"The Yaslehs

Since 1968, when his first poem Sebuah Sumpah Derhaka was published in Majalah Mastika, our dad, yassinsalleh, has written voraciously, but at the same time is so disorganized that we could hardly keep track of what he has written. It is even worse now that he writes his poems in his phone and sms it to us his children. Believe you me, he spent a lot of money on smsing long poem to us that is sometimes lost to accidental deleting. So we, his three children - Yasleh Rita Ayu, Yasleh Hani Wati, and Yasleh Khaliff Amri - decided that enough is enough, we need to keep some kind of record of his poetry, thus the creation of this blog. This will be a cache to collect all his old poems and a safe to keep all his future ones. In the film world, mentioning my dad's name will immediately brings to mind his 10 awards winning film Dia Ibuku in which he personally won 2 - Best Director and Best Screenplay- but in the literary world the poem ikan-ikan di kaca is synonymous to him, hence the name of this blog.

ikan-ikan di kaca
(buat adik-adikku tom dan ani)

pun mentari sudah tiada api
dan bulan yang merdu
sudah sejuk nyanyinya
di hujung jari jemari embun
kita masih belum terlalu lewat
untuk menerima satu hakikat

kita anak-anak satu keturunan
yang menganuti escapisme
selama ini
ikan-ikan di kaca
ikan-ikan di kaca.

ikan-ikan di kaca indah alamnya
ikan-ikan di kaca gemulai renangnya
ikan-ikan di kaca manja hidupnya
ikan-ikan di kaca terpenjara sebenarnya.

tidak lama lagi
akan kering
dan mentari
berapi kembali
kalian sudah mengerti
bahawa kita
selama ini
ikan-ikan di kaca
masihkah kita
ikan-ikan di kaca?

Kuala Lumpur akhir 1969
Dewan Masyarakat, April 1970 "

(dari blog ikanikandikaca)

Dan inisiatif anak-anakku tersayang ini, aku abadikan disini.

Terima kasih Abang, terima kasih Along, terima kasih Adik.

What a wonderful world. - yassinsalleh

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chairil Anwar: Poet of a Generation by Tinuk Yampolsky

Chairil Anwar: every Indonesian schoolchild knows his name. For this poet was  one of the famed figures of the “1945 Generation,” that group of luminaries who brought heat and light to Indonesian literature in the formative years of the new nation.

Through his poetry, Chairil Anwar succeeded in infusing Indonesian verse with a new spirit and bringing a new enthusiasm to Indonesia’s cultural arena. He also provided friends and acquaintances with never-ending tales to tell of his personal eccentricities, including his hobby of stealing books from the shops, his tendency to plagiarize from foreign poets, his many lovers, his numerous ailments, and his bohemian lifestyle. 

Born on July 22, 1922 in Medan, North Sumara, Chairil attended the Hollands Inlandsche School (HIS), a Dutch elementary school for “natives.” He then continued his education at the Meer Uitgebreid Lager Onderwijs, a Dutch junior high school, but he dropped out before graduating. At the age of nineteen, after the divorce of his parents, Chairil moved with his mother to Jakarta where he came in contact with the literary world. Despite his unfinished education, Chairil had an active command of English, Dutch and German, and he filled his hours by reading an international selection of authors, including Rainer M. Rilke, W.H. Auden, Archibald MacLeish, H. Marsman, J. Slaurhoff and Edgar du Perron. These writers became his references, directly influencing his own poetry and later helping him shift the gaze of Indonesian literature to fall upon Europe. This westward turn was one of the major differences between Chairil’s “1945 Generation” peers and the previous cohort of Indonesian writers, the “New Authors Generation” of the 1930s, who were more oriented toward traditional verse forms. Chairil’s poetry was not only topically fresh, it struggled with individual and existential issues, in contrast to the writers of the “New Authors Generation” who were more concerned with giving voice to nationalist enthusiasm. 

Chairil began to gain recognition as a poet with the publication of “Nisan” (“Gravestone”) in 1942. At that time, he was only twenty years old. He had apparently been shocked by the death of his grandmother, which awakened him to the fact that death could at any moment tear one away from life. Most of the poems he wrote after this point referred, at least implicitly, to this awareness of death. All of his poems—the originals, the adaptations and those suspected of being plagiarisms—have been collected in three books: Deru Campur Debu (“Roar Mixed with Dust,” 1949); Kerikil Tajam Yang Terampas dan Yang Putus (“Sharp Pebbles The Seized and the Severed,” 1949); and Tiga Menguak Takdir (“Three Tear Open Fate,” 1950, a collection of poems with Asrul Sani and Rivai Apin).

Chairil’s poetic vitality was never in balance with his physical condition, which grew weaker as a result of his chaotic lifestyle. Before he could turn twenty-seven, he had  already contracted a number of illnesses. In the last days of his life, he wrote a poem that read thus:

                            The Seized and the Severed

                            the darkness and passing wind overtake me
                            and the room where the one I long for shivers
                            with night’s penetration; trees stand like dead memorials

                            but in Karet, yes, Karet Cemetery – my future locale – there, the wind howls, too

                            I put my room in order, and myself as well, in the chance that you might come
                            and I may once again unleash a new story for you;
                            but now it’s only my hands that move, emptily

                            my body is still and alone, as frozen stories and events pass by

  On April 28, 1949, Chairil Anwar passed away at the CBZ Hospital (now R.S. Ciptomangunkusomo) in Jakarta. And indeed, he was buried at Karet Cemetery the next day. In memory of the words he left behind, April 28th is now celebrated as Literature Day in Indonesia.

                            POEMS OF CHAIRIL ANWAR 

                            My Friend And I
                            For L.K. Bohang 

                            We share the same path, late at night
                            with the fog, penetrating 
                            and the rain, drenching our bodies.

                            Ships freeze in the harbor.

                            My blood curdles. My mind congeals.

                            Who is it that speaks?
                            My friend is but a skeleton
                            scourged of his strength.

                            He asks the time!

                            It is so late.
                            All meaning has sunk and drowned
                            and motion has no purpose.


                            No, Woman!

                            No, woman! What lives in me
                            still easily evades your fevered and dark embrace,
                            intent on finding the greenness of another sea,
                            to be again on the ship where we first met,
                            surrendering the rudder to the wind,
                            our eyes fixed on waiting stars.
                            Something flapping its wings, again conveys
                            Tai Po and the secret of the Ambonese Sea.
                            Such is woman! A single vague line
                            is all I can write
                            in my flight towards her enigmatic smile.



                             To dictate is not my intent,
                            Fate is separate loneliness-es.
                            I choose you from among the rest, but
                            in a moment we are snared by loneliness once more.
                            There was a time I truly wanted you,
                            to be as children in crowning darkness,
                            and we kissed and fondled, not tiring.
                            I did not want to ever let you go.
                            Do not unite your life with mine,
                            for I cannot be with anyone for very long
                            I write now on a ship, in some nameless sea.


                            Pines in the Distance

                            Pines scatter in the distance,
                            as day becomes night, 
                            branches slap weakly at the window, 
                            pushed by a sultry wind.

                            I’m now a person who can survive,
                            so long ago I left childhood behind, 
                            though once there was something, 
                            that now counts for nothing at all.

                            Life is but postponement of defeat,
                            a growing estrangement from youth’s unfettered love
                            a knowing there’s always something left unsaid,
                            before we finally acquiesce.


Tinuk Yampolsky is Managing Editor of the Lontar Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to
translating and promoting Indonesian literature overseas. All the poems of Chairil Anwar reprinted here were
translated by John H. McGlynn. All of them, with the exception of “The Seized and the Severed,” were first
published in similar version in Menagerie I by the Lontar Foundation in 1992.


Anwar Chairil (1922-1949) 

Indonesian writer who lived wildly and died young, but who had a deep influence on Indonesian postindependence poetry and prose. Chairil was the primary architect of the Indonesian literary revolution in both poetry and prose. He released poetry from the bonds of traditional forms and language, and his idealistic challenge, "I want to live another thousand years," have made him an artistic icon. With his energetic devotion to literature he is regarded as the principal figure of the Angkatan Empatpuluh Lima ('generation of 1945') and one of the greatest poets of his country.

Though bullets should pierce my skin
I shall still strike and march forth
Wounds and poison shall I take aflee
'Til the pain and pang should dissapear
And I should care even less
I want to live for another thousand years
(from 'Aku', 1943)
Anwar Chairil was born in Medan, East Sumatra, into a family which had moved to Djakarta. Nothing much is known about his parents. Chairil's formal education was short. He attended elementary school and the first two years of a Dutch-language middle school in Mulo. He began to write as an adolescent, before he moved to Djakarta in 1940, but none of his early poetry have survived. According to the author, he destroyed them. Among his earliest spared poems is 'Life' from December 1942: "The bottomless ocean / is always banging, / banging, as it tests the strength of our dikes." (...)

In Djakarta he became the pioneering force among young writers and artist, the "Generation of '45." Chairil served on the editorial board of one of the most important literary journals of the period, Siasat (Strategy), which appeared in 1947. Its cultural column, called "Gelanggang" (Forum), attracted a number of young writers belonging to the "Generation of 45". Charil also was active in political and patriotic issues. The politically conscious literary and cultural movement, describing itself as the voice of the Indonesian revolution, identified with European modernism in the search for new literary forms and accents. From this generation emerged among others such writers as Pramoedya Ananta Toer , often called Indonesia's greatest modern prose-writer, and Mochtar Lubis, a courageous political journalist and novelist.

The most celebrated work of fiction in Dutch by an Indonesian author was the novel Buiten het gareel (1940) by Suwarsih Djojopuspito. Bahasa Indonesia, a language which formally came to exist in 1928, became through Chairil's writings a vital literary language. The earliest Indonesian novels were published in the 1920s. Pudjangga Baru (The New Writer) literary school, which was established in 1933, influenced greatly the development of literature. It advocated the idea that traditional literary forms had to be replaced by modern means of expression. Its founders and first editors were Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana and Armijn Pané, the brother of Sanusi Pané. Another movement, 45 Group, reflected the ideas of the independence struggle. It has been said that the difference between the Pudjangga Baru generation and that of 1945 was the difference between hope and impetuosity. Chairil Anwar and other its members tried to released the poetry from the bonds of traditional forms and literary language. Other important writers were Idrus, Surwarsih Djojopuspito, Achdiat Karta Mihardja, Toha Mohtar, Mochtar Lubis (imprisoned by the Sukarno regime for four years), Pramoedye Ananta Toer. The first Indonesian dramatist to gain wide recognition was Utuy Tatang Sontani (1820-1979). Poetry in Javanese since independence were dominated by St. Iesmaniasita and Muryalelana (b. 1932). In preindependence fiction in Sundanese the central figure was Mohamad Ambri (1892-1936). Liem King-hoo has been considered the finest Chinese-Indonesian novelist.

Chairil's poetry is marked by his emotional, and sometimes unconventional use of language. His works convey a powerful, vitalistic individualism; they have a strong sexual tension, as in the poem "Lagu biasa" (1949). Chairil absorbed influences from such Western writers as Rilke, T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, and Dutch writers (H. Marsman, J.J. Slauerhoff). Although he had little formal education, he translated the poems of Rilke, Marsman and Slauerhoff, and modelled his Indonesian poems on them. His own approach to writing he once described: "In Art, vitality is the chaotic initial state; beauty the cosmic final state."

Among Charil's most famous poems is "Aku" (1943), a cry for freedom and life ("Aku mau hidup seribu tahun lagi"). Another poem from this period is 'Dipo Negro,' the title referring to an early nineteenth-century hero of the Indonesian national struggle: "Better destruction than slavery / Better extermination than oppression. / The hour of death can be an hour of new birth: / To be alive, you have to taste living."

During his lifetime Charil published only in periodicals, but there are several posthumous books, first of which were Deru tjampur Debu (1949), Kerikil Tadjam and Jang Terampas dan Jang Putus (1951). Chairil wrote fewer than seventy poems, some essays and radio addresses, and some fragmentary translations. He died on April 28, 1949, in Djakarta. Due to his influence, the developing Indonesian language attained equality with other languages as a literary medium. Chairil's complete poetry and prose has been published in English in The Voice of the Night (1992), translated by Burton Raffel.

For further reading: The Encyclopedia of World Literature, vol. 1, ed. by Steven R. Serafin (1999); Modern Indonesian Literature, vol. I, by A. Teeuw (1979); Cultural Options and the Role of Tradition by A.H. Johns (1979); A Thematic History of Indonesian Poetry: 1920-1974 by H. Aveling (1974); Chairil Anwar: the poet and his language by Boen S. Oemarjati (1972); Chairil Anwar, Pelopor Angkatan 45 by H.B. Jassin (1968); The Development of Modern Indonesian Poetry by B. Raffel (1967); 'My Love's on a Far-Away Island' and 'A Room', trans. by Burton Raffel and Nurdin Salam, in Contemporary Asian Poetry, Winter (1962-1963); Pokok dan Tokoh by A. Teeuw (1959); Chairil Anwar by H.B. Jassin (1956) - See also: Anwar Chairil by Sobron Aidit - Chairil Anwar: 'Aku'
Selected works:

Deru tjampur debu, 1949
Kerikil tadjam dan Jang terampas das Jang Putus, 1949
Tiga menguak Takdir, 1950 (with Asrul Sani and Ribai Apin)
Chairil Anwar, Pelopor Angkatan 45, 1956
Selected Poems, 1964 (trans. by Burton Raffel and Nurdin Salam, rev. Robert H. Glauber)
The Complete Poetry and Prose of Chairil Anwar, 1970
Voice of the Night: Complete Poetry And Prose Of Chairil Anwar, 1992 (revised translations by Burton Raffel)

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