Development of Modern Indonesian Poetry
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Indonesian poetry, like the country and also the language, is basically a product of this century. Only in the twentieth century have the people of this vast archipelago begun to achieve a unified cultural identity and national spirit; only since 1928 has the possibility, and by now the reality, of a common language been realized; and only since World War II have Indonesians achieved nationhood. Yet Indonesia has already produced a highly individual, lyric poetry that s in many ways unusual. Reflecting the diverse heritage of the Orient and the West—Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian; Malay, Chinese, Dutch, and others—a poetic expression is developing that is accessible to, and meaningful for, both East and West.
In this first major study of this poetic flowering, Burton Raffel traces its development, discusses the work of such major figures as Chairil Anwar, and points the paths the most recent poets are taking. This is illustrated with a wealth of examples—in translations mostly by the author, but also with samples of the original Indonesian to convey the flavor of the language—and by an extensive appendix of Indonesian literary criticism that indicates how the poets themselves view their role and their performance.
The Development of Modern Indonesian Poetry provides the English-speaking public with a rare insight into the cultural development of the fifth most populous country in the world, and raises along the way some questions important for an understanding of the relationship between poetry and politics in nonaligned nations.
Burton Raffel spent two years in Indonesia in the early 1950's as an English language instructor under a Ford Foundation program. While there he began translating Indonesian poetry with the help of Nurdin Salam, one of his students; this collaboration resulted in the publication of Chairil Anwar: Selected Poems. Later he published An Anthology of Modern Indonesian Poetry, one of the few sources of this poetry available to readers of English. Public readings and lectures on Indonesian poetry led him to the research which resulted in the present volume.
Mr. Raffel has also translated from the French, Spanish, Dutch, and Anglo-Saxon, and has done collaborative translations from Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese. His publications include Poems From the Old English, Beowulf, Short Story 3 (with Robert Creeley and others), and numerous translations and articles on Eastern and other poetry. As might be expected, he is also a poet in his own right, and his poems have appeared widely in the literary magazines and anthologies.
He earned his B. A. at Brooklyn college, his master's at Ohio State University, and his LL. B. (he is a member of the New York State bar) at Yale. In addition to his Indonesian teaching assignment, he has taught at Brooklyn College, Ohio State, State University of New York at Stony Brook, and is presently Associate Professor of English at State University of New York at Buffalo.