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Putting some color into poetry

Ika Krismantari/The Jakarta Post

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, May 3, 2016  /  03:03 pm
Putting some color into poetry

Published in 1994, Hujan Bulan Juni has found a lasting place in Indonesian society for its simple words that carry deep meaning. (Shutterstock/-)

Renowned poet Sapardi Djoko Damono is now part of the coloring book-for-adults craze, thanks to the initiative of former students.

Gramedia Pustaka Utama publishing company has re-released Sapardi’s legendary poetry collection Hujan Bulan Juni (Rain in June) with a set of black-and-white illustrations to be colored in by readers.

Launched at a party in mid-April that also celebrated the poet’s 76th birthday on March 20, the book is published at the initiative of 19 lecturers from the visual communication design department of the Jakarta Institute of Arts (IKJ). They are former students of the poet and the illustrations show their appreciation for their teacher’s achievements.

The lecturers, including familiar names like Beng Rahadian and Cecil Mariani, interpret a total of 40 poems. “It took months before we received all the illustrations but after that it went pretty fast, at around three months to publish it,” said Gramedia senior editor Mirna Yulistianti, who also edited the book.

“Luckily, we received help from Ibu Indah Tjahjawulan, the head of the illustrators team, to continuously remind the lecturers of the deadlines.”

Indah, who also heads IKJ’s visual communication design department, said another challenge was the creative process itself.

“Even though Pak Sapardi has given us the freedom to interpret his poems, there were worries that we didn’t meet the expectations of his fans,” Indah said.

The same concern was also voiced by Beng, who had the honor of illustrating two of Sapardi’s greatest works, Hujan Bulan Juni and Aku Ingin (I Want).

“It is a real challenge. I took it because everyone was too scared to do it. It is a burden to interpret such great poems,” he said, adding that he read the poems’ carefully to reflect the inner emotion of the verse.

“Like for Aku Ingin, I see it as [describing] devotion. So I made an illustration of everything merging together into the sky.”

Published in 1994, Hujan Bulan Juni has found a lasting place in Indonesian society for its simple words that carry deep meaning. It has been republished in different formats; from a song to a comic in 2013 and a novel in 2015. There are plans for a film next year.

Surrounded by friends from the literary community, Sapardi attended the event wearing his signature khaki corduroy jacket and cap. Former students read his works as he listened contentedly.

Coloring books for adults have been a hit for Gramedia, with Mirna explaining that the books always make the top 20 best-seller list and have reached 10,000 copies in less than a year.

“Coloring books for adults are really happening now and Sapardi’s poetry book has good marketing as well, so we believe it will be interesting to combine these two formats into one book,” Mirna said.

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