New PNG Poetry Books Receive Pacific Praise
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. He shows us a different worldview to the one we have been living and breathing our whole life,” says Winduo.
“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. 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. 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 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, an 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."
These two books follow O Arise! (CreateSpace 2015, revised 2016), Send words as gifts (CreateSpace 2016), The Musing of an Assistant Pig Keeper (CreateSpace 2015), and At Another Crossroads (UPNG Press 2013).