The Palauan Perspectives by Hermana Ramarui

Extract from 'Being a Palauan' against sea backdrop

a nutshell: written by a Palauan poet & educator, this extraordinary collection of poetry explores identity, freedom and colonialism

a line: “Our folly is that | We try to recreate | By trying to duplicate | The impractical past | Whose songs are | Out of tune” (‘Palauan Culture’)

an image: in Ramarui’s pages-long & astonishing poem ‘Freedom’, she suggests the US’s colonial approach to Micronesia was like a fishing expedition and asks the coloniser to throw its golden hooks away

a thought: I was intrigued by the poet’s idea of Palauan culture as a state of being – a centre in itself, hanging onto nothing – and her observation that people cease to be Palauan as soon as they fear new learning (‘Being a Palauan’)

a fact: Ramarui worked for over twenty years in Palau’s Ministry of Education and made huge contributions to preserving Palauan language & culture; she later began working on a children’s reading series and colouring book series

want to read The Palauan Perspectives? visit here

My Urohs by Emelihter Kihleng

a nutshell: this is the first collection of poetry by a Pohnpeian poet, sharing lyrical insights into what it’s like to be a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia

a line: “you think you’re so educated but haven’t a clue about what it means to be colonised when was the last time you planted something in the ground and felt like a real man? when was the last time you listened to the silence?” (‘Ngih Kohl’)

an image: mouth-watering descriptions of food & drink recur throughout the collection, for instance in ‘A meal fit for a soupeidi’ Kihleng describes a dish of canned mackerel, calamansi limes, salt, breadfruit cooked with coconut milk & sugar, washed down with a glug of coconut

a thought: I learned a lot from this collection e.g. in ‘Destiny Fulfilled?’, Kihleng is critical of how Micronesian soldiers were killed fighting in the US’s War on Terror (“she is a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia “freely associated” with the United States of America she could die for America our friendly thug soldier … brown islanders signing away their freedom on islands seized by “liberation” 60 years before); also, in ‘Pohnpei Seringiring’, she writes of how apathy suffocates their lush, tropical island – with no one caring about the landslides killing people or the sediment pouring into oceans choking the reefs

a fact: Kihleng dedicates the titular poem to her mother, who conducted ethnographic research in Saladak, Pohnpeil, and wrote a doctoral dissertation about Pohnpeian women – she continues to inspire Kihleng’s writing (another fact: Pohnpei is matrilineal, in that one’s clan membership is earned through the mother)

want to read My Urohs? visit here