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Poetic Reaction to Political Excess: W.S. Rendra, Peacock and People’s Poet

Papers (in PDF)

By Moira Neagle

In this article: Rendra, W. S.
Published in Arts Online – Monash University,
Sep 01, 2016

The maxim, the pen is mightier than the sword, could be aptly applied to the works of W.S. Rendra. In the political context of 1960s and 1970s Indonesia, the focus era of this paper, oppression and corruption reigned. Rendra used his words to inform people and as a clarion call to oppose the New Order during this period. His poetry and his dramatic readings of it challenged the New Order and in so doing, he attracted large audiences and the ire of those in power.

This paper describes the man and the political landscape of his country, Indonesia, through the turbulent years of the 1960’s and 1970’s. It contains examination of a number of his poems with a view to identifying his literary style, diverse poetic techniques and vivid messages. The poems examined are Nyanyian Duniawi (A Wordly Song from Blues Untuk Bonnie 1974), Pemandangan Senjakala (Twilight View 1968), Nyanyian Angsa (Swan Song 1971), Bersatulah Pelacur-Pelacur Kota Jakarta (Prostitutes of Jakarta – Unite 1968), Khotbah (Sermon 1968) and Pesan Pencopet Kepada Pacarnya (A Pick-pocket’s Advice To His Mistress 1967). These poems were chosen for their vehement commentaries of the political context of his homeland. His poetry made him a political activist when it was dangerous to be such; however, his ideas had significant resonance and impact.

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