The Crocodile Prize offers annual awards to recognise Papua New Guinea’s best writing. Reporting for the ABC’s Correspondents Report, LIAM COCHRANE caught up with one of this year’s winners, Diddie Kinamun Jackson, on her lunch break from a meat canning company outside Port Moresby.
I sit and wrote and wrote into the moonlight / up on the cold hard rock / writing stories of the dreamtime / Stories passed down and so whole like time itself / Pondering out into the dim firelight / straining my mind just to write down everything / to preserve the story as best I could.
LIAM COCHRANE: That's the poetry of Diddie Kinamun Jackson, the winner of the poetry section of Papua New Guinea's Crocodile Prize this year. We're sitting here by a river; it sort of reminds me a little bit of the mood that you evoke in your poem. And yet you've just taken a break from your job at the Bully Beef canning factory. It's quite a different kind of environment. What is it that makes you write poetry?
DIDDIE JACKSON: I personally write because sometimes it's like a voice for me. Things that I get angry at people or I feel emotional. I find it hard to say. So the best thing I can do is I just go scribble on pieces of paper and then when I just write it down I just, I'm settled.
I write and write, arm's getting tired, mind growing weary / Not from exhaustion but from every door that closes in my face / I will not back down / It will not break my spirit, nor weary my soul.
LIAM: You do talk in your poem about the exhaustion of having door closed in your face. Tell me a bit more about your efforts to have your poetry published?
DIDDIE: I started writing in high school, for friends and family members. And then every time I would write poems and put it on my wall so my friends - I went to a boarding school - so my friends would come to my room and then when they saw it, it touched them.
So every time when they had problems with their boyfriends or something, their families, always they tell me to write it for them. So I usually expressed their feelings more than themselves. So that's when they started to, they always tell me that you're good at writing, so you need to pursue what you're good at.
But then I started to write and then there were many doors that closed. I pursued it, went to publishing companies, still there was not a good response from anyone. But I still wrote and wrote.
But that was before even we had technology like mobile phones. It was back then. But when we had phones and then we had internet to our phones, I started to join like overseas poetry groups, I started searching the internet for publishing companies.
I will write and write like those before me / Write as much as I can, preserve as much as possible / Someday when I'm gone, the world will come to realise we deserve to be heard / For there is no country without an identity / Written in a very beautiful stone of how it is and how it came to be / We deserve your attention.
LIAM: You write "we deserve to be heard for there is no country without an identity". It's an interesting concept in a country with 800 or so tribal groups and so much variety. This idea of a national identity, how does poetry and writing and stories help to create a national identity for Papua New Guinea?
DIDDIE: As writers, we need to write the story of what's happening. It preserves the story for future generations to know what has happened, and how it was back then and how it is now. But I would say that our government don't even recognise our importance in our society. I would say that there's a lot of people writing out there, but it's just that they see that there's no effort in writing. They have the love of it, but when they write, there's no market; there's no stage for it.
LIAM: But you found a stage and you've won the Crocodile Prize in the poetry section, and I wish you congratulations for your achievement.
DIDDIE: Thank you.
I write into the night, under the low electric light bulb / The pressure builds stronger as each drop of ink touches paper / and the same old story becomes anew in each breaking dawn / I write and write like my forefathers before me / My blood is the ink on my paper / It relates to my soul and there is no end to the words within / wanting to be heard.
You can listen to the full ABC interview here, including Diddie reading excerpts from her poetry