Your Leisure Reading
By Soeryo Winoto
we tempe class
have only one paradise
we tahu class
having stone lipstick
having buttocks cushion
we tokek class
have only one target
to induce the God
to be customer
This is a rough translation of a piece of F. Rahardi’s work which was meant to be read during his poetry reading at Taman Ismail Marzuki last Monday evening.
At a small table lighted by an oil lamp and dimmed colored stage lamps, Rahardi, a 30-year-old Indonesia poet who was born in Ambarawa, Cental Java, read his pieces that are compiled in a book entitled “Sumpah WTS” (Pledge of a Prostitute).
In his Sumpah WTS he writes tempe and tahu (special Javanese food made from soybeans), and tokek (gecko or house lizard) that no one can interprete the meanings.
But tahu and tempe could depict the weak and tokek could depict persons who are always speculating in life as old Javanese usually take tokek’s sound as a means of fortune telling.
So, in his masterpiece Sumpah WTS, Rahardi seemed to express his opinion and experience that prostitute are always socially weak as well as socially stratified.
And he seemed to let everybody know that the life of prostitutes is like that of a soldier of fortune. He proves it in the last couplet showing the prostitute’s intention.
Rahardi was not the only poetry reader that night. He was accompanied by some children and two young girls from Teater Adinda instead of the prostitutes he had intended to invite.
Rahardi himself actually is not a good poetry reader. He read his poems flatly with no life intonation and his Javanese accent was clearly pronounced. His recent poems he read were sweet but sharp. “Reading is number two, the first important thing is that Rahardi’s poems are very communicative, energetic and sharp,” Hardy of the Horizon (monthly literary magazine) said to the Jakarta Post.
“He has a different style from Rendra’s. Rendra’s poems usually convey frontal social protest and Rahardi’s are full of metaphores. Technically they are very different”.
Rahardi writes poetry not only on the theme of social problems but also on personified animals, personified plants and swift things. They prove that Rahardi is capable of choosing words to represent his idea.
His discourateous but amusing poems have succeeded in making the audience laugh. His Sajak Transmigran II conveyed something somewhat more realistic that just rhyme, where he ends each line in the stanza with the word “singkong” (cassava).
The deeper meaning is that transmigrants eat singkong until the end of their live.
His Javanese background much influences his works, especially in his choice of appropriate words to enlive the meaning of the poems and to establish closer communication with the audience.
“My concern for rural areas and social life could be due to my own background. I was brought up in a poor family in the country,” Rahardi said to the post, answering why he tends to focus on Indonesia’s common people in his poems.
Yes, there was a tension at the beginning of the event when he read his letter addressed to Mrs. Toety Herati the chair of the council. He regreted that Mrs. Herati asked him to cancel his plan only two days before the show that made it difficult to make new plans.
Mrs. Herati wrote in a letter dated July 28 that it was unwise to exploit prostitutes in such a way.
While Rahardi said it was prostitute’s right to do anything, including read poetry as long as they were not forced to do so. Of course, there is big difference of viewpoint between poets and the authorities. ***
The Jakarta Post, 2 August 1984.