A Moving Dedication In Poetry

Marie-Rose Sau reading her poem 'On That Fateful Day', with Jeffry Feeger at work on his and Ratoos Gary's tribute painting on the far right.

I met Marie-Rose Sau, a young Papua New Guinean poet recently at the Royal Papua Yacht Club for a Bemobile-sponsored event. The event featured two iconic artists Jeffry Feeger and Ratoos Gary accompanied by an impressive group of PNG musicians led by PNG’s own Louis Armstrong, Pius Wasi.

The event called ‘Journey Through Stains’ is the brainchild of Jeffry Feeger of national renown and gaining more recognition overseas as well. It was held on Wednesday, 22nd February, 2012 to raise funds for the relatives of those who were lost in the recent MV Rabaul Queen tragedy.

I will write more about this event in a separate post. But for now let’s meet Marie-Rose through her poem, ‘On That Fateful Day’. Marie-Rose read this moving dedication but some of it was inaudible because of background noise. I wanted to kill two birds with one stone so after the event I asked her if I could feature her poem on my blog and she kindly agreed. So here it is.

 

On That Fateful Day

T’was a glorious day

The setting sun illuminating

The horizon beyond

The sea had seemed calm

As if it were asleep

Sea birds soar up above

No fear for stormy clouds untold

No one thought it would end like this

The unthinkable would happen

It was just another ordinary day

Another journey to make

Another endurance of that cruel

Bismark Sea

Yet families came to bade their

Loved ones a safe journey

Without the knowing that

For some it might

Be their last goodbyes.

Filled with enthusiasm

They rushed through the gates

Onto what might be their last trip

Onboard you

The young ones

Naïve of what was to come

Held on tightly to

Their mamas and their papas

With hearts beating with

Sheer excitement

And then finally

Amidst the commotion

You let go of your anchors one last time

And you set sail

Into the beyond

To meet your fate

Come the stormy weather

And the high seas

And Bismark could not have been too kind

To the innocent lives on board

For it attacked you with a force

You could not withstand

And you plunged

Plunged into the unknown beneath

And for if you were a being

The endless screams

You would not have missed

The frantic prayers that were begged

From quivering mouths

Prayed from hearts beating as for

As if it were their last

Yet you were but a human

And there you tumbled over

Innocence spilled overboard

Lives tossed here and there

Trying to hold on for dear life

To be spared

To be somehow saved

And yet you could not grant that

And oh how mothers cried out

Dearly for those young ones

For a son

For a daughter

For a husband

Fathers braved the merciless waves

To search for their families

Screams be heard

From already broken hearts

Hearts bleeding with fear

For a mother

For a father

A brother

A sister

An aunt

An uncle

A cousin

A friend

That they were afraid to lose

And yet you failed them

And you sank without shame

And you took with you

All that was to someone

You took the world from someone

And you brought it to the bottom

Of the dark seas

And when the sun shone

And the seas they calmed

The pain and the hurt

Of losing what one holds most dearly to

Could not be eased

The endless tears shed

And the screams

The fight to hold on

And the fight to let go

Words could not comfort

For some they found their loved ones

But some they will live another day

With a missing piece

And the knowing that that missing piece

Sank with the MV Rabaul Queen on

That fateful Thursday 2nd of February 2012…

Dedicated to those that survived and to those that were never found onboard the MV Rabaul Queen

Marie-Rose Sau

 

In her own words, Marie-Rose says, I come from a mixed parentage of Chimbu, East New Britain and Morobe. I started writing poems as early as grade 5. Because of my childhood background, writing poems became a trusted friend to me.

A way for me to speak my feelings. My thoughts, etc. I never gotten any of my writing published per se. It was just a hidden hobby that I kept.

I wrote this poem, because I just lost someone very recently and although it wasn’t as tragic as the Rabaul Queen. That pain of enduring an ordeal like that cannot be described. So I try to write from my own experience of losing a loved one and try to relate that to the ordeal that the victims and those that have lost their loved ones.

I have realized that when, someone dies, in such a way, it is only right to pay tribute to them. for all that they have endured, in some ways, it reminds one that one day later in life, just maybe, something tragic might happen and a stranger will pay tribute too. For me to write that, it somehow gives me some sort of inner peace to say goodbye to the souls of those that were lost.”

I wanted to feature Marie-Rose not only because of this moving piece that she has dedicated to both the survivors and the lost ones but also because it has been a long time for me to hear a poem from another PNG woman as well as meet her which is such a privilege.

Marie-Rose has recently created a group ‘Poetry PNG’ on Facebook. This is a treasure trove of PNG poetry and writing talent being uncovered. It’s illuminating and inspiring stuff. Check it out.

I am featuring Marie-Rose because I want to proactively start promoting PNG women writers whose stars are rising steadily in the PNG writers’ skies following on the impressive heels of such national greats as Nora Vagi Brash who is a poet and playright and many more accomplished and yet to be discovered PNG women poets.

I hope that more PNG women will find their voices through poetry and I wish them confidence, courage and commitment to their art.

‘The Crocodile Prize” Competition Finesses The Writing Talent of Papua New Guinea

The publication - 'The Crocodile Prize - Anthology 2011" - contains the literary expressions of 21 PNG writers

Behold! the conscience of PNG speaks from the shadows no more!

I was most privileged and honored to take part in the inaugural launch of ‘The Crocodile’ Prize Awards, which took place yesterday at the Australian High Commission. No-one would have known that on the grounds of the Australian High Commission, taking place behind closed doors was a birthing of the PNG writers’ collective resolve: to make writing as prominent as the eye can see, the nose can smell, the ear can hear and the mouth can spread the news, that PNG writers are not a dying breed. Far from it!

Keith Jackson (with glasses), Phil Fitzpatrick and our host HE Mr Kemish, the Australian High Commissioner to PNG

I found myself holding back my emotions as I gazed into the happy expectant faces of upcoming contemporary PNG writing pioneers and the assurance of the future of PNG literature. A group united in spirit to make their mark on PNG’s future and its destiny. I felt an overwhelming sense of oneness with this eclectic group of vibrant and perceptive writers whose country is the bedrock of the content of their literary expressions.

PNG writing has come of age, olgeta! The new generation has discovered its own ‘wave of motivation and inspiration’ to drive their literary talent into the public domain. Thanks in no small measure to Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick and the great support received through Keith’s ‘PNG Attitude’ blog that saw yesterday happen. It was a labour of love that was not in vain.

I could hear and feel in my spirit that for each of these writers their literary journey has truly begun. It was a long time coming. This is a journey that they most certainly will not travel alone. Wherever we are these are our voices too. We must lend them our strong support so that they can continue to give us, through their writing, the checks and balances we need to maintain, in how we relate to eachother as Papua New Guineans and how we should deal with the challenges that we advertently or inadvertently have brought upon ourselves and from which we are struggling to free ourselves.

I did not know many of them but when I started reading their works in the recently published ‘The Crocodile Prize – An Anthology 2011’ I realized that I do know them. I recognized the struggles, successes, uncertainly and so on that they are experiencing as they strive to understand where they have come from and where they should be going. Some of which I totally identify with.

Some of the writers. Russell Soaba in the foreground (with purple shirt) - he was one of the iconic pre-Independence PNG pioneer writers.

We are united through their interests and concerns from the political to social and communal issues to their spiritual belonging to PNG and their experiences while growing up in their villages, Port Moresby and other places in PNG as well as life in general.

The Anthology contains the literary expressions of, if you like, their reality.

These are the voices that need to be heard. As the winner of the Essay Award whose essay entitled ‘The Political Economy of Everything That’s Wrong in Developing PNG’ quite succinctly stated in his winning essay when he read to us an extract of his writing upon receiving his well-deserved award:

“…I don’t dream anymore, I am grounded in reality. I grapple with the facts as they are. Perhaps there are too many visionaries and dreamers such that no one is there to deal with the reality of life in Papua New Guinea. Even a vast majority of people who are trapped like me do not wish to deal with reality.”

How many of us public servants hear this ‘voice’, how many of us can understand this writer’s reality who are also grappling with the facts as they are but with a difference. To do something about it by raising our game to be more focused on public service and to make public service our reality so that we can move forward with mitigating or preventing this writer’s pain and many like him. They say that writers are society’s conscience. Has ours arrived or are they too late?

The day ended with the award ceremony kindly hosted by the Australian High Commissioner and his staff in the foyer area. The sight of the awards, a small crocodile figurine mounted on a rectangular wooden base and with a metal plaque, and with such meticulous detail was evidence enough that ‘The Crocodile Prize’ was here to stay. PNG’s literary renaissance would be a force to be reckoned with, without a doubt!

Thank you so much Keith Jackson, of PNG Attitude fame among his other illustrious achievements and of course avid writer and close PNG observer, Phil Fitzpatrick – both close friends of PNG with a passion for PNG writing and writers – for your  commitment spiritually, and financially that saw this inaugural literary competition come into being yesterday. To Keith and Phil, you must have felt like doting parents as your ‘child’ was born. Am sure that Patrick (Big Pat) Levo, Features Editor at the Post Courier felt the the same way too. Thank you gentlemen for your vision and for such an awesome result.

Lady Margaret Eri

One brief moving moment I experienced during the award proceedings is worth mentioning here. I wondered who else may have also caught the moment. When Lady Margaret Eri was asked, impromptu, to say a few words, she did so graciously and I found myself hanging on to every word she said. Lady Margaret  is the widow of one of the iconic sons of PNG. From her disposition, I can see that under that calm and collected exterior she would have been unmistakably the rock and the pillar of strength behind the late Sir Vincent. As she spoke in a quiet dignified and assured way, she mentioned that her beloved husband, the late Sir Vincent Eri passed away in 1993 and that this was the first time that such a significant gesture had been paid her husband. There were no dramatics just simply a statement of fact.

I was moved to tears. I don’t know why but one thing was for sure in my mind – we tend to forget our forebears and the endless possibilities they had opened up for us. We tend to take them for granted. It was truly an eye-opener what she said and a heart-rending reminder of what we need to do more often. Remember those who have blazed the many trails for us – that enabled and empowered us to pursue careers in almost every field of development, our passions, our preoccupations – great and small, our peaceful lifestyles, and above all a nation to be proud of as well as be part of which they had not allowed anyone to take away from us – our birthright Papua New Guinea.  Sir Vincent was one of the pioneers of our nation. Could remembering the trail blazers be another or new ‘wave of motivation and inspiration’ for contemporary PNG writing? Only time will tell.

With Mizraiim Lapa and Lapieh Landu - winner of the Dame Carol Kidu Award for Women's Literature.

The day closed with a small reception to celebrate the launch and the awardees. I was quite pleased that I had managed to get most of the writers to autograph my copy of ‘The Crocodile Prize – Anthology 2011” and took a few photos with them. What a wonderful fulfilling day.

With Keith Jackson - we were classmates at UPNG in the early 70s.

I went home feeling so uplifted. Of all the days during this week, yesterday had to be the highest point. It been the eve of celebrating PNG’s 36th national day, I realized what a fitting tribute the day was, (Thursday, 15th September, 2011) to a soon-to-become a better known group of artists – the PNG writers.

Hello, Papua New Guinea! The writers are coming!