The Jakarta Post
Sapardi Djoko Damono sits during the launch of seven of his books at Bentara Budaya Jakarta. (JP/Bagas Rahadian)
For the past five decades, one of the country's most celebrated poets, Sapardi Djoko Damono, has contributed to the Indonesian literary scene through his poems, essays and fiction.
The 77-year-old writer of Hujan Bulan Juni (Rain in June) recently revealed what had started him off as a poet. “I couldn’t be a general because I was too thin, I was [also] not strong enough to become a farmer,” Sapardi half-jokingly told Antara news agency during the launch of his latest book, Manuskrip Sajak (Poetry Manuscript), in Jakarta on Thursday.
The book consists of collages of photos of Sapardi’s poems released between 1958 and 1970s.
He said his love of reading was what made him what he is today. “I’ve been reading poems since I was in junior high school; but I didn’t know [exactly] why I suddenly could write,” he said, adding that writing was easier if the author read regularly.
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Sapardi said he liked to write about everything, including about his melancholic moments when he was young. His inspiration has come from everywhere, including during his studies at the Faculty of Literature of Gajah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta, which was dominated by female students.
“There were only four or five male students [at the faculty]; the rest were female students,” Sapardi said. “All of their names are there [in Manuskrip Sajak], except for my wife’s name.”
The winner of the Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa Literary Award in 2004 said he never set a target of how much he could write in a certain timespan. There was a time when he could write 18 poems in one night, but there was also a time he could not even finish a poem for over three years. (wir/kes)