Twenty-six items from Special Collections (h)

Exhibit 'H': Kiriwina (Papua New Guinea). (Linda Thomas, 'Fetching it back,' circa 1970)

Bibliography: Words of Paradise: Poetry of Papua New Guinea, edited by Ulli Beier (Unicorn Press, Santa Barbara, in affiliation with Sun Books, Australia, 1973).  The word "bulubwalata" (line 1) is glossed by Beier as "a magic formula intended to do evil."

Comment: This will not be the last magic spell in this series. I'm prejudiced in their favor. To me, spells, incantations are the true odas elementales. Shamanistic poetry has only a handful of modes. Mainly there's lying, there's talking nonsense, and there's voicing unreasonable demands. (Cf. the title of Kenneth Koch's book about teaching kids to write poetry: Wishes, Lies, and Dreams.) Ezra Pound thought a writing system based on pictograms "simply had to stay poetic." He must have never seen a copy of Quotations from Chairman Mao. But naked desire calling upon the powers of the air for backup—? That stays poetic. And things answering that description seem to have a shelf life of infinity. Think Sappho's fragments. Surely USA poetry could use more of this? We've ceded exultation to pop songs. Perhaps we still have title to incantation. See below.

Fetching it Back

May my bulubwalata be blunt
may my fetching magic be keen!
   I am fetching back!
From the North East
   I am fetching back
From the South East
   I am fetching back.
From the jungle of Ulawala
   I am fetching back.
From the jungle of Tepila
   I am fetching back.
Though it has become a wood spirit
   I am fetching back.
From under the stone heaps
   I am fetching back.
From the stone walls
   I am fetching back.
With the smell of my mint magic
   I am fetching back.
I am fetching back your mind, woman!
Come back to your mother
Come back to your father
Tear open the house
Tear off my hair
Tread on the floor of my house
And lie on my bed.
Come and let us dwell together
Within our house.