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Send Words as Gifts
By Michael Dom (2016)
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Review by Martyn Namorong
The voice of Michael Dom: political, powerful, connected
O Arise!: Poems on Papua New Guinea's Politics & Society by Michael Dom, 54 pp. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, May 2015. ISBN-10: 1512039381. Available in hardcopy from Amazon, $5.40
WHAT is a Papua New Guinean writer but a warrior continuing the proud traditions of their ancestors, firing arrows that defend the land but also feed the tribe.
I believe that is what the modern Papua New Guinean writer does. We defend the land of our ancestors and we also enrich the lives of our people with entertainment, information and ideas.
In continuing that fine tradition, Michael Dom writes with a spirit that connects many of us as we sometimes reflect on the world around us.
In its negative form it sometimes divides us, but there a moments of brilliance where it raises our consciousness to a higher level of awareness about what makes us one people under one flag and constitution.
I find such positive energy in Michael’s poem One day, in this place, we will have good things.
Sometimes those good things are hidden in the rugged landscape or the battle-worn faces of many a suffering Papua New Guinean.
But there are surprisingly good things about being from this increasingly predictable land of the unexpected. And you will find them articulated in this volume in A soliloquy of soil and In ‘Rainy Lae’ anything can grow.
One of the most refreshing sights for me is how many of today’s young Papua New Guineans express themselves through poetry.
In high school, I got the shock of my life when this rough timber kaksy-type girl fronted the school assembly and read some of the most beautiful Papua New Guinean love poems I have ever heard.
During a recent trip to Alotau, I attended an open-microphone event where a shy young man, probably a few years younger than I am, read his poem talking about corruption and revolution.
Poetry is the spoken word and as such, if you do not know what to say, Michael gives you a reference point to start from. In O Arise! you can find the right words to say when talking to a pig farmer at the foot of Mount Giluwe or to a street vendor as in A candlelight market in Port Moresby.
In this collection of the spoken word I have found many colourful voices from Papua New Guinea. These works by Michael Dom represent a superb distillation of common Papua New Guinean concepts about the world we live in.
They give a meaningful and a soulful voice to what would otherwise be a hollow shell of a nation and its people.
Mi wanbel stret wantaim tok pisin blong Michael! I hope you do too. PNG yumi go samespeed!
Phil Fitzpatrick - It’s very difficult for a writer or poet not to be political in a developing nation. In this they are following a long tradition. In more regressive regimes they are mercilessly suppressed. In PNG this is fortunately not the case.
At its worst the government has only inadvertently hindered such discourse by failing to provide suitable avenues for its expression. The political class are doing themselves a disservice, not least because the writers and poets are finding their own platforms, most notably on social media.
If the politicians prefer not to listen the ordinary people will. A poem is a powerful weapon, especially in the hands of a master like Michael Dom. One day the politicians will rue their deafness.
Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin - Michael Dom has poetry all over him and is surely the most talented of Papua New Guinean poets. Though his array of poetry is diverse, his work on PNG politics is filled with the best piercing and most blistering political poetry ever.
His poems can drive a plebeian to madness, a bureaucrat searching for civic virtue and a politician hanging his or her head in shame for self-serving. The artistically worded prose makes us stand in awe and admiration and is definitely a work of a gifted mind.
I assure you that you will experience the anguish and mischief of PNG politics in your mind’s eye and equally a hope for a brighter future in this work.
Keith Jackson AM - I have read most, if not all, of these poems before, and revisiting them in print is like being reacquainted with old friends. Michael Dom is a world class poet and a world class poetic innovator. He writes - sometimes obliquely, sometimes directly - about politics, society, corruption, development and other crucial issues in the life of a nation and its people.
This nation happens to be Papua New Guinea but in reality it could be any nation, struggling to be fair to itself and its people; often not struggling nearly hard enough because the end result of struggle may be a real threat to privilege and entitlement.
Michael Dom uses poetry to reveal such truths without ever glossing over the difficulties of moving to a better state.