Saturday, June 18, 2016


Interviewers, including students and reporters often asked these questions:
·         Why do you write poetry more than other genre?   
·         What do you write about, or what are the themes of your writing.
My answer to the first question is, I began with poetry because my introduction to literature and writing was through poetry. As a child I sang children songs (lagu kanak-kanak) or traditional nursery rhymes while playing with friends.  When we have radio in the house, I spent hours listening especially to songs. I picked up the lyrics which in those days were usually beautiful and meaningful. Some tunes used beautiful and romantic pantuns. I came to learn and appreciate the beauty of words and encountered the poetic value in my language. I roamed the gardens, the seas and mountains described in the songs, and picked up beautiful expressions which kindled my imaginations. My love for poetry was nurtured and I began to write.
Looking back my themes can be summarized as below
·         From 1967 to about 1972   I wrote mostly about social issues especially  poverty among farmers and fishermen.
·         From 1972 to 1980 was my restless years, searching for myself and the meanings of live.   
·         In the eighties my marriage and Islamic awareness calmed me down. I found meaning in family relationship.
·         In the nineties, the situations of the Malays disturbed me most.
·         By 2010 I found myself coming back to society and the reality of live.

In the first phase, from 1967 to about 1972,  I wrote mostly about social issues especially  poverty among farmers and fishermen. As a young enthusiast I read anything I could find on poetry and on what was happening in the local literary scene. Articles by my favourite poets, Usman Awang and Kassim Ahmad inspired me. They advocated writers as voice of society  .  Most of the early poems are published in my first personal anthology, Sesayup Jalan (USM Press 1974). One of them was about about a fishing village, Tanjung Dawai

This evening at Tanjung Dawai
Admiring your scenery

But who owns your beach
No, no you certainly
You only have a boat and a net
To cast your life in the open sea.  

The second phase from 1972 to 1980 was my restless years. I was searching for myself and the meanings of live.   I was looking West to T.S.Elliot and later, the absurd writers especially Samuel Backett and was very much disturbed by the notion that life is a never ending wait. This was when I wrote AT THE BUS STAND depicting life as the wait  for the bus to a destination that you have not decided

At the bus stand
Smokes from moving cars
Has landed in my eyes
 At this bus stand
A long shadow
Is lying
On the dust

And I waited on
The buses have gone
I am still at the station
Making no decision
On my destination.

My marriage in 1979 brought in the third stage in the eighties, concurrent with Islamic awareness that calmed me down. I found meaning in family relationship and prayers. During this time there were many poems talking about love, family and keeping harmonious relationship with Allah and His creation. An example is a poem entittled Certainty

You may not be the best man
But for a woman like me
I am not sure there is anyone better

Do not ask if I am happy
I too will not question your emotion
For when one tries to be too certain
one ends up with more suspicion
The more we analyse and discuss
There is more to learn,
The nineties could be taken as the fourth stage . I was disturbed and worried about the future of the  Malays. Politicians and everyone else were talking about how the Malays  are losing  ground in their own inherited land. This time I look through the pages of history, legends and folk tales and felt very sad  that  we   have made mistakes along the way. I wrote poetry about the misdeed and lust of Malay rulers, that had weakened the empire of Melaka long before the attacks from outside.
One such story was the heartless killing of the Bendahara (Prime Minister) of Melaka and all members of his family by the Sultan.

I did not resist when they come with the keris
To take my life
If it is Your Majesty’s wish
After all it is my own saying
That the Malays never disobey their king

But I do regret
That your majesty should forget
As every tree has its root
Everything has its beginning
The start and their origin
Demang Lebar Daun installing Sang Sapurba
As  the first king
They come to a treaty, an agreement
A king is not a king
without his men

Since then Demang came second
A Bendahara in status and rank
He even became the king’s father-in-law.
In the state  protocol
Sang Sapurba is above all
But in  family relation
Demang in a higher position

From there
To Singapore and Melaka
Bendahara were addressed  by their tittles
Seri Maharaja, Paduka Raja
Seri Wak Raja
Meaning king’s father, guardian of the ruler
For it is true bendahara arrre pillars
The strength of the nations
The king heads the country
The bendahara in authority
The king wwears his crown
The bendahara guards his ground.t

The sharp keris of his majesty
Pierced through the bendahara’s body
Tha madness of  the action  
Has wounded a nation.

A king is but a servant
To the rules that make him a king.  

Crossing the millennium I found myself coming back to society and the social problems .There are so much ills around us that I felt guilty to be indulged in aesthetic .
One such poem is

As promised before election
Lorries of cements, pebbles and sand
Trampled our land

As promised before election
So began the construction
For days and months
Then a mosque with magnificent dome
sparkles in the sun

And come the big occasion.
We stood in procession
From the foot of the hill
To the edge of the mosque
With flowers and posters
The whole village was there together
to welcome a minister

Beating of kompangs and speeches
Delivering  massages full of  praises
For the new mosque
Speaking of loyalty to god
Loyalty to His messenger
Loyalty to the government in reign
And this loyalty need not be changed

The  minarets  stand tall  to the cloud
The call to prayer clear and loud
But my grandma and friends
Never come near the mosque again
Grandma said often
The new mosque is magnificent
The floor is raised on higher ground
The steps and tiles arrangement
Boost of their creativity all around

But we are already old
Our feet wobbles on sparkling marble
They don’t build this mosque for us to pray
But for a show off
and more of a display.


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