Poetry of elegance and continuity

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday, 27th May 2011

Literature is about creativity, about life, about doing something positive in our lifetime, writes RUSSELL SOABA


NO parent in Papua New Guinea would be more proud of his or her children than a Mr and Mrs Aigilo and Mr and Mrs Sete, last Saturday.
Indeed the Aigilos and the Setes had every reason to feel elevated so much that day. Their children Melissa Aigilo and Simon Sete were blessed at the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony with Fr John Mitarda presiding, at the Holy Spirit Seminary diocesan chapel of the Catholic Theological Institute at Bomana.
In that predominantly disciplinarian albeit military atmosphere poetry, we note, was allowed to dictate its stance of prowess, elegance and class. Even in their own closing remarks towards the end of the day neither Mr Aigilo nor Mr Sete realised how much eloquence they both possess when it comes to poetry. 
But they said their piece for their children. Melissa and Simon both represent that atmosphere of elegance and class, even though they both said nothing throughout the proceedings of that wedding ceremony. And this remark their contemporaries, meaning those of their generation today who know them in one way or another, will agree with.
At this wedding ceremony the organisers, particularly the MC of the occasion, took every trouble to point out the who and who of the invited guests and the crowd present.
A good number, senior in rank of both disciplinary forces, including a handful of VIPs representing the higher strata of our society, was present; and an informal mention of these would include the former Police Commissioner along with Mr Jerry Singirok whose words of advice and wisdom on the newly-wed couple were those of encouragement for their future, Justice Kathy Davani and her family, notable personalities of various business houses around town, and a handful of academics, laymen and friends of the Aigilo and Sete families.
The blessing part of the ceremony, consisting of the wedding and Holy Communion, took place at Holy Spirit Chapel, upon a hill overlooking the rest of that part of Bomana renowned for its idyllic setting and rows and groves of eaglewood trees.
That place becomes the type of atmosphere where poetry can be written, the sort of poetry betraying evidence of much rumination, pondering and deep thought.  Those students of literature and creative writing who are familiar with Melissa Aigilo’s writing will now know where all that poetry was coming from. But it is a sanctuary, a kind of retreat that virtually all church denominations would want to go to for some quiet moments of prayer and fasting. And it became quite a fitting place for the Aigilo and Sete families to observe their children’s wedding, as both Melissa and Simon are, unlike their fathers perhaps, very quiet people.
After the wedding service the guests took a walk down from the chapel, past seminary blocks and houses, including various chapels and retreats, but always through walkways lined with eaglewood and other prized trees, and down to an open field where the overall ceremony was observed.
There were several tents erected, one for the MC’s personnel and equipment, another for the VIPs, and two more for catering services. It was a well-organised military type of service and ceremony and well that it should be, so efficiently planned and executed a guest would simply say, “Yes, this is Peter Aigilo’s work.”
A former UPNG classmate of Melissa’s, present at the occasion, remarked to storyboard: “You know, Aigilo took half a day to plan all this; whereas with us non military people this could take months.”
Several adjoining tables were placed for gifts and these were filled with wedding presents some of which were placed on the grass for want of space.
But food surpassed all, what with two large catering houses hired from town to take care of all that, including beverages of various choices and tastes. Guest queued up at their respective tents to be served and towards sunset the lines grew longer as the shadows grew longer and still there was plenty to eat as well as take home.
And by nightfall, when all this drawing to a close, there were seen bands of youth milling about in order to do the cleaning up sooner after the guests have left, so that by Sunday morning the entire open field would still look green and fresh and as clean as ever. Such are the remnants of what one usually means by the term elegance of poetry. Even a military setting has its own language of poetry, and those familiar with classical literary criticism will recall the name Horace.
At this point the reader will probably guess what storyboard is getting at. And that is the amount of planning done by parents, either for their children’s education or observance of nuptials such as the one of Melissa’s and Simon’s. There is so much devotion put into this and the result is what the children themselves have to show to and for their parents. Sometimes things get toughened up, times get bad, but being Papua New Guineans, we do our best. As poetry is eternal so are our moments of striving towards those higher stations in life that spell grandeur, splendour and eloquence.
Here, storyboard would like to say a little about Melissa as a poet, and this the reader as a parent might find valuable. When Melissa enrolled as a literature student at UPNG in 2000 she and her generation of new intakes brought glamour, fashion and class to an otherwise dismal looking discipline of academic studies. The years previously saw little excitement in this academic discipline and there were stories doing the rounds that anyone studying literature would be lucky to get a job after graduation. Our enrolments figures prior to 2000 read as two or three literature majors. But today all that has changed thanks to young people of Melissa’s calibre, with herself as the leader and role model. In each class we have figures soaring from ten and upwards to fifty, not to mention our compulsory Literature and Politics course which averages fifty students a year. Are there jobs for this lot out there? Yes, declares storyboard, there are jobs, and they are plenty. If the world out there lacks jobs creative new ones for yourselves. Literature is about creativity, about life, about doing something positive in our lifetime.
Finally, congratulations to Simon and Melissa for a wonderful day last Saturday. And now a reminder to parents that applications for enrolment for continuing students in 2012 are open at UPNG. Start planning now.