The Jakarta Post
A gathering of five young poetry fans in a Bali cafe two years ago has blossomed into the establishment of a poetry-reading movement called Malam Puisi (Poetry Night), with thousands of participants in 40 cities across the country.
The movement sees people from all walks of life getting together to read their own or others' poems once a month.
In April, participants in Jakarta held a gathering with the theme 'Poetry for Eves' in relation to Kartini Day, which commemorates the famous champion of female emancipation. Around 20 people attended the gathering, listening and reading; indeed, the group's tagline is 'Come, listen and read'.
Some participants read poems related to the theme, but there was no obligation to do so, and others read poems with other subjects.
Setio Saputra, 23, for example, read his poem Love without a pause, which he had written on his blog setiowahyu.tumblr.com.
'A semi-ripe strawberry is your lips / I'm not sure what they taste like / Maybe like the fruit forbidden to Adam,' he read.
Diki Umbara, 38, read his poem No wheels go slow on Jl. Jaksa, a humorous piece that drew laughter from the audience. 'Lawson and Alfamart stand side-by-side but they are reluctant to say hello to each other / Perhaps it's because they sell condoms of the same brand at different prices,' he recited.
Al Muhtadi, 29, read a poem by Hasan Aspahani entitled A man without ears and a woman whose tears don't stop.
'Dad went away to chase his dreams to become a painter / Apprentice to a legendary maestro, who defended his poverty till his demise / Dad finally came / But mom did not want to accept him. 'My husband is a true wanderer / What are you doing home?'' he read, theatrically.
One participant, Asty Intan Pratiwi, 23, a social media strategist, said that through regular attendance at Malam Puisi, she had learned to be open-minded and to be a better public speaker.
Other participants in the recent meeting said that they liked Malam Puisi because reciting a poem could add more meaning to the written form. 'Reading a poem can enrich its interpretations or meanings,' said Diki, a TV producer.
Furniture painter Astrajingga Asmasubrata, 27, said that reading a poem out loud could stir unexpected emotions inside the readers.
Local poets also benefit from Malam Puisi, as it helps promote their work. Participants often share their favorite poets, such as Adimas Immanuel, Andi Gunawan, Khrisna Pabichara, Joko Pinurbo, M. Aan Mansyur, Wiji Thukul and WS Rendra.
The idea to establish the movement began with an informal gathering of five young people. Bumi Hadyarti, Ze, Kirana Larasati, Satrio and Nikki were chatting at Kopi Kultur cafe in Bali when Kirana offered to read a poem she had written, inspiring her three friends to do the same, with Ze accompanying them on a guitar.
They enjoyed the readings so much that Bumi came up with the idea of widening participation in the event.
So far, the group's Twitter account, @MalamPuisi, has attracted almost 5,000 followers, and there are separate accounts for each city in which the group is present.
Bumi told The Jakarta Post recently that many people wrote poems, but kept them in their diaries or social media. Almost all the followers had blogs where they posted their poems, but needed a forum to read them, she said.
'They may be embarrassed to read them because their creations are not serious literary pieces, and we don't have many public spaces for readings.'
Malam Puisi holds periodic gatherings in different towns once a month, and its members are sometimes invited by external parties to read poems.
Participants in Jakarta, for example, were invited in March to read poems at the Earth Hour event held by Bina Nusantara University and at the ASEAN Literary Festival 2015.
For normal gatherings, participants decide a theme according to current concerns or trends. Past themes have included 'Poetry for poetry', 'More often, I miss you' and 'Tales in poetry'.
Event updates from Malam Puisi Jakarta can be found on Twitter at @MalamPuisi_JKT. (rbk)
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