Raetemaot: not everyone is a writer

Raetemaot: Creative Writing from Solomon Islands, Julian Maka’a, ed.

  • Solomon Islands, #6
  • Paperback, $20 from Alibris.com (I kind of can’t believe I paid $20 for this)
  • Read September 2016
  • Rating: 2/5
  • Recommended for: trainee editors after a rousing game of spot-the-professional-writer

The preface to this collection of poems, stories, and essays by Solomon Islanders explains that the project arose out of a creative writing workshop. “This workshop,” it tells us, “brought together writers whose work had been published internationally and/or nationally and writers who aspired to have their work published. Participants ranged from secondary school students to those long employed in education and government, and the learning flowed in all directions…Other creative writers, when they later heard a book was in the making, asked to contribute their work.”

Paris, 2012

The result is pretty much as you would expect from this come-one, come-all approach to anthologizing; the editors don’t seem to have turned anyone away and you sort of wish they had. The quality ranges from meh to downright awful, and most of the poems read as if they were written by angsty high school students. By a sort of halo effect, everything in the collection seems slapdash and inexpert.

Paris, 2012

The brightest spot, for me, are the poems of Robert Navala. Not because they’re good (they’re not), but because he has taken the trouble to annotate them, writing explanatory notes for each one in the third person. For example, here is the note appended to his poem “Sad Eyes”: “Most flowers attract attention by their blossoms or by their fragrance. In this poem, Robert uses the beauty of a rose blended with the glow of evening sunlight to convey to readers emotions he felt when mourning at the graveside of his dear wife.” All of the poems are about his late wife, which is sad and touching and hard to reconcile with his short stories, which are stalkerish and deeply creepy (and evidently non-fictional) elegies to much younger women.

Otherwise there isn’t much to remark. The whole thing, from the individual pieces to the book’s rather original subdivisions (“Animals and Such,” “Dreams and Feelings,” “Random Thoughts”) is kind of adorably amateurish, but alas, more amateur than adorable.

Paris, 2012

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