Oyos Saroso H.N., The Jakarta Post, Bandarlampung
An eight-by-ten square meter room in a Lampung University campus complex had been transformed into a performance-ready theater.
A wall at the back of the stage had been covered by a black tarpaulin. As for seats, well the audience had to put up with mats on the floor.
When the stage lights came on, a young woman who was acting as the master of ceremonies gave a welcome speech. That young woman was Fitriyani, section head of the University Student Activities in the field of arts at Lampung University (UKMBS).
Fitriyani then invited the many people in the audience to listen and enjoy a night of poetry readings.
When each poet finished delivering his or her work time was allocated to discuss the poems. Commentators, who included academics, writers, literary critics and language experts, then discussed aspects of the reading and performance and the poet's approach to the subject.
Members of the audience were then given a chance to make their own criticisms and comments about the poetry.
The event is called the Literature Chamber Meeting (Jubisa) and has now been running for nearly two years. Organized by UKMBS activists, it's held on the third Friday of every month.
It has become a prominent and important literature forum, eagerly anticipated by all lovers of the written word, from young university students through to established literary figures.
The audiences usually consist of arts undergraduates and the literati who enjoy watching the on-stage performances of the Lampung poets currently enlivening the world of Indonesian literature through their works.
The audiences can also savor and appreciate the poems of newcomers who make their debut at the start of each month's proceedings.
For those poets whose work is performed and discussed, the Literature Chamber Meetings are a fine forum for exposing their creativity to the public. While for those university students who are studying poetry, the event is a place to learn together.
""Although tough criticism is often made of some of the works, this event is important to gauge the esthetic achievement of a poet. The activity is also important to help build a new generation of Lampung poets,"" said Ari Pahala Hutabarat, a poet who is also head of the Arts Council Literary Committee in Lampung.
According to Ari, the poet Wayan Sunarta from Bali, whose work has been published in book form, came to the Jubisa forum.
""Apart from having his writings read by Lampung poets, Sunarta's poems were also criticized by the audience,"" he said. ""But there were others who supported his work.""
According to Ari, Lampung has now earned itself an important place on the Indonesian poetry map, along with Bali, West Sumatra and West Java.
Some poets whose works developed during their time on the campus had later gained fame in other parts of Indonesia and overseas.
""Many critics and observers of Indonesian literature have said Lampung is taking an important role because it is helping revive poetry and is doing so with success,"" Ari said.
""As an example, almost every Sunday a Lampung poet has his or her work featured in the national mass media and in the regional press. These published pieces include the work of poets who started writing back in the 1970s and 1980s, through to the younger and more recent arrivals on the literary scene.""
Before the 1980s very few people knew of the work that was being done in Lampung by the literary set. The only Lampung writer whose name was nationally known was Motinggo Busye, though only after the short story writer and stage actor had moved to Jakarta.
The name Lampung started appearing in the literary world after the appearance of poetry and short stories written by Isbedy Stiawan Z.S., Iwan Nurdaya Djafar, Asrori Malik Zulqornain, Sugandi Putra, Naim Emel Prahana, Syaiful Irba Tanpaka, Sutarman Sutar, Ch. Heru Cahyo Saputro, to name a few.
Many had their works published in the Jakarta mass media in the 1980s and thereafter.
The next generation that started writing poetry and short stories in the 1990s is still active and productive.
Among the members are Iswadi Pratama, Panji Utama, Budi P. Hatees, Ahmad Juden Erwin, Gunawan Pharikesit, Rifian A. Cheppy, Ivan Sumantri Bonang, M. Arman A.Z., Dahta Gautama, Udo, Z. Karzi and Edy Samudra Kertagama.
More recent Lampung writers whose work has appeared this century include Jimmy Maruli Alfian, Y. Wibowo, Ari Pahala Hutabarat, Inggit Putria Marga, Diah J. Oktavani, Diah Indra Mertawirana, Lupita Lukman, Imas Sobariah, Hendri Rosevelt, Eli Harda, Andriyani, Anton Kurniawan and Hazwan Iskandar Jaya.
Some Lampung poets whose work was born on the Lampung University campus have been active in UKMBS. They include Iswadi Pratama, Ahman Julden Erwin, Panji Utama, Ivan Sumantri Bonang, Rifian A. Cheppy, Gunawan Pharikesit, Ari Pahala Hutabarat, Jimmy Maruli Alfian, Anton Kurniawan, Dina J. Oktaviani, Diah Indra Mertawirana, Hendri Rosevelt, Inggit Putria Marga, Lupita Lukman, and Elly Harda.
Iswadi Pratama, a poet and leader of Teater Satu, said the campus art community played a very important role in helping create new generations of poets and short story writers in Lampung.
""In Bali, the poet Umbu Landu Paranggi has helped many Balinese poets develop their skills so they can become master craftsmen,"" he said.
""All Lampung young poets have had their work enriched through discussions with senior poets and we have learned together,"" said the poet who is now developing a poetry school that is attended by dozens of senior high school students.
According to Iswadi, the revival of poetry isn't just occurring in Bandarlampung city, but in other communities around Lampung. For example in Metro, a small town in Lampung, the work of many new generation poets was being recognized.
These groups generally consisted of activists from other campuses, and who were studying art. This has led many observers of the literary scene to comment that Lampung is actually ""poet country"".
""Apart from Bali, there's no other area in Indonesia that can equal the number of poets that we have here in Lampung,"" said Iswadi.