DURING THE YEAR the Crocodile Prize for Literature entered its first year under the administration of the newly-formed Papua New Guinea Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers.
Unfortunately things did not run as smoothly as expected and, largely because of inadequate publicity, the number of entries fell far below that of previous years.
Furthermore, the Society was also unable to secure sponsors for the Women’s Literary Prize, the Yokomo Prize for Student Writing and the Lifetime Achievement in Literature Award. Nor could it secure a sponsor for the Writers’ Workshop.
Therefore, there were only four categories in which awards were available: Short Stories, Poetry, Essays and Heritage Writing. As there were no heritage entries submitted, the funds for this category have been distributed to the other three.
That said, it was very pleasing that the lack of entries in no way reflected a drop in quality.
Poetry remained by far the most popular category for entries. The reason seems to be its similarity to the traditional oral literature and songs of Papua New Guinea.
This sometimes makes judging difficult because western-style poetry tends to be more formal and doesn’t lend itself to bending the rules, unless this is done deliberately and pointedly.
The judge this year devised an innovative and objective approach based on a clever scoring system. It is a good model and one which could be adopted for future competitions.
The final results and winners are as follows.
Farewell My Bougainville Prophetess
LEONARD FONG ROKA has provided entries for the last three competitions in almost every category.
Over that time he has evolved a very distinctive and successful style of writing, characterised by the innovative use of language in the selection of words, imagery and phraseology and also in the way he strings it all together.
Of particular note is the way Roka deliberately eschews the conventional rules of grammar and invents his own way of speaking.
Most writers develop a style, or use different styles, which they borrow or modify from other writer’s work. Where a writer develops a distinctive and unusual style it is very rare that it is used consistently. In many cases such works are experimental. When such work evolves further it tends to become trailblazing.
Leonard’s style is distinctive in that it is his own invention. However, there is nothing experimental about it. He doesn’t consciously set out to write in the manner in which he does but his writing is largely instinctive and comes from somewhere deeper.
One suspects that, in part at least, it has had its genesis in the Bougainville conflict, about which he so elegantly writes. Whatever the source, it has evolved into something that other writers can only envy. It might also be added that it takes courage to do your own thing, especially in literature.
In this sense it is difficult to identify his influences, or, in fact, if there are any. At the moment his writing defies description, except perhaps for its raw and visceral aspects. Farewell My Bougainville Prophetess is an example of his writing that illustrates a stage in an evolution that promises great things as it matures further.
Leonard’s writing is also refreshing because it promises much for the literature of not only Bougainville but also for Papua New Guinea and the greater Melanesian realm.
In his work he is setting an example for other Melanesian writers to follow. In time this may even develop into a distinctive regional style. It’s greater value, however, is to demonstrate the possibilities for others who might follow in his footsteps.
It is for these reasons that he has been selected as the best short story writer for 2013.
If Dekla Says Papua New Guinea is Eden, Then It Is!
THIS GENTLE essay is a direct and unusual response to the negative publicity that Papua New Guinea received in the Australian media following the announcement of the deal to process asylum seekers on Manus Island.
Rather than a predictable diatribe about the insensitivity of Australian journalists, the essay takes a much gentler course and uses humour and homespun wisdom to demonstrate that life for many Papua New Guineans, particularly in rural areas, is, in fact, very good.
It also pokes fun at those Papua New Guineans who slavishly follow western ways without realising what their own traditional cultures and lifestyles have got to offer.
The end result is an anecdote and fable of considerable power, both in its social and political contexts. Part of this power is in its purposeful but cleverly disguised objective of making its readers think about the issues. In this sense it follows in the footsteps of the great essay writers and is a worthy winner.
I am woman
THE JUDGE in this category identified four very strong contenders for the prize. Lapieh’s poem just pipped the others at the winning post.
Those others were As A Writer by Diddie Kinamun, A Faceless Silhouette by Pamela Toliman and Melanesian Woman by Jessica Dobb. We hope to hear more from these three poets in 2014.
Lapieh has been a strong and consistent writer since the inauguration of the competition. She has a keen sense of herself and her Papua New Guinean people and uses a sharp intellect to express her thoughts and emotions. Despite it being a close competition, Landu is a worthy winner.
Her poem is made up of excellent couplets containing a question that is answered at the end. The short, almost terse, responses are confident and proud. The diction in the poem is very strong and each couplet is a gem of description. The poem is presented in a simple format which is very effective and very well expressed.
Of the other three poems the judge offered the following comments which are worth recording.
Diddie Kinamun’s poem contains startlingly vivid images with well-developed verses. There are major turns in the poem, from ancient carver to modern writer to the current problems faced by the new generation of ‘cultural scribes’. This poet deserves our attention.
Pamela Toliman’s poem struck the judge as ‘two words over the mark of perfection’. The terse and direct prose evokes strong emotions of the time in history that it is set and the description is crisp and precise. Such writing will preserve the memory of people during those times.
Jessica Dobb’s poem is a light-hearted yet proud poem celebrating Melanesian women, especially at this difficult time in Papua New Guinea. The image it conjures is true and it exhibits excellent use of rhyme with a very neat start and strong finish.
All the winning entries can be found in the 2013 Crocodile Prize Anthology, which will be available for sale soon. We hope you enjoy them and all the best of this year’s PNG writing.
Details of the 2014 competition will soon be announced. It will be run, at least temporarily, by a small Crocodile Prize Organising Group (COG), who hope to reinstate to the large event it became in previous years.
Short Story - Jeffrey Febi
Poetry - Jimmy Drekore
Essay - Martyn Namorong
Women’s Literature - Lapieh Landu
Short Story - Charlotte Vada
Poetry - Michael Dom
Essay - Emma Wakpi
Heritage - Lorraine Basse
Student -Angeline Low
Women's - Imelda Yabara
Lifetime Contribution - Russell Soaba