Book review by Mirren Strahan
Like Death Approaching & other poems is a very intimate, lyrical collection of poetry. Acep creates very romantic narratives and entwines notions of silence, cyclicity, the natural world and interactions with people. These interactions are usually between the poet and another person dwindling in the place the poem has created. The interaction feels like time has stopped and is focused on one moment, contrary to the place that Acep creates as a bustling, continuously changing setting. This poetry explores the cyclicity of life events like love and death, using silence to lament the temporary nature of these common aspects to life.
Within the introduction, Nirwan Dewanto discusses Acep as the “faithful bearer” (Dewanto, xiv) of a characteristic within Indonesian modern poetics that embodies silence. The silence is referred to as ‘Nyanyi Sunyi’, Songs of Solitude or Songs of Silence. Poetry that seems to lament of societal or personal injustices through nothingness and space. He strays from politicizing his language and instead indulges in lyrical observation. Many of his poems read with a sense of passivity and indirectness, that evokes poignancy about the subject that he is reflecting on. The silence is evocated through the visually and aurally spatializing of Acep’s poetry. An indentation, a two lined space or disconnected sentences are very common throughout his poetry; that allows the reader to experience space within the poem. The rhythm is in a very gradual and meandering manner where cyclicity and progression of time are common patterns throughout his poetry. Descriptions such as,
“Softly, I pressed my ear to your chest/ And could hear time kicking at your heart/ Like rain striking a stone surface…
Joy and sadness are ever so close/ Like light and darkness, forever changing places./ and the two of us”
A fragment from Twilight’s address within Like Death Approaching & other poems that entwines the feeling of love through a moment between two people into a seemingly inevitably futile reflection of time passing. Using these continuous processions of lightness and darkness of day and encapsulating images like rain monotonously hitting a stone’s surface, contrasts to that couple’s eternal-like feeling of love. A lament that it is only a moment like these portrayals of nature and cannot be withheld.
Acep Zamzam Noor is an Indonesian poet and painter who was born in Tasikmalaya, West Java, 1960. He studied at the faculty of visual arts and design at the Bandung Institute of Technology and thereafter in Italy on a government scholarship at Universita Italiana per Stranieri in Perugia. His poetry has been written in Indonesian and his regional dialect, Sundanese and has been the recipient of the 2013 Khatulistiwa Literary Award and the Rancage Literary Award which is specifically given to works that are published in regional dialects.
Like Death Approaching & other Poems
By Acep Zamzam Noor
Translated by John H. McGlynn (English); Michael Groβ