Novel Baswedan

To Be Empty Is To Be Full of Power – Lotus Poems

By W.S. Rendra

Habit is not character
Character is not a fantasy
About ourselves.
Character comes from emptiness.
If empty
we are agile and alert.
In emptiness
We can respond to anything,
According to the situation,
And not according to habit.
The full are rigid and slow –
Often even powerless.
To be empty is to be full of power.

WS Rendra, To Be Empty is To Be Full of Power (Kosong Itu Penuh Daya) Lotus Poems (Syair Teratai), Sinar Harapan Daily, 19 April 1975 (Sourced from Armin Bell, Kumpulan Fiksi Blog)

Novel Baswedan

Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan, center, who was injured in an acid attack by unidentified assailants, sits in a wheelchair as he leaves the general hospital where he was initially treated in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim) ( Novel was subsequently treated in Singapore for 10 months, before returning to work in Jakarta in early 2018.

For background to Mr. Novel Baswedan see ‘I Don’t Want to Be Sad’: Indonesia’s Top Graft Buster Talks to TIME From His Hospital Bed and Pak Jokowi, Bentuk Tim Independen untuk Ungkap Kasus Novel!


A Poem for Mother

By W.S. Rendra

To recall mother
Is to recall dessert
Wife is the sustaining main
Girlfriend the side dishes
And mother,
The perfect final,
The great communal feast of life.

Her countenance is the sky at sunset:
The grandeur of the day which has completed its work.
Her voice the echo
Of the whisper of my conscience.

Remembering mother
I see the best promise of life.
Hearing her voice,
I believe in the good in the human heart.
Looking at mother’s photograph,
I inherit the essence of the creation of the world.

Talking with you, my brothers and sisters,
I remember that you too have mothers.
I shake your hands,
I embrace you in fraternity.
We do not want to offend each other,
So we don’t insult each other’s mother,
Who always, like the earth, water and sky,
Defends us without affectation.

Thieves have mothers. Murderers have mothers.
As do corruptors, tyrants, fascists, journalists on the take, and members of parliament for sale,
They too also have mothers.

What sort of mother are their mothers?
Aren’t their mothers the dove soaring in the sky of the soul?
Aren’t their mothers the gateway to the universe?

Will the child say to his mother:
“Mother, I’ve become the errand boy of foreign capital,
That makes goods which do nothing to reduce the poverty of the people,
Then I bought a government mountain real cheap,
While the number of landless villagers skyrockets.
Now I’m rich.
And then, mother, I also bought you a mountain,
For your grave one day.”

No. This is not something the child says to his mother.
But how then will the child explain to his mother about his position as tyrant, corruptor, forest and rice-field mouse plague?
Will the tyrant name himself the leader of the revolution?
Will the corruptor and errand boy of foreign capital name himself the hero of development?
And will the forest and rice-field mouse plague consider himself the ideal farmer?

But then what of the glowing gaze of his mother?
Is it possible that a mother would say:
“Child, don’t forget to take your jacket.
Remember to wrap up against the night air.
A journalist needs to stay healthy.
Oh, yeah, and if you get any fat envelops,
Please pick me up some fried prawns.”

Mother, now I really understand your value.
You are the statue of my life,
Which isn’t fake or a white elephant like the National Monument and Mini Indonesia Park.
You are the anthem Great Indonesia.
You are the rain I watched in the village.
You are the forest encircling the lake.
You are the lotus flower of meditation’s peace.
You are the song of the simple people.
You are the arrow of my conscience in what I do.

Pejambon, Jakarta
23 October, 1977

A Poem of Mother (Sajak Ibunda) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 52.


Shifting Landscapes: intellectual writing traditions of Islamic Southeast Asia – Asian and African studies blog, The British Library

For the past century, studies of the languages, literatures, history, culture and writing traditions of the Malay world of maritime Southeast Asia – comprising present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and the southern parts of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines – have been fundamentally shaped by the collections of manuscripts held in European institutions, primarily those in the UK and the Netherlands, and those formed under colonial auspices, such as the National Library of Indonesia.  These collections themselves reflect the interests of their collectors, who were mainly European scholars and government officials from the early 19th century onwards, whose interests were focused on literary, historical and legal compositions in vernacular languages such as Malay and Javanese.  Relatively little attention was paid to works on Islam written in Arabic, or in Malay and Arabic, and hence such manuscripts are very poorly represented in institutions such as the British Library.

Read more: Shifting Landscapes: mapping the intellectual writing traditions of Islamic Southeast Asia – Asian and African studies blog, The British Library

Tugu Tani

Poem for a Student Meeting

By W.S. Rendra

The sun rose this morning
Sniffed the smell of baby piss on the horizon,
Saw the brown river snaking its way to the sea,
And listened to the hum of the bees in the forest.

And now it starts to climb into the sky
And it presides as witness that we are gathered here
To investigate conditions.

We ask:
Why are good intentions sometimes no use?
Why can good intentions clash with good intentions?
People say: “We have good intentions.”
And we ask: “Good intentions for who?”

Yes, some are mighty and some are humble.
Some are armed and some are injured.
Some have positions and some are occupied.
Some have plenty and some are emptied.
And we here ask:
“Your good intentions are for who?
You stand on the side of who?”

Why are good intentions put into practice
But more and more farmers lose their land?
Farms in the mountains are bought up by people from the city.
Huge plantations
Only benefit just one small group.
Advanced equipment that is imported
Doesn’t suit farmers with tiny pieces of land.

Well we ask:
“So your good intentions are for who?”

Now the sun is rising high in the sky.
And will indeed be enthroned above the palm trees.
And here in the hot air we will also ask:
All of us are educated to stand on the side of who?
Will the knowledge taught here
Be an instrument of liberation,
Or of oppression?

Soon the sun will go down.
Night will arrive.
The geckos chatter on the wall.
And the moon sails out.
But our questions shall not abate.
They shall live in the people’s dreams.
Grow in the fields that recede into the distance.

And on the morrow
The sun shall rise once again.
Evermore the new day shall incarnate.
Our questions shall become a forest,
transform into rivers,
And become the waves of the ocean.

Under this hot sun we ask:
There are those who cry, and those who flog,
There are some with nothing, and some who scratch for something.
And our good intentions
Stand on the side of who?

1 December 1977

This poem was presented to students at the University of Indonesia, and performed in the film “Yang Muda Yang Bercinta” directed by Syumanjaya.


Poem for a Student Meeting (Sajak Pertemuan Mahasiswa), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 38.

Image source is Yang Tegak Berdiri Kokoh dan Yang Lunglai Meleyot-Leyot: Tentang Patung, Ruang Publik dan Kekuasaan

Tugu Tani Today

Tugu Tani Today (Source:

For background on the history and controversy surrounding Tugu Tani see Matvey ManizerKisah Di Balik Tugu Tani: Patung Pahlawan,  Banyak Ormas Menuduh Patung di Tugu Tani di Jakpus Sebagai Lambang PKI and the following article from The Jakarta Post ‘Tugu Tani’ a hero statue, not farmers statue: History book .

National Peasants Day 2017

National Peasants Day 2017 (Source:

Shu Li Peasant Heroes 1945 NGA

Shu Li, Peasant Heroes, c. 1945 NGA

Tanganku Mengepal: The People's Land, Resist Land Theft

Poem on Hands

By W.S. Rendra

These are the hands of a student,
Undergraduate level.
My hands. Oh my God.

My hand reaches out,
And what I grab is a beautiful hostess’s petticoat.
What an idiot. My hand goes limp.

My hand knocks on the door,
But no one answers.
I kick the door,
And the door swings open.
Behind the door there’s another door.
And always:
There’s a sign with the opening hours,
Which are short.

I shove my hands in my trouser pockets,
And I go out and sojourn.
I’m swallowed by Great Indonesia.

Dozens of hands used in life
Suddenly appear in front of me.
I hold out my hands too.
But they look out of place among the thousands of hands.
I’m worried about my future.

Farmers’ hands are covered in mud,
Fishermen’s hands are covered in salt,
I pull back my hands.
Their hands are full of struggle.
Hands that are productive.
My hands are anxious,
They don’t solve any problems.

But the hands of businessmen,
The hands of bureaucrats,
Are calculating, nibble, and very strong.
My anxious hands are suspected,
Brushed aside.

My hands close into a fist.
And when they open again are transformed into claws.
I reach out in all directions.
At every desk in every office
Sits a soldier or an old person.
In the villages
Farmers are just laborers for landowners.
On the beaches
Fishermen do not own any of the boats.
Trade goes on without supermarkets.
Politics only serves the weather…
My hands close into a fist.
But there’s a brick wall in front of me.
My life has no future.

For now I have my hands in my pockets.
I sojourn from place to place.
I scrawl obscenities
On the chancellor’s desk.

Jakarta Arts Center
23 June 1977

Poem on Hands (Sajak Tangan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 34.

Image comes from


Poem on a Young Woman and the Boss

By W.S. Rendra

What you’re touching me with however you like,
Where this is going, I’ve already got a pretty good idea.
I’m no rocket scientist,
But it’s already fairly clear
What this groping means…

Damn the education I got.
I was taught to count, type, do foreign language,
Office management and administration.
But they forgot to teach:
What if you’re grabbed from behind by your boss,
Then what am I supposed to do!

Now don’t just grab me however you like.
When not even my boyfriend would be as bold as that.
I already know clear enough where you’re going.
When you brush my tits,
I know what that means…

They taught me to hate sin,
But they forgot to teach me
How to look for a job.
They taught me lifestyle,
With accessories that don’t come from the environment,
That are controlled by the bosses,
Make up, air conditioner,
Synthetic vitamins, tonic,
Every kind of soda and a school diploma,
Education tied me
To their markets, to their capital.
And now that I’m grown up,
Where else am I going to run,
If it ain’t to the world of the bosses?

Don’t grab me however you like.
I’m no intellectual,
But I know enough,
All the work on my desk
Is going to head in that direction.
Don’t, mister, don’t!
Don’t grab me however you like!
Ah. Oh.
The money you slip into my bra
Is my education diploma.
Your fat belly
Presses against my stomach.
Your foul smelling mouth
Kisses my mouth,
As if everything you do
Is just perfectly normal.
Every member of the community helps you.
They all kiss your ass.
They spread my legs wide
While you climb over my body.

10 July 1975

Poem on a Young Woman and the Boss (Sajak Gadis dan Majikan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 30.


Poem on Young People

By W.S. Rendra

We are the stammering generation
Who are babied by the haughty generation.
We don’t get official education
About justice,
Because we aren’t taught to be involved in politics
And aren’t taught about the fundamentals of the law.

We only vaguely understand what a person’s character is like,
Because we aren’t taught about the heart or psychology.

We don’t understand clear thinking
Because we aren’t taught philosophy or logic.

Weren’t we supposed
To understand all these things?
Were we only prepared
To just be tools?

This is the average picture
Of young people graduating from school,
Young people entering on their adulthood.

The foundation of our education is obedience,
Not the exchange of ideas.

What’s taught in school is rote learning,
And not practice explaining.

The foundation of justice as relationships,
with understanding of how humans behave
As individuals and in groups,
Isn’t considered a subject worth studying or testing.

We understand the reality of the world only dimly,
Signs that are visible everywhere,
Are dots we can’t join.
We’re angry with ourselves
We’re frustrated about our futures.
Then finally,
We just enjoy life of stupidity and comfort.

As we stammer,
All we can do is buy and consume,
We aren’t capable of creating.
We aren’t capable of leading.
But we are able to use authority –
Exactly like our fathers.

The education in this country is oriented to the West.
Over there children are prepared
To be the tools of industry.
With their industry that rolls on endlessly,
But here we’re prepared to serve as the tools of what?
We just become the tools of bureaucracy!
And a bureaucracy that’s grown bloated,
Totally useless –
A parasite.

Darkness. All I can see is darkness.
Education doesn’t provide enlightenment.
Training doesn’t provide jobs.
Darkness. My agony is darkness.
The people who live in unemployment.

What is this happening all around me?
Because we can’t work it out,
It’s easier for us to lose ourselves in dope poetry.
What is the meaning of these complicated signs?
What does this mean? What does this mean?
Ah, inside spaced out,
Face covered in blood
Looks like the moon.

Why do we have to put up with this life?
A person has the right to a medical degree,
Is regarded as an educated person,
Without any test of their understanding of justice.
And if tyranny runs rampant,
They don’t utter a word,
Their job is just to give people needles.

What the hell? Are we going to continue being silent?
Law students
Are just regarded as show ponies for ceremonies,
While the law is stabbed in the back again and again.
Economics students
Are just considered plastic flowered,
While people go broke and corruption runs wild.

We’re inside a kaleidoscope
That is magic and inscrutable.
We are inside a prison of fog that befuddles.
Our hands reach out searching for something to grab onto.
And if we miss,
We hit and claw –
at thin air.

We are the stammering generation.
Who are babied by the bastard generation.
Life force has been replaced by avarice.
Enlightenment has been replaced by repression.
We are the dangerous generation.

Penjambon, Jakarta
23 June, 1977


Ode to Youth (Sajak Anak Muda), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 18.

Image of #DaruratDemokrasi from

Amuk Massa Di Kantor LBH Jakarta Sunday evening (17/9), a crowd surrounds the offices of Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) following music performances, poetry readings and stand up comedy.

1977 General Election

Poem on a Cigar

By W.S. Rendra

Taking a drag on a fat cigar
Gazing over Great Indonesia
Listening to 130 million people,
And in the sky
Two or three businessmen squat down
And shit on their heads.

The sun comes up
And the sun goes down
And all I can see are eight million children
With no education.

I question,
But my questions
Slam into the desks of bureaucrats like a traffic jam,
And the blackboards of educators
Who are cut off from life’s problems.

Eight million children
Cram down one long road,
With no options
With no trees
With no shady places to rest,
With no idea of where they’re going.


Suck in the air
Full of deodorant spray,
I see unemployed graduates
Covered in sweat along the highway;
I see pregnant women
Queuing for pension money.
And in the sky:
The technocrats sprout:
That the country is lazy
That the country must be developed,
Must be “upgraded”,
Made to fit technology that’s imported.

Mountains tower skyward.
The sky a festival of colors at sunset.
And I see
Protests that are pent up
Squeezed under mattresses.

I question,
But my questions
Bang into the foreheads of armchair poets,
Who write about grapes and the moon,
While injustices happen all around them,
And eight million children with no education
Gape at the feet of the goddess of art.

The future hopes of the nation
Stars swirling in front of their faces
Below neon advertisements.
The hopes of millions of mothers and fathers
Meld into a gaggle of clamoring voices
Become a reef under the surface of the ocean.


We have to stop buying foreign formulas.
Textbooks can only give methods,
But we ourselves have to formulate our situation.
We have to come onto the streets
Go into the villages
See for ourselves every indicator
And experience the real problems.

This is my poem,
A pamphlet for a time of emergency.
What is the point of art,
If it’s cut off from the suffering around it
What is the point of thinking
If it’s cut off from life’s problems.

ITB Bandung
19 August 1977

Sajak Sebatang Lisong was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 12.

Three parties in the 1977 election

The three parties in Indonesia’s 1977 legislative general election

Cars at Tjililitan Airfield at Batavia (circa) 1930

The Ambition

By Muhammad Yamin

Night has fallen, cool and still
The breeze is so gentle and soft;
The ocean heaves, murmuring quietly
The smooth surface glistening and glinting.

Out stretched hands reach into the night air
Unsteadily withdrawn, by a heart without joy
Because of the “wish”, remembered so often
So brilliantly, beyond words.

Every star shines brightly
Finally aware is this body of mine
The desired is reaching through nobility.

Who can doubt, can not believe
That we are always guided
By God, the Lord who is so rich?

On the Indian Ocean, June 1921

Gezicht over Tandjong Priok, de haven van Batavia

Gezicht over Tandjong Priok, de haven van Batavia  Deze foto is genomen vanaf het spoorwegstation van de Staatsspoorwegen (SS) in de haven Tandjong Priok bij Batavia (Jakarta). Rechts is de “Eerste Binnenhaven” te zien.

The Ambition (Tjita-Tjita) was first published in Indonesian in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, June 1921. It was republished in Pane, Armijn (ed), Sandjak-Sandjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin [The Young Poems of Mr. Muhammad Yamin], Firma Rada, Djakarta, 1954, p. 6.

EFEK RUMAH KACA Tiba-Tiba Suddenly konser Again

Kilometer 95


Hanya berselang beberapa jam saja setelah pesawat Saya landing di Jakarta senin pagi, sambil menunggu bagasi, iseng-iseng Saya cek akun Instagram Saya. Akun @sebelahmata_erk yang merupakan official account band pop minimalis Jakarta, Efek Rumah Kaca men-Share postingan kalau mereka akan mengadakan konser dadakan pada hari rabunya. Konser dengan tajuk “Tiba-tiba Suddenly Konser Again” ini diselenggarakan di ballroom kuningan City. Menggelar konser dadakan bukan hal yang baru untuk Efek Rumah Kaca. Ini adalah kedua kalinya mereka menggelar konser dadakan. Akhir tahun lalu mereka juga menggelar konser dadakan yang berlokasi di Ruru Radio, Gudang Sarinah, Pancoran. Dan kabarnya tiket konser pada waktu itu yang hanya diinfokan beberapa jam menjelang konser terjual habis. Tidak mengherankan sebenarnya, Kesempatan menonton Efek rumah kaca memang menjadi sesuatu yang langka beberapa tahun belakangan karena Cholil, sang vokalis sedang tinggal di Amerika untuk beberapa tahun kedepan. Makanya Kepulangan Cholil ke Indonesia selalu ditunggu para penggemarnya.

Keinginan untuk menonton…

View original post 737 more words

On to Malang 24 July 1947

Two Poems For B. Resobowo

By Chairil Anwar


Is this journey far?
Just the twinkle of an eye! – How could it be any longer!
Then what?
Of the falling leaves you ask for yourself,
And of the soft sound which becomes a melody!

Does it remain only as a memento?
Look at the woman no longer gazing upward
Nor wistful, the stars have vanished!

So how long is this journey?
Could be a century… oh just the blink of an eye!
A journey for what?
Ask my childhood home which is mute!
My ancestors frozen there!

Is someone touching me to follow?
Is someone lost?
Ah, answer for yourself! – I am still
Homeless and forlorn………



By Chairil Answar

Just as my mother and my grandmother too
And as seven generations before
I too ask to be allowed into heaven
which say Masyumi and Muhammadiyah flows with rivers of milk
and is full of beautiful maidens
But there’s a voice inside me weighing this up,
which dares to scoff: Can heaven really be
barren of the waters of the blue oceans,
of the soft touch of every harbor how come?
And also who can say for sure
there definitely awaits beautiful maidens
sounds like they have trouble swallowing like Nina, have Jati’s wry glance?

Malang, 28/2-’47

Published in Pantja Raja, p. 338.

25 February 1947 PM Sutan Sjahrir Malang KNIP Session

Photo: From the Dutch National Archives’ Elsevier Photo Collection this image by an unknown Dutch National News Agency (ANP) photographer is described as “The provisional [Indonesian] Republican Parliament (Komite National Indonesia Pusat or KNIP) met in Malang from 25 February to 5 March 1947. Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir is seen here outlining government policy.” 25 February 1947.

Source: Dutch National Archives

Indian Troops in Bekasi 1945

Photo: Indian troops with four armed Indonesians captured at Bekassi before the village was burnt as a reprisal for the murder of five members of the Royal Air Force and twenty Maharatta riflemen whose Dakota transport aircraft crash landed near the village.

Imperial War Museums (IWM SE 6054)

Interesting background wiki article on Basuki Resobowo.

Featured Image: [DLC] Soerabaja; de opmars naar Malang Beschrijving Nederlandse universal carrier (bren-carrier) met op de voorkant een affiche met de afbeelding van Soekarno Datum 24 juli 1947 Locatie Indonesië, Malang, Nederlands-Indië

Burnt out car of a Brigadier A W S Mallaby


By Chairil Anwar, 1947

Just as my mother and my grandmother too
And as seven generations before
I too ask to be allowed into heaven
which say Masyumi and Muhammadiyah flows with rivers of milk
and is full of beautiful maidens
But there’s a voice inside me weighing this up,
which dares to scoff: Can heaven really be
barren of the waters of the blue oceans,
of the soft touch of every harbour how come?
And also who can say for sure
there definitely awaits beautiful maidens
sounds like they have trouble swallowing like Nina, have Jati’s wry glance?

Malang, 28/2-’47

Masyumi was a post-World War II Islamic political party.

Muhammadiyah is a major Islamic non-government organisation which was founded in 1912.