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.

I froze & Yangpela Marit – two new poems

Raymond Sigimet | Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude

Image from
I Froze

It happened so quickly
that initial shock
and I am arrested by
          my helplessness
                    my failure to prevent

and I froze ...

I pitched a scream
I reached out
flailing, but in vain
          it happened so fast
                    I failed to prevent

and I froze ...

I cannot unsee now
a witness to life's tragedies
that I am no immortal
          I am as vulnerable
                    my failure to prevent

and I froze ...

as I saw a body struck
ran over by a truck
I did reach out
          flailing, but in vain
                    I failed to prevent

Image from WHO website
Yangpela Marit

Yangpela em laikim pasin marit
Em i hat tru long sindaunim em yet
Em wokabaut raun long de na long nait
Yangpela em gat tingting blong em yet

Taim papa toktok em les long harim
Em lusim haus na go painim boipren
Taim mama singaut em les long bekim
Em gat Tok Pisin long tokim gelpren

Yangpela em laikim pasin tambu
Em harim stori na em laik save
Em bihainim rot go long as mambu
Na rausim klos i go stap arere

Bihain papamama karim hevi
Taim yangpela i kamapim bebi

Sorcerer – a poem

Raymond Sigimet | Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude

The ancient fire burns
through time immemorial
smoke puts him in a trance

And he struts
And dances
And chants
He’s in pain
He’s in misery

Shackled by these mysteries
the pain pleases him not
His dignity that of a fallen angel
cast out from taboos and secrecy

To walk in the shadows and dark
too see things no naked eyes see
to cast and curse and command at will

Stick to snake
Night to day
Shape to form
He’s the devil
He’s a god

A misfit who once held high ground
feared by the powers that be
But now covered in ash and soot

Black soot, not of mourning
But of loss and banishment
Stripped naked by the uninitiated
Whose eyes cannot see the pain
Nor the powers he possessed

So he prowls with a vengeance
and leaves no stone unlifted
As he stalks and captures
his unsuspecting victims

The guilty
The misfits
The haughty

Only then he becomes free
Sin washed away in penance
Free of his pain and misery

TOKSAVE – The entries for Mini-poetry Competition on World Environment Day 2022 are now being judged

Well done to the twenty-one entrants who are participating this year.

Assessment of the poems is made by ‘blind-judging’ of poems sent without the author names and details. Although six entrants have not provided their identification, there is still time for them to remedy that, so please do.

With the ID photo’s Ples Singsing can confirm that you are who you say you are and, even more importantly, celebrate your school or institute name when we start publishing the poems on this blog.

Faumuina is a Wayfinding Samoan voyager, sailing traditional waka, ocean going canoes

This year our judge is Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’i, a published Samoan poetess and a media and communications specialist who runs her private company, FlyingGeese Productions, in New Zealand.

Faumuina has visited Papua New Guinea a number of times and has an uncanny quick grasp of Tok Pisin, so noken traim long tok baksait long em taim em i raun ikam, laka, em bai givim yu gut wan tru ia!

You may read some of Faumuina’s poetry right here and here, and learn about her 2020 book, My Grandfather is a Canoe, from which she also produced an award winning drama at the Dunedin Festival in 2021.

The announcement of the three winning poems will be made on the day after World Environment Day, Monday 6th of June.

ALL entries will be published right here on Ples Singsing – A PNG Writer’s Blog, and we will celebrate the twenty-one entrants who have entered into the world of literary creativity.

Young writers elevated to an unknown future

We saw many lights shine brightly during the years of the Crocodile Prize only to fade away and never be seen since

By PHIL FITZPATRICK – posted on PNG Attitude Blog

Tingting Bilong Mi: 2020 Essay Competition edited by Michael Dom & Ed Brumby, Pukpuk Publications (May 2022), 195 pages. $1.00. Kindle edition available from Amazon Books

TUMBY BAY – I’ve got a confession to make, I like reading Papua New Guinean literature.

I’ve probably learnt more about the country and its people through reading its writers than I have living and working there.

That isn’t the only reason I like its literature. I also like the idea of Papua New Guinea, and that idea is best reflected in its writers.

I guess, more than anything else, mine is a visceral rather than an intellectual reaction and, as a consequence, it’s hard to explain.

So, with that in mind, what can I say about this unique collection of 19 essays, Tingting Bilong Mi?

First of all, it has to be understood that the writers are young people, some still students.

This is important to note because, no matter how smart they are, they still lack life experience.

With some exceptions in literature, life experience is an important asset for any writer. With it comes both wisdom and sharpened skills.

Most of the essays in Tingting Bilong Mi reflect this aspect. What many of the authors have done is fall back on their educational experience for want of anything better.

The result has been a preference for essays very much in the form of a formal piece of work for school, including the obligatory list of references.

This is okay because the competition from which these works are drawn allowed for academic as well as literary writing. I know which I prefer.

In my experience interesting school essays are rare because, among other things, they don’t reflect the writer’s opinions but those of their teachers and the text books which have to be read.

Unless wanting to highlight a particular source, more experienced writers can bury their influences and make their narrative run smoothly. The winning entries published in this book are a good example of how this has been done.

It’s nice to know that a lot of the writers researched PNG Attitude and in their essays cited what they had found there.

But there was a serious lack of breadth of other sources except for data about literacy in PNG (which is around 60% and falling) sourced from a 2015 report by the Education Department.

As for the rest, the research appeared to have been found in more obscure sources on the internet. I wonder what this means. Does it point to lazy research, or does it mean the resources are just not there?

A few of the more adventurous writers used some unusual and quixotic sources, such as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was good to see.

Some common themes running through the essays were that literature is an indicator of PNG’s development, that there is a need to create a culture of reading, that traditional culture and history must be preserved, that PNG-based narratives are more relatable than others, and that home-grown literature is important to PNG’s national identity and prestige.

This is all good stuff and, despite my earlier observations, the writers should be congratulated for their acuity in understanding these very practical benefits that ensue from literature.

Most, if not all, of the writers represented in the collection show great promise and I’m sure a few of them, given the right circumstances and encouragement, will go on to greater things.

However, whether that encouragement will be available to them is a critical matter.

We saw many lights shine brightly during the years of the Crocodile Prize only to fade away and never be seen since. They were all heartfelt losses.

Let’s hope the generation represented by this collection has better luck.

With editors like Michael Dom and Ed Brumby, there is still good reason to hope.

A poem tribute to Late Honorable Sam Basil

Gone too soon

Photo from Post-Courier article ‘Basil is acting prime minister’ February 2, 2022

By Richard Napam

A star has fallen
An eagle has fallen
A light has gone out,
Gone too soon.

Gone are the dreams you had for us,
Dreams for a Nation of thousand tribes
Dreams that united millions
But you are gone
Gone too soon.

Words are meaningless to express
Express how dear you are,
For you are too dear
To go too soon

To the young, you have been,
An inspiration, to shoot to the stars,
A strength, to ascend the heights.
But you are gone,
Gone too soon.

Compassion defined your heart
A heart you shared with millions,
A heart belonged to the millions,
But you are gone,
Gone too soon.

Years may slip by,
Leaders may rise, and fall.
But your legacies will be forever,
Forever in our hearts,
Because you are gone,
Gone too soon.

Special mum,pours out her heart

My Love Natugu

By LARRY ANDREW – posted on The National

CHILDREN with special needs are not sent to special parents; they make parents special.
Author Evah Loloh Kuamin says so – and why. Her book My Love -Natugu, is a love story of a mother’s (her own) response to the parental challenges in caring for a special-needs child in vastly different ways.
The book was launched on July 17 in Lae International by Digicel Foundation chief executive officer Serena Sasingian and EMTV Lae bureau chief Scott Waide.
My Love -Natugu is about self-consciousness, sentimentality and even plain doggedness. It is meant to get the message across, through the story of a special-needs child, that has the capacity to move even the stoniest and coldest of hearts. Kuamin wrote the book about her journey with her daughter Sarah who was six when she succumbed to illness that resulted in disability.
Sarah, now 12 years old, from Central and East New Britain parents, had been bedridden and hadn’t able to walk for almost seven years now. She has lost the ability to walk, talk and do things that others in her age group can do.
Amazingly, Sarah has fought off the disease in the sense that she seems to be getting better every day.
The message of the book is particularly to parents and caregivers of special-needs people (children and adults) to continue to be who they are for their special persons and never give up.
But it is certainly not easy.
“It is a very tiring task to be a parent or caregiver of a special needs person,” says Kuamin.
What has driven her as a mother and a writer is to encourage parents and caregivers that they are not alone. And despite various differences in experience, what holds true is that children with special needs make their parents special.
And this is what the East New Britain woman had to say about her tedious journey with her little princess Sarah through thick and thin in the last seven years.
“In Papua New Guinea today, I wonder why there has been little on this topic. There was the odd story in a collection of books, newspapers, a few poems, Facebook pages and blogs that I remember reading some time back,” the author says.
“In today’s world there are thousands of ways people share stories of relationships from every possible angle. But for me, I noticed that the relationship that has been conspicuously missing has been that of a special need child and his or her parents.
“You see, human relationships are the staple of literature. Lovers write about their partners, husbands about their wives, grown-up children about their mothers and fathers and the list goes on and on. But it ends somewhere before we get to the peculiarly uncomfortable topic of how a special needs parent feels about their child.
“Of course there are plenty of special needs books, manuals, research papers, guides, handbooks, psychology guides, hospital care, magazines, special-needs parenting guide books to help parents of special needs children in caring for them
“But all this literature, as valuable as they may be in their different ways, do not tell the real story of what it is like to be caring and managing a child with special needs. The real story of what it is like, living in a country like Papua New Guinea and parenting a child with special needs. It involves a lot more blood, dreams, tears, screams, seizure attacks and emotions than the authorities and experts prepare to reveal.
“The complexities of having to raise and manage a child with special needs is a very compelling topic. For me, the instinct to write about my daughter Sarah has been the most compelling experience of my life. It is immensely strong.
“So what is the real story about caring for a child with special needs? And can this book offer it? Well, for a start whatever the real story might be, My Love – Natugu shows that despite my eagerness for knowledge (and despite the information gleaned from all those special needs books), after this event (launching of the book) a special-needs parent comes to understand that she knows nothing.
“Because no one has talked about how it could be a love affair. The maternal bond has often been mentioned, but no one has explained just how that bond is; how it is in those first few week or months of your special needs-child’s condition. It has been literally impossible for a mother to be away from her child. How she has to carry her from room to room, and refuse to go out and leave her side.
“All she wanted between the feeding, the washing, seizure attacks has been to be beside her special child, hold her, smell her, and gaze adoringly at the person who is the flesh of her flesh and blood of her blood.
“No one explained to me what I would expect from Sarah’s condition — her complicated sleeping pattern, her loss of senses, and her excruciating pain exerted in her brain and entire body from her seizure attacks.
“No one told me what diet was good for her condition, that she shouldn’t be placed under extremely bright light or loud sounds, and the very few that did – I embraced wholeheartedly and put that into action. It feels so great to be needed. No so terrifying.
“Being a parent of a special-needs child is an amazing thing. It has challenged me and brought out the best of my entire being.
“Ordinarily, I feel that we don’t feel the need to talk about it, or educate the next generation into supporting the cause. Yet, every special-needs parent or carer’s experience is unique. The birth or sudden thrust of a child into a special needs condition is a phenomenon. Every mark of their birth is a different shape or texture. And every special-needs individual, even in the womb or born, is an absolute miracle.
“In a Papua New Guinea context, despite the utter commonness of my experience with Sarah, it is still in certain contexts, taboo, to discuss certain aspects of caring for special-needs children, even to acknowledge their existence. Stigma and discrimination do exist for this group of people.
“The task I set out writing this book was because I felt it was time, time to break some of these taboos. If it was indulgent or thought to draw sympathy, I really didn’t care. If it was emotional and soppy, even better. Let’s get emotional for a change. Let me indulge you with this special-needs story, some description of fierce, powerful special-needs child worship. And like a Tolai aigir dish, it is spiced up with a bit of blood and guts to care, leavened with a touch of humour.
“Some of the pieces in this book describe the apocalyptic intensity of the pain and the impossibility of forgetting. So the real story, as My Love-Natugu shows, is as diverse as it is powerful, as confronting as it is compelling. It is as I said, about the blood and guts in caring for a special-needs child.
“The disappointments, the fears, the confusion, the sense of betrayal, even the horror. It’s really about how bad the pain a parent feels; like cutting off your own leg, being blown apart, having a knife thrust deep in your ear, or erupting – like Mt Tavurvur resides inside of you.
“The story above all, is a continuing one. I hope that my book gives you the immense pleasure to read through the different chapters, again and again and to know acceptance. It is all okay. You can manage. And every fragment of this entire book put together has its own special story.
“This book is from the heart of a mother and written from the instinct that we call motherly love. Thank you and may you be inspired and encouraged to continue caring and loving special-needs children.
“I leave you all with this phrase from L. Robert Keck: “But I do know this: Love can be an incredible powerful healing force and its scope, its capabilities and its mystery far exceed what our left brain can comprehend. We would be foolish to underestimate the healing power of human connectedness, fueled by the energy of love. After all, the power of love itself is itself a miracle.”
EMTV’s Scott Waide, in congratulating Kuamin said, “Evah is a very powerful writer and what she writes will pull out everything inside of you and force you to go to places you don’t want to go and makes you confront your emotions. Before I even knew Evah, reading what she writes in her Facebook page, I encourage her to write more and eventually she began to do that.
“It’s going to be challenge reading that book; it’s going to be challenge reading that book. I’ve read bits and pieces that she posted online. Sarah is a classic example of a child that has come into a mother’s life and brought out the best in her.
“And if Sarah didn’t happen Evah wouldn’t have written the book, if Sarah didn’t happen Evah wouldn’t be here to inspire a generation of Papua New Guineans,” said Waide.
Serena Sasingian said Digicel Foundation was especially focused on children with special needs and through the chairman Dennis O’Brian, they were was passionately supporting efforts targeting them.
She made a commitment on the foundation’s behalf to help in getting the story out and looked forward to supporting the cause.

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