The Jakarta Post
The maestro: Sapardi Djoko Damono sits during the launch of his seven books at Bentara Budaya Jakarta. The event also coincided with the celebration of the poet’s 77th birthday. (JP/Bagas Rahadian)
No one can deny that Sapardi Djoko Damono is the pioneer of lyrical poetry in Indonesia and one of the country’s greatest poets.
His works have been re-published multiple times, shining a light for literature lovers of any age.
To celebrate his work, writers and artists paid tribute to the retired professor of the University of Indonesia at the Bentara Budaya Jakarta cultural institute in South Jakarta on March 22, a day after World Poetry Day.
That evening, literary enthusiasts gathered to also celebrate the legend’s 77th birthday, which is being marked with the launch of his seven books. The seven books comprise a new novel, Pingkan Melipat Jarak (Pingkan Folds Distance), and six old poetry books that are re-published by Gramedia. These poetry books are Ada Berita Apa Hari Ini, Den Sastro? (What’s the News Today, Den Sastro?), Ayat-Ayat Api (Verses of Fire), Duka-Mu Abadi (Your Eternal Sorrow), Kolam (Pond), Namaku Sita (My Name is Sita), and Sutradara itu Menghapus Dialog Kita (That Director Erases Our Dialogue).
“We are so proud to be re-publishing the works of one of the country’s greatest poets. We got Sapardi’s trust to relaunch his six poetry books,” Gramedia senior editor Mirna Yulistianti said.
Prior to these six books, Gramedia re-published his masterpiece, poetry book Hujan Bulan Juni (Rain in June), last year, as a coloring book for adults with the help of noted illustrators Beng Rahadian and Cecil Mariani.
Read also: Putting some color into poetry
Wearing his signature newsboy cap and khaki corduroy, Sapardi said he was over the moon that Gramedia was re-publishing his old works.
But, when asked about the book he liked the most, he jokingly answered, “I have yet to write it.”
Since he was a senior high school student in Surakarta, Central Java, he has authored over 30 books. In 1969, when he was 29, he released his first work, Duka-Mu Abadi.
Since then, he has become one of the country’s productive writers, inundating the local literary scene with his great poems from year to year since the late 1960s.
In recognition of his works, he has received a number of awards, ranging from the Jakarta Arts Council Literary Award in 1984, the Southeast Asia (SEA) Write Award in 1986 to Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa Literary Awards in 2004.
For award-winning poet Joko Pinurbo, Sapardi’s works are not only unique but also influential.
“I am also inspired by his works. If we read them, the words he uses are simple, but their meanings are actually complex and deep,” he said. “There will be more young people who fall in love with literature because of his works.”
Sapardi’s beautiful words in his poems have inspired many musicians, such as pianist Ananda Sukarlan and composer Dwiki Dharmawan, to make musical compositions.
This year, the novel version of Hujan Bulan Juni has also been adapted into a movie under the baton of director Hestu Saputra and scriptwriter Titien Wattimena.
“This proves that literature is not just about a group of letters on book pages. It can be anything — comics, pictures, films and songs,” Sapardi said.
However, for the movie project, Sapardi says that he will not intervene in the filmmaking process of Hujan Bulan Juni.
Titien, who wrote screenplay adapted from Ilana Tan’s bestselling novel Winter in Tokyo in 2015, said that she had already completed the script for Hujan Bulan Juni the movie and the production would start in April.
“I am so nervous. But, since the beginning, Pak Sapardi has trusted us. I hope that the movie will not disappoint him,” she said.
Read also: Five heart-wrenching spoken word poets
Sapardi hopes the re-publication of his works into different media will motivate young people, who are passionate about writing, to not easily give up on learning.
“Now, people can use the internet to look for information. Young people have to really utilize this technology to learn,” he said.
Sapardi may have retired since 2005 from his work as a lecturer at the University of Indonesia, but, when it comes to writing, the word “pension” is not in his dictionary. For him, writing is not only about passion. It is a way of life. “I want to keep writing until I die,” he said.
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