It was English essayist and philosopher, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) who wrote: ‘Travel in the younger sort is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience’. For Indonesian poets, it can be suggested that the elements of education are those wherein the craft of poetry is entered into within sight of the poet’s own home village or town, and later perhaps encompasses involvement in gatherings with other poets in larger metropolitan centres.  Travel is also undertaken within the Indonesian archipelago to gain a kind of education about the field of poetry and to learn how the particular poet might best adapt his or her skills in the regional or national setting.

But importantly also, apart from contact with poets in nearby South East Asian countries, quite a number of contemporary Indonesian poets have looked to Europe as a place to travel to as they move into the middle years of life; to gain experience in a wider context. One thinks here of Ramadhan KH and his visits to Spain and the influence of Lorca in such works as Priangan si Jelita in the early 1950s. Acep Zamzam Noor sojourned in Italy and France in the 1990s and some of these experiences were reflected in his publications....

Indeed, for Indonesian poets France has remained the European destination beyond all others.

But Cecep Hari has taken a different path.  After a residency in 2006 in Korea, he followed this with a stay at Rimbun Dahan Art Residency, Selangor, Malaysia in 2007/08. Then in April-May 2009 he stayed at Magyar Fordítóház (Hungarian Translators House), in Balatonfüred, Hungary. Later, in September 2009 he also stayed at the Bundanon Trust property south of Nowra, in Australia.

One of the most recurrent themes of this section of the whole collection is the development of the idea of ‘spring’  and countless variations of the way ‘Spring’ gives way to the other seasons. Here in Prague the poet reflects upon his visit to the memorial: ‘Jan Zajíc and Jan Palach Spring’.  So Spring has many meanings for this poet in his first experiences of a European spring: some of which are bitter sweet, as he stands in front of the memorial to the 1968 Prague spring revolt and describes the scene more than forty years on: ‘No More Prague to be Depended’. Time has moved on. Then there is the poem, ‘Leaving Prague’ in which the poet seeks tries to sum up the experiences of leaving this city after such a brief stay through the prism of the wave of farewell of a ‘Christina’ whom he feels has helped him bind his fate to this city; ‘had tied my destiny with Prague’.

But the core and the undoubted strong point of the whole collection is the section of poems from Hungary. In many ways he demonstrates how so many of the features of his earlier poems in Efrosina (English edition: Euphrosyne) -- written without any direct experiences in Central Europe but replete with European mythological and historical references, and with playful references to characters including musicians with European names eg Liszt, Mozart, Tchaikovsky -- are now even further developed through his experiences of actually sojourning in Central Europe.

But perhaps one of the finest poems in the collection is the poem, ‘Wind Dance’, which continues the musical allusions from the earlier poem addressing the musical heroes. No other Indonesian contemporary poet has pioneered so forcefully the thematic use of European classical music as a subject and theme in Indonesian poetry. Most other poets have stopped short of giving a central place to classical music in the European tradition. Most have looked to other aspects of the European intellectual or physical and historical landscape. But in ‘Wind Dance’ Cecep takes a composition by Liszt, ‘Wind Dance’ and makes it centre and core of the development of the poem.

There are poems in the collection that expand the classical Greek mythological references that we first saw in the Efrosina collection. For example, In the current collection, the poems ‘Hades’ and , ‘János Wine’. These poems are also infused at times with allusions to the actual contemporary Hungarian street scenes, as myth and counter-myth are posed and reset in down-town Budapest. The section concludes with the dazzle of the allusions to the rhapsody, one of Lizst’s key compositions, ‘Hungarian Rhapsody’, with the contrast of unremittingly rapid chords brought to a shattering stop, then a resumption, to return to break-neck musical pace. In the poem ’Budapest’s Rhapsody’  we are also taken on a rip-roaring journey into Hungarian night scenes, with allusions to jazz and Frank Sinatra. But even sitting in the Opera House in Budapest provokes a reflection on Indonesian history.

The poems in the last section of the collection, ‘Oodgero’s Pantun In The Hinterland Of Nowra’, are set out in pantun form, which is perhaps a departure from the preferred format Cecep Hari has generally employed in his poetic oeuvre over the years. It is also probably the first time that an Indonesian poet in the contemporary era has used the pantun form when writing poetry in Indonesian derived from an Australian sojourn or extended residency in Australia.

Aboriginal Australian language of nearby areas means, ‘place of deep green gorges’. The residency site (Bundanon Arts Residency)  was once the home and farm area belonging to one of Australia’s greatest artists, Arthur Boyd, by whose will after his death the property was bequeathed to a Trust for use as site for artists to gain inspiration from the natural surroundings and complete new projects in the serenity of the converted farm site.  Whilst the Boyd farm alongside the northern reaches of the wide Shoalhaven River would have offered wide river vistas and bush scenery in the background quite unlike that of a European spring, beyond the limits of farm area the peaks and hills with jagged rocks rise up all around to give a sense of an enclosed natural amphitheatre through which the wide and dangerous river runs. Beyond the property the Australian bush surrounds all, with its everlasting eucalyptus trees of perpetual green.  The road into the property from Nowra is rough, a dirt track, which winds circuitously through thick scrub until the last drop when it reaches the farm property area.

Unlike European grazing animals which may be seen the whole day through in paddocks, Australian natural fauna, such as kangaroos,  often appear suddenly, without warning, and just as suddenly disappear into the bush after initially grazing on the shoots and grasses. Wombats are nocturnal animals and burrow deep in hillsides, but often seek shelter under caves or indeed, the house structures on the property.  The galahs and cockatoos fly over the bush and farm property. Indeed, the name, Nowra itself means ‘black cockatoos’ in the local Indigenous language of the Shoalhaven area. A vast number of place names in the surrounding area are directly from, or derivations from, Indigenous names (Wandandandian and Wodi-Wodi tribal names) so that the natural landscape possesses meaning in spiritual terms beyond the impact that European settlement has had on the area since the 1800s.

It was perhaps as a means to express this sense of paradox and contradiction that the poet may have experienced that led Cecep Hari to adopt the pantun format; it heightens in succinct form the sense of ‘nothingness’ that can be experienced when one is ‘lost’ in the vast natural amphitheatre surrounded by the ever-present Australian bush landscape and towering crags and deep gullies. On the rocks and under rock shelters,signs of habitation over thousands of years before Europeans, can still be seen. Descendants of the original Indigenous tribes in the area keep alive the sense of attachment to sites of mythical significance. In other words, the contrast with the broad settled Central European plains in Hungary experienced by the poet just a few months previously in 2009 could not have been more stark.

Often in the series of pantuns written at Bundanon, the poet follows the convention of linking one pantun to the following one by using the well-known device of starting the next pantun with the second line of the previous one. In this way, some sense of continuity and development of ideas is maintained.

But there is none of the expansive richness of the poetry of the Hungarian capital, the Lisztian flourishes as allusions to music, or the sliding rhapsody of the Budapest street scape, or the richness of the exploration of the historical or mythological roots as afforded in the Central European residency.

In returning to the central core of Hungarian-themed poems in the collection, it is worth noting the serendipitous fact that the poet was able to be in touch with esteemed members of the Indonesian diplomatic corps, such as Mangasi Sihombing, who had been stationed in Hungary in 2009 and had developed an abiding interest in the work of Hungarian poet, Bálint Balassi (1554-1594). Indeed, Cecep Hari completed an afterword to the book of translations by the former diplomat of poems by the Hungarian poet into Indonesian and published by KOMPAS in early 2013, Puisi-Puisi Cinta Bálint Balassi.

Each traveler has taken account, it seems, of Francis Bacon’s memorable quote about the role of travel in shaping experience. They, and we, are the richer for this.

(A Review* by Ian Campbell, author of Tak ada Peringatan [poetry] and currently an Honorary Research Associate, Department of International Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney. September 6, 2013). *This review was previously intended for the original poems in Bahasa Indonesia which were previously published in Cecep' books Meninggalkan Praha and Menimang Negeri Cahaya. 

Efrosina, pertama kali diterbitkan Orfeus Books (2002) sebanyak 1.000 (seribu) eksemplar. Cetakan kedua diterbitkan PT Cakrawala Budaya Indonesia (2005) sebanyak 10.000 (sepuluh ribu) eksemplar. Cetakan ketiga dipublikasikan Sastra Digital (2013) dan dicetak/diterbitkan Createspace dan didistribusikan Amazon. Ini adalah edisi terakhir Efrosina yang dipublikasikan sebagai edisi digital pada awal 2019.


Cetakan ketiga dan edisi digital Efrosina dilengkapi dengan catatan esais Ach. Nurcholis Majid yang esainya tentang buku puisi Efrosina (cetakan kedua) terpilih sebagai pemenang tingkat nasional LMKS (Lomba Mengulas Karya Sastra) yang diselenggarakan Kementrian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan pada 2010 dengan Dewan Juri yang diketuai Prof. Dr. Suminto A. Sayuti. Lukisan sampul adalah foto lukisan “Wahyu Makuthoromo”, bubuk kopi dan akrilik pada kertas, 40x50 cm, 2011, oleh K.H. Muhammad Fuad Riyadi.


Dalam Catatan Pengantar buku Efrosina edisi digital sekaligus edisi terakhir ini, Ach. Nurcholis Majid (seorang esais yang juga alumnus Universitas Al-Azhar Kairo) antara lain menulis: “... Saya rasa tidak salah jika Cecep dalam sebuah esainya mengatakan bahwa: ‘Puisi adalah pintu keluar dari bahasa yang mengalami menuju bahasa yang menafsirkan, dari sekadar mengalami realitas menjadi menafsirkan realitas’. Dengan bahasa yang menafsirkan itu pula kemuskilan menjadi mungkin…. Apakah lambang-lambang dalam puisinya merupakan teknik Cecep untuk keluar dari kemuskilan seremonial dan formalitas sehingga ia menciptakan dunia baru dalam puisinya dengan simbol-simbol yang ritmis? ... Cecep tak pernah berhenti memainkan perannya sebagai penulis, pelukis, dan musisi dalam puisi. Sebagai penulis, dia mampu menuliskan sesuatu dengan sangat terstruktur, sebagai pelukis ia mampu menggambar dengan sangat artistik, sebagai musisi ia mampu mengaransemen irama yang ritmis...."

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