’t fight
Tasol trupela man isave long pait / Even though he knows how to fight
Yu no trupela man / You’re not a true man
Yu mas giaman man ya / You’re just a pretender

I hope that these kinds of voices will thrive now.

A new Papua New Guinean team administered the 2013 Crocodile Prize. But it didn’t work out well, mainly because we received so few entries.

The annual anthology comprised only 169 pages, which probably reflected our inability to inspire writers to submit entries. And I think some writers must have had concerns about sending entries.

I was also concerned because I had been writing and translating sonnets in Tok Pisin.

Sonnets are a particular form of English poetry. This work made my head hurt and I was able to produce only three, namely ‘Sonet 6: At dawn we leap free of these prison walls’, ‘Sonet 8: The Perfect Woman’ and ‘Sonet 8: My ukulele loves me no longer’. Only Sonnet 8 was published in the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2013.

I translated two of the sonnets into Tok Pisin. Sonet 10 was the first time I thought about and then wrote in Tok Pisin – and I was really pleased with the result.

I would love to add a Tok Pisin voice to the works of English poets such as William Shakespeare and John Milton.

I think I managed to master the form and structure of English sonnets in my Tok Pisin sonnets. So they’re not just sonnets in name.

I’m really pleased that Sonnet 10 satisfies the rules of English sonnets. You can judge for yourself.

Sonet 10: ‘lele ino mo laikim pinga blong mi

Long taim mi paitim ‘lele bilong mi
fopla string stap long pinga bilong mi
mekim swit mo iet singsing bilong mi.

Bihain mi raun long paitim trabel man
long narapela hap, Buka ailan.
Mi stap, long oda bilong ol kaptan,

pinga bilong mi pulim masin gun.
Mi kamap olsem wanpela ‘lele string,
open faia long oda blong gavman.

Mi no save long– ol–no save long mi.
I tru mipela wanpela kantri?
Ol tu paitim ‘lele olsem blong mi…

Bihain mi kam bek long ples bilong mi
‘lele ino mo laikim pinga blong mi.

Sonnet 10: My ukulele loves me no longer

Once I played my trusty ukulele
Four strings obeyed the touch of my fingers
How so sweetly we would sing together

But I was sent to fight against rebels
At a faraway place, Buka Island
There I lived under my captains’ orders

My fingers now caressed a machine gun
I had become a ukulele string
To open fire on government command

I did not know them – they did not know me.
Is it true, we are from the same country?
They play the ukulele just like me…

When I returned to my home lands at last
My ukulele loved me no longer.


Wanwan i raitim tok-singsing na tanim tok

Long kirap bilong Crocodile Prize Nesenol Litireri Kompetisen long 2011 nambawan taim we hanmak bilong wanpela poet i kamap long Tok Ples em long taim Jimmy Drekore ibin tanim tokples Dinga long wanpela tok-singsing ‘Advice from a Warrior’.

Wana elge pikra / Son don’t go too far / bi panamia, kanre pa /
There’ll be ambush / Careful, don’t push / Nenma unawa kanre,
Kuman meklanna / When your fathers are here / You’ll step closer /
Nene hone pikra / Never go alone.

Ating dispela ves bilong tok-singsing emi sutim stret tingting bilong yumi long nau olsem “Nenma unawa kanre, Kuman meklanna / Nene hone pikra”, em olsem, “Taim ol papa bilong yu istap / Bai yu ikam klostu / Noken igo yu iet”.

Dispela em i stori long taim bilong ol tumbuna i laik na pait ol yangpela man i save kisim skul toktok wantaim ol papa bilong ol na ol lidaman bilong pait. Ol i mas stap klostu wantaim na noken tru ron igo pas bilong wanem ol birua bai pundaunim ol wanwan sapos ol igo bilong ol iet.

Tok-singsing bilong Drekore em i makim wankain nek olsem yumi mas harim ol gutpela toktok na skelim bilong ol papa na mama long kamap olsem strongpela man na meri bilong Papua Niugini, na tu long holim strong ol gutpela kastam, kalsa na pasin we ol tumbuna igatim long kamapim strongpela komuniti na wokbung wantaim.

Jimmy Drekore wanpela poet husait i save raitim tok-singsing bihainim stret nek bilong ol tumbuna long tokples Dinga. Em ino save mekim ol kainkain kalakala toktok nating long bilasim nek bilong em, long soim save na givim em iet biknem, nogat. Jimmy i kisim nem ‘Bush Poet’, na trutru em i save kamautim stori long tok-pisin ikam long nek tru bilong bus na asples tumbuna.

Long lukluk bilong mi Drekore em ibin brukim kiau stret long raitim nambawan tok-singsing long tokples Dinga we istap insait long Crocodile Prize Entologi 2011 (p98). Inogat narapela raita i bin putim hanmak long Tok Ples na long Tok Pisin long wanpela wok bilong ol long dispela taim.

Long 2012 kompetisen ibin kirap strong tru na Entologi bilong dispela yia em bikpela buk inapim 375 pages. Tasol insait long dispela buk bai yu inap lukim tupela tok-singsing tasol long Tok Pisin.

Wanpela tok-singsing mi raitim em ibin nambawan hanwok we mi tanim-tok Inglis ‘Where we lived’ igo tokpisin ‘Ples we mitupela ibin stap wantaim’. Dispela tok-singsing i stap iet olsem wanpela hanwok mi laikim tru. Dispela tok-singsing istap tu long tokples Hiri Motu.

Strongpela win ibin kam long nait, em soim piksa
Bikpela belhat na laikim istap namel long graun na solwara
Na mitupela ino bin save olsem
Dispela taim bai klostu pinis
Mitupela stori long diwai-wine em ino karim kaikai
Na putim iau tasol
Long ol toktok inogat nek

Keith Jackson ibin skelim olsem dispela tok-singsing igatim nek bilong bel sore tru blong yumi ol Melanesia we i narakain long ol arapela lain.

Narapela tok-singsing mi raitim ‘Yobwandaruanem’ inobin stap insait long Entologi tasol em igat stori long singsing olsem ol tumbuna isave mekim. Dispela singsing mipela ol sumatin long Gordons Hai Skul ibin lainim long 1990 Kalsa Dei, mi tingim nek bilong em tasol tokples mi lus tingting pinis.

Long dispela tok-singsing bai yu harim na bihanim nek bilong ol lain i save danis na singsing tumbuna. Em igatim ol singsing isave kamap gen na gen (chorus), na tu igat tumbuna nem Yobwandaruanem, emi wanpela strognpela diwai, na singsing eim autim stori long ol kain pasin bilong em.

Dispela stori tok-singsing i givim piksa bilong gutpela lidaman we ol man-meri i laikim long en na save bihainim long painim gutpela sindaun.

Narapela tok-singsing Bernard Sinai i bin raitim em ‘Trupla Man’. Long dispela tok-singsing Bernard tromoi wanpela nek igo long ol man i save paitim meri bilong ol, bikmaus, bikhet raun na ino save long pasin bilong ol man tru; “Trupla man ino man blong pait / Tasol trupla man i save long pait / Yu no trupla man, yu mas giaman man ya”.

Ating dispela nek i mas kamap strong long nau.

Long Crocodile Prize 2013 mipela ol niupela kru i laik ronim kompetisen tasol em inobin kamap gut, olsem na inogat planti wokmak bilong dispela yia. Entologi buk em 169 pages tasol na soim olsem mipela ino mekim gut toksave na kirapim tingting bilong ol raita long salim wok ikam. Na ating imas igat sampela bel hevi tu i pasim laik bilong ol raita long salim hanwok bilong ikam long kompetisen.

Mi iet inobin wanbel long wanem mi bin raitim na tanim tokpisin long ol sampela tok-singsing we igat nem ‘sonnet’ long Tok Inglis. Ol sonet em ol kain hanmak bilong ol Inglis long bihainim taim yu i laik raitim wanpela tok-singsing.

Mi brukim het tru long dispela wok na kamapim tripela sonet tasol, nem bilong ol ‘Sonet 6: Long tulai bai tumi kalapim dispela banis kalabus’, ‘Sonet 8: Dispela Nambawan Meri Tru’ (English) na ‘Sonet 10: ‘lele ino mo laikim pinga bilong mi’. Sonet 8 tasol i bin kamap long 2013 Entologi.

Long narapela tupela sonet mi tanim tokpisin tasol Sonet 10 em i nambawan sonnet we mi tingting wantaim na raitim long Tok Pisin na mi hamamas tru long lukim hanwok bilong mi long en. Mi laikim tru nek bilong tokpisin igo insait long dispela hanmak bilong ol Inglis poet olsem William Shakespeare na John Milton.

Ating em wanpela kain wokmak mi putim long kisim sonnet long Tok Inglis ikamap tru olsem sonet bilong Tok Pisin na ino long nem tasol. Dispela Sonnet 10 em ianapim stret hanmak bilong sonnet tru na mi iet hamamas, tasol yu iet iken skelim.


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