To celebrate Sapardi Djoko Damono’s new collection of poems, “Kolam” (“Pond”), the Salihara art complex in South Jakarta welcomed the public last week to participate in a discussion with the poet and other literary figures.
It has been 40 years since Sapardi published his first collection, “DukaMa Abadi” (“Your Sorrow is Eternal”).
Literary critic and poet Hasan Aspahani described the poetry in “Kolam” as communal, inviting the readers into the poems. He said Sapardi’s use of the subject “we” contrasted with his earlier poems, which were deeply introverted.
Hasan said Sapardi was now able to balance his ego with his sense of empathy, a rare quality in senior poets who are so often admired and praised.
“Sapardi tries to avoid coming across as a prophet,” he said.
Sapardi’s new book is a symbol that the he has moved into a new phase in his career, Hasan said.
“Sapardi doesn’t feel the need to prove anything anymore,” he said. “He knows who he is as an artist and is content with himself.”
The prose writer Muhammad Al-Fayyadl agreed: “Sapardi is no longer worried about experimenting radically like younger poets.”
Despite this new comfort zone Sapardi has found, Al-Fayyadl said that his poetry was still fresh and engrossing. He referred to Sapardi’s frequent use of rain as an metaphor, employed in Sapardi’s trademark figurative style.
Sapardi is regarded as a pioneer of lyrical poetry in the country, an epithet he earned after publishing “DukaMu Abadi” in 1969. His style is simple and straightforward.
In the four decades since his career took off, Sapardi has released more than 20 books and poetry collections, and has received a number of literary awards, including the Southeast Asian Writers Award in 1986.
“DukaMu Abadi” focused on the pain of the individual who questions existence. Unlike his literary peers of the 1960s — such as Tempo magazine’s founding editor, Goenawan Mohamad, also a poet — Sapardi strayed away from revolutionary and social ideas, focusing instead on a more introverted look at the human condition
Al-Fayyadl noted a greater influence of faith in Sapardi’s new book compared with his first. “Kolam” addresses alienation, identity and feelings of loss, he said.
Sapardi himself closed the discussion with a short speech. He said that “Kolam” was inspired by the view that literature could be perceived in two basic ways: thematically and stylistically.
“While there have been significant innovations in Indonesian literature in terms of style, there have not been many new themes introduced by poets,” he said.
He concluded by saying that he hoped “Kolam” would have the same revivalist power on Indonesian literature now as “DukaMu Abadi” had back in the late 1960s.
Sapardi Djoko Darmono