Kartika Bagus C., The Jakarta Post, Surakarta, Central Java
A poem can express mixed feelings -- longing, restlessness, hate and many other feelings. In a poem, words come alive in their own existence, appealing to the most indifferent heart.
It is also by means of poetry that people of different ethnic groups, religious and racial backgrounds become united in a single chorus demanding peace on earth. This was exactly the goal of the Indonesian International Poetry Festival held in Makassar in South Sulawesi, Surakarta in Central Java and Bandung in West Java.
As many as 38 noted poets from Austria, Africa, Germany, Holland, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia took part, presenting their best works for the Surakarta audience.
The festival arouses enthusiasm for peace and friendship, providing room for a cultural encounter and chances for experiencing the beauty of international friendship.
In Surakarta, the second leg of this poetry festival, the event took place at the auditorium of Muhammadiyah University from April 6 to April 9. The festival will then move on to Bandung from April 10 to 13.
In Surakarta the festival featured, among others, Dutch poets such as Gerrit Komrij, Gerry van der Linden, Ramsey Nasr, Remco Capert, Hagar Peeters, Rudy Kousbroek and Mustafa Stituo.
Indonesia was represented by, among others, A. Mustofa Bisri, Abdul Hadi W.M, Cecep Syamsul Hari; Darmanto Jatman, Joko Pinurbo, Oka Rusmini, Sapardi Djoko Damono and Zeffry J. Alkatiri.
Poets from other countries include Martin Jankowsky, Michael Agustine and Brigitte Olenschinski (Germany), Breyten Breytenbach (Africa), Kemala (Malaysia) and also Martin Amanshauser (Austria).
These poets speak about different themes as suggested by the titles of some of their poems, like I Feel Sorry by Michael Augustine of Germany, Counterweight by Gerrit Komrij of Holland and How About If I Accompany You to Walk a Bit Further? by Hagar Peeters of Holland.
From Africa we have Significance Behind Horizon of Words by Breyten Breytenback of South Africa and from Malaysia, Kemala writes about the restlessness in life in Universal Canvas, Self and Mirror and At Pushkin Museum.
The only woman poet representing Indonesia was Oka Rusmini of Bali, who expressed concern over the changes occurring in her birthplace in Land of Bali. Another Indonesian poet Joko Pinurbo changed the atmosphere with his comical poems, a trilogy of verses on Trousers, Newspaper Boys and Debt.
The three-day festival in Surakarta revived enthusiasm for literature with the appearance of local poet Sosiawan Leak who charmed the audience with his excellent control of the stage.
In his Diorama, Sosiawan, also a dramatist, tried to portray a poem as a witness to a locked-up conscience.
As for the poems presented by other Indonesian poets, particularly senior poets like Abdul Hadi W.M., Darmanto Jatman and Sapardi Djoko Damono, largely dwell on Muslim subjects such as God, Sufiism, humanism, human nature, life and more.
In general, there is yet a clear direction to result from a gathering of international poets. It is yet to be discussed how the theme of Getting Together for Peace and Friendship can be realized. However, as the meeting successfully brought together poems of many nations, this undertaking is worthy of a thumbs up.