It is a rare pleasure to come across a poem which rises above the common, well beyond the ordinary, far from the expected, one which soars and, in doing so, lifts us up with it, allowing us to live inside it, then stand beside it and to marvel at the grandeur we behold.
Samuel Lucas Kafugili has presented us with one such poem in Kiluwe, oh Kiluwe.
That poem was extracted from his very soul; it is a song of mist and ice from the ancient high mountain valley of Tambul-Nebilyer.
Reading this poem I can smell the fresh air and feel its bite, taste the teary blue sky burning my eyes and watch the soft dappled sunlight weeping in the green grass.
I am standing there in amidst the sweet potato mounds, the Irish potato and broccoli, the cabbage and carrot which grow plentifully in the rich black volcanic soil, where the strident pine and yar trees whisper to each other.
What a glorious scene to behold Tambul Valley from ‘Murmur Pass’, to swoop down the winding road into the valley, while the mountains leap into the air beside us.
And there he stands, Kiluwe, like some ancient chieftain surveying his land.
“Ah, mighty steaming Kiluwe,
Your peak standing in grandeur
Mastering the winds and ice
And sovereign over all we see”
This is a great poem.
It is a poem which will be read, recited and recalled long after our bones rest in the soil of our birthplaces.
I have followed Samuel’s poems published on Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude and, as a fellow poet, I can say that when he wrote this poem Samuel had approached the apex of a mountain he has been intrepidly scaling.
Kiluwe leaps beyond his other work, such as Deceitful beauty of a lassie, The power of Muddle Mind and The sentinel is always vigilant.
In all these poems Samuel maintains a non-rhyming quatrain form throughout and each stanza is a box containing distinctive expressions of related aspects on the subject being explored.
It is his focus on crafting a compact stanza which has allowed the poet to concentrate his efforts with diction, phrasing and concision, to be precise and accurate, and to have the best word which is the right word.
When I compare the first stanza of The sentinel is always vigilant to Kiluwe, oh Kiluwe there is immediate recognition of the value of simplicity and selectivity.
Whereas, The sentinel makes a bland opening, “It’s dangerous to be in precarious space / That allows impairment of our being”, Kiluwe bursts into our eyes, “Mt Giluwe, oh Giluwe / Kiluwe in the mother lingua franca”.
Comparing these verse segments we see that the use of longer words drags the lines on but the use of shorter words spliced with the foreign term, lingua franca, perfectly balances the deft and necessary conversion of Giluwe to Kiluwe – Samuel reclaims the name in one swoop!
The sentinel does address a different subject though and, as Lindsay Bond commented, it is one which is “serious and descriptive of real events and adverse imaginings”. It is a sentimental poem, one of intellectual consideration rather than a poem of raw emotive power (naïve) beneath a veneer of skill which, to me, Kiluwe exemplifies.
The second stanza of Muddle Mind, really does muddle the mind, as the rest of the stanzas also do; “A tangle mind fearful, / Human inflated badly, / The power of muddled mind, / Disappearing sagacity of permissive.”
It takes time to disentangle this poem and that is probably the aim: the stanzas mirror the subject.
But the second stanza of Kiluwe is a mental explosion; “And snowflakes that puff out, / and ice, the spray-gunned ice, / Sending away the glacial drops / that slide into the mist”.
This stanza is high magic executed right in front of our eyes – no mirrors used.
As a poet I am very jealous of this charmed verse and will hoard it in my treasure chest of inspirations.
In Deceitful beauty the fifth stanza is the very last and although it provides a vivid image the metaphor is familiar; “Shining bright like a perfect jewel, / But flickering, dimming after nightfall, / Now seen in all its broken splendor, / Filled atop with regret and remorse.”
It is a complex depiction of bad character trait and the results of deception upon the soul of a person.
The stanza is satisfying. It is an expected conclusion.
But in Kiluwe the fifth stanza is a restart not an ending to the poem, and the imagery encapsulates the entire valley into the glass-ball of the verse; “The fog that then shelters the cold, / Causing nature to be an ice-box, / Chilling all that it comes to meet / as it freezes and fogs its way”.
Fog shelters the cold? Yes, it does!
Nature becomes an ice-box? This is a solid metaphor.
And nature freezes and fogs its way to meet you.
We are tested by nature at the extremity. That also is where life begins in earnest.
And it is where great poetry is born.