Here is what our poetry judge for this year’s mini-poetry contest had to say to Ples Singsing and the participating poets.

Thank you, Michael, and Ples Singsing for asking me to judge this competition. I hope I have completed my task to your expectations.  I am a great admirer of Ples Singsing, of your determination and vision. All my best. 



Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafunaí, published poet, media and communications expert and Samoan wayfinding voyager

I applaud all the poets who submitted their work. To write is to sharpen – iron against iron – the tools of the poet. Only through writing can we become better writers. I will not say there is a winning formula to writing a great poem – but I think there must be some truth that poems are better with your own life experience intermingled within. And even then, exceptions lie in ambush just waiting to surprise you.

It is clear many of the poets strongly felt the need to advocate for the environment and to encourage people to protect it. The challenge then is to perhaps unearth the poetry within this passionate plea. How can the poet say something that has not been said before? How can the individual poet’s voice take the sliver of an opportunity of words, rhythm and lines to tell an enticing, memorable story and not be lost in the throng of environmental evangelism? Perhaps the answer is to start with the self.

In terms of translating Tok Pisin to English, I would say favour the essence of the words rather than the literal translation. Also, use words you would use – try not to get trapped in ye olde English.

My favourite poems were those that used the opportunity to bring a different understanding, to use words sparingly and that took me on a journey. Simple words can tell complex stories – the challenge is to find the simple words that can carry accuracy, power and insight to your reader. In some poems, I could feel the slick shadows of classrooms and textbooks creep onto the page. When that happens, get your straw broom, dance and sing loudly and whack the floor with your broom to chase those shadows out. So, then all you are left with is a poem that is truly yours.

That is splendid commentary and advice from Faumuina, a Chief in Samoan culture, na Ples Singsing igat bikpela luksave long em.


The full poems with the authors names will be posted this afternoon.

Faumuina writes:

WinnerPoem #1 (Tok Pisin version) 

Although the English translation helped me to understand this poem, it was the Tok Pisin version that brought enjoyment and depth. The premise of an ocean drowning, sinking and crying stayed with me well after I read it. Certain lines grabbed my attention.

"Emi i go daun aninit mo na mo yet
Na em i, crai na crai mo yet 
Lo ol pikinini blo em, em i singaut
Lo halivim, em i singaut.”

The translations for these lines also captured the essence of the Tok Pisin 
"she sinks, deep and deep 
and she, weep and weep 
To her heir, she pleads 
For help, she pleads."

Simple, forceful and memorable. These factors combined to make this poem punch its way to the top. I would also love to read how the poet is connected to the ocean. 

2nd My World

This poem had a beautiful story arch. It spoke of the poet appreciating her/his world and country, then of concern for the environment and then a return to this beautiful world. It was gentle, simple and playful when both spoken and read.

“Even when the sun sets and its dark times; 
The moon comes up, and does its crimes; 
Stealing attention and releasing tension.”

At times the syntax distracted but not enough to derail the reading. I will enjoy this poem many times over.

 3rd To Cherish and Destroy

The poet presents a binary view of beauty and exploitation in a way that feels wise and measured. The theme is expanded with each stanza. However, and I really respect this, the poet has not trapped themselves into the form or into the rhymes. This adds to the looseness of the form, and relaxes the reader too as they drift through the poem. I also enjoyed the poet’s economic word choices – ravaged, cunning, lavish, and unlearn – which all serve to take the reader deeper into the poem. 

"The environment, our hope of life,
The most common thing we sacrifice.
Yet, back to it, we return,
We our mistakes, still unlearnt."

Worthy mention:

Gone are the days when you held your head high

"There is no house you will find yourself a safe nest
Gone are the days when you were admired at best
Oh, how you fly high with pride 
In high spirit you stride
Gliding through the rugged mountains magnificently 
Through the valley you sang majestically 
You are beautifully painted with colors of love"

(The first stanza)

This year’s competition was delivered as part of Ples Singsing’s Projek Singaut Igo Aut “Building a national literature through discussion, competition and collaboration” by a Commonwealth Foundation Pacific Islands grant.

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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