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Saturday April 29th 2017

After Reading the ‘Ma’rifat’

Literature | Wednesday, 3 November 2010 | sundanesecorner.org

Hawé Setiawan

Handoko (right) and I at UPI campus discussing the anthology (photograph: Jessyca Handriyani)

Little is my knowledge of the life and works of Handoko F. Zainsam, a Jakarta-based young poet. Yet a couple of days ago he rang me —he knows my number from a friend of mine— and let me know about his new book entitled Ma’rifat Bunda Sunyi ‘The Divine Knowledge of Solitary Mother’ (2011), a collection of poems that consists of three sections. He asked me to join a book discussion that has been held at UPI campus in Bandung this afternoon. Well, I love to read literary works.

At first sight his work has a sort of metaphysical inclination. Though the word ‘mysticism’ might not be applied to describe the poems properly, yet for the most parts they tend to express spiritual reflections, religious aphorisms, or something like that. At least one can get the tones from some idioms that are likely his own: ma’rifat ‘divine knowledge’, munajat ‘supplication’, tahajud ‘midnight prayer’, sunyi ‘solitary’, cinta ‘love’, kekasih ‘lover’, anggur ‘wine’, keabadian ‘eternity’, etc. Other poems in this anthology that throw some light on social issues as the subject matter seem to be an exception. (Handoko’s poems can also be accessed through his weblog: http://komunitasmataaksara.blogspot.com)

Since the era of the great Malayan poets, such as Hamzah Fansuri, Nurruddin Arraniri, Abdullah bin Albulkadir, and Amir Hamzah, Indonesian literature has formed a long tradition of spiritual and metaphysical lyric. Amir Hamzah has also translated the Baghawad Gita and some other works from ‘oriental literature’ into Indonesian language in his Setanggi Timur ‘Incense from the East’. Rabindranath Tagore’s works, especially the Gitanjali, are also well known here. Contemporary Indonesian poet, e.g. Mustafa Bisri, D. Zawawi Imron, Abdul Hadi W.M., Acep Zamzam Noor, and Joko Pinurbo, are among prominent figures whose lyrical works seem to have come out of religious background.

Learning from his predecessors, it seems that a long pathway has to be traced by Handoko in search of his own ‘language’. What I mean with ‘language’ in this respect has something to do with a manner in expressing the poet’s distinctive spiritual or metaphysical experience. Only the poet himself that know exactly what kind of experience he would like to reveal, yet the language —in which every word has only general meaning— that is available to him is always insufficient. Hence, he has to renew or refresh the general language so that it could more or less express the experience in question. Such expression as kekekalan abadi ‘eternal eternity’—no matter it could move the reader— seems to me as a needless pleonasm.

Hasan Mustapa, the great mystical poet of West Java, for an instance, explores several idioms from Sundanese daily life in order to express his own mystical experience. Though there are several idioms that derived from the Arabic, they are well absorbed into his own tongue. He said, among others, tangkal tanjung nyatana sidratul muntaha ‘tanjung tree is really the sidhrat al-muntaha’.

A far as the subject matter is concerned, the focal point of Handoko’s poems is the desire to relate the two different poetic personas: ‘I’ and ‘Thou’. His poems seem to have a strong inclination to a state of being absorbed into a mystical relation. This leitmotif is indeed one of common elements in mystical poetry.

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3 Responses to “After Reading the ‘Ma’rifat’”

  1. Bayu Pratama says:

    first of all, i’d like to apologize for not coming to your place. i decided to went back home, put my Mac then go back again to pick Farnaz up and off to your place, but then again, it’s all about “forecast matter”.
    a hard rain dropped in the middle of the road, while i surviving myself to reach home in an almost totally-wet condition. i remember the popular saying, to do something right we better never plan it. just do it.. i’ll take him to your place as soon as possible

    speak about the Ma’rifat. i believe we have the different point of view and different way to understand. i haven’t read, noyt even the whole book yet, just a slight-seeing at the forum. but what happened at the spot yesterday, softly touched my heart and makes me think deeply. about who i am. about Allah. about my everlasting journey to get close to Allah. about the holy thing i proudly called “my deen”. is it only a pride? is it the holy thing i really put my faith in? i was in a big deep depression, i have too many question about everything. and it seems like Allah has answered my doubt through him, through Handoko and his works.

    like i told you, this man is incredible. not only he’s been writing for years and have more than just great experience, but the way he describe his works left me in solitude.

    i listen to every single word he said. his conception of “two worlds collide”, about how we could never ever get in touch with Allah because of our humanity, but in the same time he asked “what we longing for if we’re so close? closer than bloodstream..” we just don’t realize it i guess..

    thanks for the opportunity, thanks for inviting me to come. see you in the next forum.

    may Allah bless u and ur family always.. Amin..

    The joy the flowers bring me
    The pain still has me sinking
    All while my heart gently weeps

    Your smile has got me shrinking
    The tears in your eyes are twinkling
    Because the heart gently weeps – Erykah Badu

  2. hawe setiawan says:

    Thanks, Bayu. It’s very pleasant to meet Handoko at the forum. He is nice, and his talk are inspiring. Hope you get more than just a book discussion. Amin.

  3. Bayu Pratama says:

    Literally sir.. I got more than just a book discussion. Despite this annoying guy sat next to me busy with himself hehehe..

    I’m having a chat with my friend Galih now, who lives there in Pejaten. We set the date, on November 21st we’ll have a recording session together at his house. Recording two songs then we’ll go straight to Handoko’s place.

    Handoko has such a deep.. concept of poem.

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