Overview

In this prize-winning collection, a debut poet evokes his childhood as the son of missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

Mission Work is an arresting collection of poems based on Aaron Baker’s experiences as a child of missionaries living among the Kuman people in the remote Chimbu Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Rich with Christian and Kuman myths and stories, the poems explore Western and tribal ways of looking at the world -- an interface of ...
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Mission Work: Poems

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Overview

In this prize-winning collection, a debut poet evokes his childhood as the son of missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

Mission Work is an arresting collection of poems based on Aaron Baker’s experiences as a child of missionaries living among the Kuman people in the remote Chimbu Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Rich with Christian and Kuman myths and stories, the poems explore Western and tribal ways of looking at the world -- an interface of vastly different cultures and notions of spirituality, illuminated by the poet’s own struggles as he comes of age in this unique environment.

The images conjured in Mission Work are viscerally stirring: native people slaughter pigs for a Chimbu wedding ceremony; a papery flight of cicadas cuts through a cloud forest; hands sting as they beat a drum made of dried snakeskin. Quieter moments are shot through with the unfamiliar as well. In “Bird of Paradise,” a father angles his son’s head toward the canopy of the jungle so the boy can catch sight of an elusive bird.

Stanley Plumly, this year’s guest judge, writes, “How rare to find precision and immersion so alive in the same poetry. Aaron Baker's pressure on his language not only intensifies and elevates his memories of Papuan 'mission work,' it transforms it back into something very like his original childhood experience. Throughout this remarkably written and felt first book, the reader, like the author himself, ‘can’t tell if this is white or black magic,’ Christian, tribal, or both at once.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544104440
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/23/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 80
  • File size: 233 KB

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Chimbu Wedding 3 Notebook 4 Commission 7 Cargo Cult 12 Bones 13 Blood Debt 15 Bird of Paradise 16 The Taban Tree 17 Second Genesis 18 Sing-sing Kiama 21 Spirits of the Low Ground 22 The Red Snake 23 Bride Price 26 The Weaver 27 The Zero in the Branches 28 How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy? 29

Departures 33 Taro 39 Read and Say Nothing 41 Albino 42 A Prayer 43 Above Kerowagi 44 War 46 Evil Spirit 47 In Guru Woods 48 Darkness Legend 49 Ditowagle 50 The Day and the Hour 51 The Last Way 52 Highlands Highway 54 Highlands Mission 55

Notes 59 Acknowledgments 61
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