On Goenawan Mohamad’s Poems

Writings

Written by Laksmi Pamuntjak, and published as a part of Poetry International – Indonesia (2010). Mar 15, 2010


Even in the salad days of his career, Goenawan’s lyric poems – a genre which one normally associates with youth – were already shot through with the melancholy of age. And subsequently – whether in the restrained aesthetic of the poet’s response to the socialist experiment in Indonesia in the 1960s, in the burning fire of his eight-year tryst with eroticism in the first part of the 1990s, in the brief compulsive, image-chasing period of the short prose poem and the interior monologue of the early millennium, or in the sturdy austerity of the last six years – there is always that singular aloneness: a leitmotif that hints at its faith in Plotinus’ notion of poetry, “the flight of the alone to the alone”. And so these poems often anticipate their own failures and tragedies, refusing to linger on beauty, let alone hope. They are the poems of submerged desire, the sum of an ironic age.

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