By PHILIP FITZPATRICK – PNG Attitude Blog
‘Listen’ by Thyatira Kaupa, Hibiscus Three, 2020, 82 pages. ISBN B08KBGMG77, e-book, AU$5 from Amazon Australia
TUMBY BAY – One of the disconcerting elements of Papua New Guinea literature is that there is generally no fanfare when a new book appears.
Readers often simply stumble over these books when they are web surfing or searching unrelated subjects.
Thus it was that I found Thyatira Kaupa’s debut book of poetry.
The e-book was published this year following what will be an annual competition conducted by the publisher, Hibiscus Three.
It is a powerful debut from an accomplished and talented poet and deserves to be read widely.
The subjects covered are wide ranging and explore themes like friendship, relationship breakdown, the impact of colonialism and sorcery related violence.
As the author says, “The poems aren’t a breezy walk in the park on a calm casual Friday.
“I wrote them with the intention of stirring and evoking dormant or passive thoughts about our nation’s state and the aftermath of colonial influence.”
What you hold in your hand
Is my very own tragic wonderland
Every whispering sentence tells a story of life,
ruin, heartbreak and society in all its gore and glory
Tread with caution
Because this literary art is a truthful contortion
Heed my warning
For these poems are bluntly discerning
Do enjoy these sentences I have strung together
I do hope it brings your eyes a bittersweet pleasure
And to your heart a graceful sympathy
For the poem’s vigorous susceptibility.
In her stated objectives, the poet says her poems are “my weapons, each stanza sharpens their edges. I fight for justice and I advocate with these poems”.
In this sense, she is not unlike many other Papua New Guinean poets who use contemporary issues as their subject matter.
But there is also an eloquence that transcends the more unfortunate aspects of reality and can be enjoyed simply for their deft and skilful language.
This is particularly so in poems like ‘The Quintessence of Lily Walker’ which are story-like in their composition.
In this poem the author is observing her subject as she appears as a “lifeless cold body inside a coffin box”. Here is an extract:
Lily Walker is dressed in a beautiful long blue dress
it does no justice to her tireless beauty
Her waterfall of inky black hair
fanned around her delicate heart shaped face
in smooth rippling waves,
cascading off her slender shoulders.
Her thick feather-like eyelashes
gently dust her pale cheeks
cheeks that would turn strawberry shortcake red
when she laughed too much.
She was more beautiful alive than dead
that much I am certain
It was suicide.
I suspect this sort of imagery would have a thrilling appeal for any reader no matter the message.
There was an infamous Lily Walker who was a diminutive 4 feet 10½ inch pickpocket and prostitute who was first tried at the Melbourne Supreme Court in 1885 aged just 17 years, but I’m not sure there’s a connection in the poem beyond the name.
In any event, that Lily Walker might have enjoyed this poem as much as I did.
Thyatira Kaupa has a Facebook page here where you can read more of her poetry.