Making waves in 2021 with Tongan poet Karlo Mila na tanim tokpisin wantaim Benjamin Mane long 2020
LAST year, there were very few entrants in the mini-poetry competition, only four entrees actually, but that was a step up from the first contest, for which we had only one entrant.
Maybe the number of entrees was in line with the ‘mini’ part of that contest title, maybe our awareness was not broad enough, or maybe it was the smaller amount of prize money to be won.
Then again, it could be that the contest requirements were too difficult. But isn’t that what a competition is about?
In 2020, we asked for poems on any subject, written and translated in English and Tok Pisin, or what the contest judge Michael Dom refers to as tok-singsing (tokpisin poems).
Also in 2020, Michael gave us the challenge of using a new form he had invented for writing poems in verse, Primaquatrain. That meant putting in thrice the amount of effort!
The winning poet, Benjamin Mane, not only wrote an excellent poem in the form, he innovated with it and modified it to his own purpose in Pairap Blong Kundu Kirapim Tingting and then translated it into English.
In 2021, the challenge was to write a poem for World Environment Day in dual Tok Pisin and English versions. But that also seemed like a difficult task for all but four entrants.
Nevertheless, the poems we received were of good quality and the amateur poets have made their marks, on the posts at Ples Singsing and were noticed by our fellows in Pasefika.
In fact, renowned Tongan poet Karlo Mila selected two of the poems for the Pacific Voices program at COP26. The poets were contacted to participate in radio interviews to send messages from the Pacific to the gathering of world leaders – How cool is that?!
The winning poem by Fiada Kede, In that Paradise, impressed Michael Dom so much that he did the Tok Pisin translation for it as well.
Another of the poems that Dr. Mila particularly enjoyed was The Change by Austin Nasio. The poem uses our local idiom very well and is rooted in symbols – animal totems – which are characteristic to specific areas of Papua New Guinea. That afforded the poem a unique PNG vision.
This year we are making the competition easier but we still hope that poets will try their hand at translation into Tok Pisin or even Motu. Em i samting blong traim tasol na lukim.
Also, we are very excited that Samoan poet Ms Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’i has very kindly agreed to judge of our third mini-poetry contest.
Faumuina also took part in Pacific Voices and her scintillating poem, Etu iti, and 2020 published collection, My Grandfather is a Canoe, were featured on Ples Singsing.
More recently, Faumuina won the prestigious New Zealand Fringe Touring Award for her first play, based on her book of poems. The play also featured poetry by PNG’s Michael Dom.
This year Ples Singsing will be announcing a new writer’s project under grant funding by the Commonwealth Foundation. Part of that funding will be to support this mini-poetry contest with a little more in cash prize money, olsem liklik moa toea igo antap.
At Ples Singsing we hope that it’s not only the prize money that draws our poets’ attention but also the distinct pleasure of participating and being read across PNG and the Pacific, as well as the opportunity to interact with poets overseas and to be involved in global events where our PNG voices are heard and appreciated.
We look forward to reading your poems.