A poetry book review
‘Nanu Sina: My Words’, by Caroline Evari, Independently published (May 3, 2019)
I HAD BEEN FOLLOWING Caroline’s poems on PNG Attitude for some time and was very glad to see her put out this book.
Nanu Sina is presented in four sections, namely, Conflicts, Relationships, Hope and Family.
I marvel at Caroline’s ability to find uniting themes for her poems since I myself struggle with this editorial task.
I mused philosophically that Conflicts, with 31 poems, is the longest section whereas Hope, with only seven poems, is the shortest. That seems reflective of real life where hope is a small but valuable property that needs to be nurtured, but conflict save kirap long laik bilong em iet, laka.
Caroline writes with a purity of heart and her poetry does not attempt to beguile us with flamboyance or disguise its intentions. The prosaic format she favours allows each poem to come across as a complete story.
What Caroline lacks in the technical variety of composition, compared to say Julie Mota or Wardley Barry, she makes up in the story her poem relates under different emotional contexts.
Reading her poems allows us to relate directly with what she feels and thinks when she writes in the first person. For example;
“If it is me that you love Why come for money? If it’s money that you are after Why say love?”
There is no arguing with this line of questioning and while the verse may lack artistic style it is a gut punch from a fist of clenched emotion.
Ms. Evari does not pull her punches and the subject does not matter, whether it is a soured romance, as above from Money vs Love, or a racial quandary, as in Culture or Color;
“A knock on a white man’s door Leaves me fading like a rose It’s a white man’s world.”
When I read her words in Protest “Let the wheels of justice turn to our song / As it burns down the camps where greed is nurtured”, I want to make sure I’m on her side.
When she portrays the doom of war in Battlefield it is clear to me that both sides lose someone and something precious.
“Wives await their husbands Children watch the smoggy distance For their fathers to appear. Mothers yearn for the laughter of their sons And pray for their heroines Far, far away.”
In Imbia and My missing Aruma Caroline reconnects with traditional poetry, where the naïve poetic expressions are exciting in their directness.
One of her two Tok Pisin poems, Arim toktok is rather moralistic but it does relate some familiar parental advice with often far reaching consequence. Better to show the outcome in poem.
Whereas, when Caroline writes as an observer her poem is elevated to a higher level of clarity where she draws a picture in our heads like a roll of film showing a familiar scene. She does this in The Red Cigar Seller.
This drama takes place at a typical major PMV bus stop in Port Moresby – the roving street seller who remains simultaneously famous and anonymous.
But this Red Cigar Seller is no pauper, no mere street urchin since “Coins clatter in one pocket / Notes slumber in the other”.
What a delightful juxtaposition of sound and touch which makes complete sense: coins make noises while notes may merely rustle when ‘awakened’ by searching fingers. I can see him checking his stash.
Our daring salesman is a wily operator “His feet stationed with alert / His body cautious / To the coppers / And the rangers / Those that attack you in surprise”.
And who could help but be on the side of this singing cigar seller when we see “His eyes watch the road / As his mouth continues to chant / “One kina red stap”. We wish him many happy escapes.
One of the best effects less used in most poems I have read is the ability to make the reader laugh.
The humour in Freeway – Town is of another regular occurrence in the same venue which does not need to be described to pedestrians. We know what’s up and it’s amusing without forcing itself.
Here we meet the infamous bus stop characters who also sing their songs with or without police brutality I mean assistance – the draiva na boskru of our local PMV’s: “Yu siksti igo / Yu siksti ikam /Yu biket driver / Yu singaut / “Freeway – Town! Freeway – Town!”
Indeed the action we see now is revealed by an internal dialogue of the narrator without any sort of description. We know the scene and the characters so we fill the narrator’s shoes instead.
We are saddened when the wily street seller is caught but we also feel justified when the bus driver is stopped by cops for some traffic offence.
The two observational poems are sufficient to place Caroline Evari’s work on a high pedestal. They reveal classic Papua Niuginian motifs, portray well recognised characters and are extracted from our everyday lives.
Caroline’s style of poetry is mostly consistent but in at least one intriguing poem, War of Love, she seems to break out of a familiar mode and explore a more imaginary world.
It is a short poem of seven triplet verses, where the description is brief but profound.
The same form is used in the longer poem Battlefield.
In War of Love Caroline uses undersea imagery to explore a romantic union, the seeking, the luring, finding and the aftermath.
“Curled up like a jellyfish In the cold, cold blue ocean He sleeps like a clam so calm.”
This reads like a haiku and to me the odd presentation of a romantic tale intrigues me more than the wordy and heavily constructed verses/lines used by other poets writing romance.
Before the finale another surprising verse emerges;
“She locates her weapon Hidden inside, inside her heart It’s her only powerful weapon.”
Surely this is an insight into a woman’s knowledge of her own power, of her emotional capacity and resilience, and her ability to use this strength as a weapon if need be.
But in this battle there is capitulation on both sides, love wins out, but is arrived at via an unusual route, lucky clam.
In this book, as with her several children’s storybooks, Caroline offers readers of all ages her words of wonder, wit and wisdom. Nanu Sina is a good addition to any bookshelf.