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.
The subject of Toeti Heraty’s poetry ranges from human encounters in an age of conceit to the confessions of an ever-restless soul. Many of Toeti’s poems give voice to the emotional struggles and disappointments of women. They show a clear feminist influence; yet their method of confronting the patriarchy is not always direct. Instead, Toeti quietly questions the complicity of a world that represses woman.
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 writing by the internationally acclaimed Indonesian poet, Dorothea Rosa Herliany. Through a distinctive mix of striking imagery and boldness of voice, the poet sets out to destroy many of the common assumptions about everyday life and human relationships. As a woman and a poet, she is doubly 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 also in its emotional and imaginative tenor. This book will speak to readers who are interested in Indonesia, women’s writing, and in poetry in general.
Museum of Pure Desire contains choice examples of poetry whose richness derives from their destruction of the constraints that surround the genre. Dewanto’s poems challenge the reader to stop and reconsider what first comes to mind upon their reading and to consider an entirely different interpretation altogether; they pull the reader into a state of tension between extreme juxtaposition and hidden logic, between childlike playfulness and calculated detachment.
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.