The poetry of Hanna Fransisca is heavily-laden with Chinese cultural metaphors. The pleasures of eating and cooking might be shadowed by violence and sacrifice, or even eroticism and sadism. We hear multiple voices in Fransisca’s poetry: those of both the minority Chinese and all the women who struggle against the confines of patriarchy.
In a writing career spanning more than thirty years, Afrizal Malna has published several major collections of poetry and has seen his poems translated into several languages. Afrizal is concerned with questioning language and with bodily engagement with public and private spaces. It is through the appearance of everyday objects that his poems emerge as a repository of the cultural meanings of space and objects in Indonesia’s everyday modernity. His poems maintain a fine balance between consistency of style and variations in theme. These are poems that trace the quickly changing urban trajectory of present day Indonesia.
Sapardi Djoko Damono, one of Indonesia’s most productive and popular poets first began writing poetry as a high school student in the mid- 1950s. Before Dawn includes poems written by the author over a forty year time span, from 1961 to 2001. Arranged as they are in chronological order, the poems in Before Dawn together form a kind of poetic autobiography.
In “One Night,” written in 1964, the author is a young Muslim boy crying outside the church door as his classmates celebrate Christmas. In the 1967 poem, “For my Wife,” he is a young husband telling his wife that “the earth holds a spray of flowers, just for you.” In the 1981 poem, “In the Hands of Children,” he is now a doting father marveling that “in the hands of children, paper becomes Sinbad’s ship.” Jump to the 1989 poem, “At the Restaurant,” and he is now middle aged and wondering about the constancy of relationships – whether two people can ever truly share an eternal love. And finally, in the 2001 title poem, “Before Dawn,” the poet is a much older man, whose concerns are mental and physical frailty and, of course, death.
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At the time of the construction of the Borobudur in the ninth century, Buddhism had been established in Java for several centuries. Jennifer Mackenzie’s Borobodur, an exquisite long poem, tells the story of its legendary architect, Gunavarman, and of Indonesia’s mystical monument with cultural understanding, sensitivity, and great feeling. Like Gunavarman by the poem’s end, Mackenzie becomes a “dot on the horizon” leaving us stilled in silence
Joko Pinurbo, a graduate of the Sanata Dharma Teachers College in Yogyakarta, first came to literary attention in the 1980s. He is known for his lack of pretense—both in his life and his work—and has published nine books of poetry, many of them prize-winners. In 2014 he received the SEA-Write Award.
Di Balik Kaca brings together, in Indonesian, the same twenty stories published in Menagerie 7. Not only do the stories herein disprove the persistent but baseless myth that all forms of sexuality and sexual behavior that fall outside the norm of accepted heterosexual behavior are not, somehow, “Indonesian,” they also show that the Indonesian archipelago is as multi-sexual as it is multi-ethnic.
After the 1965 incident, numerous Indonesian authors were stranded outside Indonesia and were unable to return home. Together they produced a body of literary work known as “sastra eksil Indonesia”—Indonesian exile literature, which is not a literary genre but, instead, a historical marker. As part of Indonesian history their work cannot be ignored. This book contains poems from fifteen exiled authors.
In August 1883 massive volcanic eruptions destroyed two-thirds of the island of Krakatau, in the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java. It was the day the world exploded. A tsunami wreaked havoc in the region, causing countless deaths, and shock waves were recorded around the world. Ash from the eruption affected global weather patterns for years.
Since that time Krakatau has been the subject of more than 1,000 reports and publications, both scholarly and literary but the only surviving account of the event written by an indigenous eyewitness—Syair Lampung Karam (The Tale of Lampung Submerged), by Muhammad Saleh—has only now, after 130 years, found its way into English translation.
Thus begins Muhammad Saleh’s account. Written in the form of a syair, a classical Malay rhymed poem, Krakatu: The Tale of Lampung Submerged, sheds light on local responses to the widespread devastation in the region and enriches our knowledge of the Krakatau disaster.
Warih Wisatana’s poems often present an unusual scene, which invites the reader to question the reality of that scene. His poems are not meant to shock, however: their voices are gentle, not forceful. He delves into the cultural heritage of the archipelago without the intention of revitalizing local color or political identity.
Bali has long been one of the most famous travel destinations in the world. With its two million visitors a year, foreign-conceived notions about this island are numberless. But what do the Balinese think of their island and their culture? What do fellow Indonesians think of Bali? Menagerie 4 offers an insider’s view of the Island of the Gods that often contrasts starkly with the popular image manufactured by tourism agencies and travel magazines.
Regardless of their skin color or belief system, women all over the world experience sexual violence. Menagerie 5 features a dozen stories
by twelve authors focusing on various aspects of sexual violence towards women, from human trafficking to prostitution and the plight of female guest workers abroad. This collection includes poems by the missing poet- activist Wiji Thukul, reproductions of protest posters produced by Kelompok Rakyat Biasa, and a photographic essay on the 1999 election campaign.
Following the so-called Communist coup of 1965, hundreds of leftist Indonesians were unable to return home. In Indonesia, numerous intellectuals were arrested and interned. Menagerie 6 includes ten short stories and 17 poems by Indonesian exile authors as well as two short stories by “domestic” exile writers and two biographical stories of former political prisoners. Collectively, the materials in this collection present a small but evocative part of the Indonesian exile experience.
Morphology of Desire gives a generous introduction to the full range of writing by the internationally acclaimed Indonesian poet, Dorothea Rosa Herliany. The poems span the 1980s to the present day and though a distinctive mix of striking imagery and boldness of voice, the poet sets out to destroy many common assumptions about everyday life and human relationships. As a woman and a poet, she is doubtly an outsider. Her blatant departure, in form as well as content, from the accepted conventions of society (which intensifies through the progression of her work) is remarkable, not only in its personal and political ramifications, but in its emotional and imaginative tenor as well.
In a Gus tf Sakai story, nothing is as it seems. The unexpected is always happening. Supernatural events occur in ordinary settings, turning lives and reality on end. A three-hundred-year-old Torajan mummy refuses to stay dead. A painting takes on a life of its own and paints the painter. Gus tf Sakai’s esoteric tales range across the myriad cultures of the Indonesian archipelago, crossing time and space. They lure the reader into their mystery and reveal the author’s deep sense of humanity, leaving us deeply involved in the lives and predicaments of his characters.
Outside of Indonesia, little is known about the country’s writers and their works. Helping to change that situation is the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) which, since the festival’s first incarnation in 2004, has brought more than 350 Indonesian authors to Ubud to stand alongside their fellow authors from around the world. UWRF is committed to introducing Indonesian writers to an international audience—not just established authors, but also emerging ones. Although this collection is but a small sample of literary works by emerging authors who have joined the festival over the years, it will introduce you to the heart of Indonesia: to a world of hardship and heartbreak, conflict and peace. Each and every story adds to the sum of its parts: the complex and rich culture of one of the world’s most misunderstood nations. In this volume’s stories and poems, penned by authors from Sumatra to Papua of different ethnic groups, languages, and religions, the common thread is the affirming voice of human expression. John McGlynn & Laura Noszlopy (editors), selected the works of Adek Dedees, Amanche Franck OE Ninu, Arif Fitra Kurniawan, Benazir Nafilah, Budy Utamy, Dewi Ria Utari, Emil Amir, Fitrawan Umar, I Nyoman Manda, Ida Ahdiah, Ilham Q Moehiddin, Imam Muhtarom, Irianto Ibrahim, Jaladara, Kurnia Effendi, Mario F Lawi, Mashuri, Mugya Syahreza Santosa, Niduparas Erlang, Olyrison, Reda Gaudiamo, Sunlie Thomas Alexander, Uda Agus, Wa Ode Wulan Ratna, Zeffry Alkatiri, Zelfeni Wimra, and Zen Hae for the anthology.
Rendra (1935-2009) is one of Indonesia’s most important poets and dramatists. During his lifetime he embodied the Indonesian sense of what a true artist should be. He was a flamboyant personality, often dubbed “the peacock”. His dedication to his art was absolute, and he gave honest and creative expression to his emotions and thoughts. His writing used a simple, flexible long-limbed free verse that is attractive and immediately accessible.
Raised within a mystical Javanese milieu, Rendra saw nature, the individual and society as potentially forming one harmonious whole. In his poetry and his plays this commitment to personal authenticity and social justice was expressed through stories. He wrote about all sorts of people: himself, his family children and grandchildren, those he met in daily life, the poor, the marginalized, victims of social injustice, women and children forced to live without love. Rendra’s criticism of New Order government development policies led to his detention and the banning of his public reading and performance of his works for almost a decade. His message to those who held power but lacked compassion was simple: “we say NO! and NO! to you”. To life itself, he said: “be and continue to grow” – be present, be centered, and at the same time be constantly in motion, constantly flowing. This book is his testimony to the sacredness of life in all its beauty.
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