Saturday, June 24, 2017

Every December for the last seven years, the Island of Pangkor Perak have been flooded by poets from all over the world. 

Every December for the last seven years, the island of Pangkor, Perak, Malaysia have been flooded with poets from Malaysia and all over the world. They have come to the poetry events of talks and poetry readings held in the beautiful island. The big gathering is made possible through the support of Perak state government headed by the chief minister  Dato' Seri Zambri Abdul Kadir who is a poet himself writing under his the name Zambri A,K.

These pictures were taken during the events last year (2016).

Overseas Poets attended a dinner hosted by HRH Raja Nazrin, the Sultan of Perak. 

Poets at the opening ceremomy officiated by Dr.Zambry Kadir

Poetry Reading at the Pangkor Arena
                                   MINGLING WITH FRIENDS.= POETRY AND FRIENDSHIP

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

ESPECIALLY FOR For my Spanish speaking friends, these are poems that have been translated into Spanish.. They have been published in a dual language collection  FRENTE AL PUERTO/MENGHADAP KE PELABUHAN , ITBM, 2012. The collection contained 48 poems wth various themes and issues mostly depicting Malaysian life. The translation into Spanish has been done by PATRICIA VAZQUEZ MARIN. 

The translator Patricia Vaquez Marin.

The poems have also been translated into French , Russian and Japanese.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


The poem  “Pelakon Terbaik Kami” , Cerita Dalam Cerita, ITBM, 2010:18 was inspired by watching interesting monologues,  including  the one by  Khalid Salleh,  Monolog Jual Ubat . Khalid Salleh has been awarded The Best Actor Award at Asia Pacific Film Festival, 1999 for his role in Jogho directed by U Wei Haji Shaari.

I like watching monologues.  It is one of the most important and interesting medium of social criticism The actors talk loudly on stage about social ills, corrupted leaders, deplorable conditions of the poor people.    Watching Khalid as a medicine man gave me the idea that actors are actually not acting when they are on stage. It is there that they speak their mind out. It is on stage that they exert their voice and become themselves. Once they come down they become quiet and polite. There is so much that they have to hide. They feel that it is outside the stage that they are being watched and observed by larger (and dangerous) audience, so they have to be careful with their words and deeds.

This is what I said in Pelakon Terbaik Kami.  This morning I translated it into English as OUR BEST ACTOR. 


He won the Best Actor award
We did not question
As he was excellent

I remember he played so well
The role of a medicine man
His coarse angry voice trembled
chanting sermons
to drive away evil spirits and demons
 “ hey you seven headed devils
Your name is treachery
Your name is corruption
Get out of the body and soul
Of my people
Whose life you had  strangled
you plagued and tortured my grandchildren
that they ran into the jungle frightened
leaving you and your cronies
free to own the cities.

Once I asked him
Your acting was marvellous
The audience was stunned
You rampaged the stage in rage
Shouting and kicking
This is different
From you that we know as a person
Gentle and soft spoken

He smiled and answered
As usual his words were limited
What you see on the stage was the real me
Screaming at the people in power
Off the stage I became an actor
swallowing my anger
and forced to remain silent
watched by the larger audience

On stage I am the real man
Who need not pretend
 the acting begins.
when the play ends
(original tittle : Pelakon Terbaik Kami)


Dia terpilih sebagai Pelakon terbaik 
Dan kami cukup puas hati
 setiap kali dia beraksi.

Antara lain yang paling kukenang
Dia melakonkan watak pawang
Dengan getar suara membaca mantera
Begitu lantang menghalau hantu  jembalang
 “Hey jin kepala tujuh
Jin bernama Jin khianat
Keluarlah kamu dari jasad rakyat
Anak cucuku sudah lama sakit tenat
Sudah lama melarat
Hey hantu segala hantu
Hantu pembelit hantu penipu
Jangan ganggu  anak cucuku
Sehingga mereka lari ketakutan
 Ke  pinggir pinggir hutan
Tinggallah kamu dan para kroni
Menguasai kota ini.

Aku pernah bertanya dia
Sungguh hebat kau berlakon
Semua penonton terpegun
Bagaimana kau menjadi  pawang
Bengis dan garang
Menghentak dan menendang
 sangat berlainan dari dirimu
Yang sopan dan pendiam

Dia hanya tersenyum menjawab
Seperti biasa kata-katanya cukup terhad
yang kau lihat di pentas itu
Sebenarnya adalah  aku
Di luar pentas aku adalah pelakon.
Yang menelan  kemarahan
Menjadi sopan santun
Kerana   di luar pentas
 lebih ramai penonton

Di pentas aku bebas beraksi
Sebagai  diri sendiri.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

 Reading the Classical text such as the Sejarah Melayu, I found women being treated as if they had no heart and soul. A woman has no life of her own as she has to follow what is dictated by norms and customs. Women who are closed to the palace have been subjects and even gifts of political bargaining. This inspired some poetry that have been analysed as  the feminist voices in my poems. For example, Dr Suzana Muhammad has written a paper  “The Development of Woman Identity: Feminist Approaches to Selected Poems of Zurinah Hassan.” , delivered at Seminar Kefahaman Budaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia 2004.   A poem often quoted  is  “Pesanan Puteri Gunung Ledang Kepada Sultan Mahmud” (The Message From Princess of Mount Ledang To Sultan Mahmud)  The Princess of Mount Ledang was a mythical character, unearthly, magical, mysterious, and of course described as exceptionally beautiful. She dwelt at Mount Ledang in the southern area of Peninsular Malaysia visible from the palace of the Malacca Sultan. As the story goes, the sultan was looking for a queen after the demise of his consort. This time around, the sultan was determined to marry someone or something different from an ordinary human princess as he wanted to be different and far above anyone else. That was how he got the idea of asking for the hand of the Princess of Mount Ledang.
The Sultan sent his men up the mountain to ask for her hand in marriage. He summoned almost every able bodied  man, causing much hardship and unnecessary death to his subjects. It was a perilous journey.   Many men fell off into the deep ravine or fell prey to the wild animals.  Even Hang Tuah, the famous Malay warrior, failed to reach the top. Only Tun Mamat succeeded to the summit and entered the garden of the Princess. But he could not see the Princess, and only conveyed the Sultan’s proposal through Dang Raya Rani who was the princess’s chief lady in waiting. The beautiful princess sent her famous message to the Sultan through Tun Mamat.
            The Message from Princess of Mount Ledang to Sultan Mahmud

            Tun Mamat
            Convey this message to the Sultan
            Bring these as my dowry
            If he wishes to marry me.

            Build me a bridge of gold and another of silver
            Bring me germs and mosquitoes seven trays of their hearts
            Vessels full of tears and juice of young beetle nuts
            From the king and his prince a bowl each of their blood.

            I knew from the start
            That he is willing to construct the bridge of misery
            Let the people carry the trays of agony
            And bear the burden of heavy vessels of tears
            Rack their life with flame of his own desire
            Provided he could escape the fire.

            Tun Mamat,
            These conditions only show my rejection
            As his queen I refuse to be
            Seeing my life a murky reflection
            I am not Tun Fatimah
            With the skill to forgive cruelty
            I am not Tun Kudu
            Who could be forced to agree
            It’s enough with Hang Li Po
            Wrapped up as a gift, a commodity
            Or Tun Teja who tripped and fell
            The lover she followed was only a shadow.

            Let Mount Ledang stand tall, a reminder to all
            Of a flower that survived and remained free
            Untouched by the royal fancy
            Even a woman can choose to disagree
            Even a king has his turn
to admit being beaten.

(Menghadap ke Pelabuhan/Facing the Harbour. 2013:20-21)


Pesanan Puteri Gunung Ledang kepada Sultan Mahmud

Tun Mamat
Sampaikan pesanku kepada Sultan
Jika aku ingin diperisterikan.

Perbuatkan aku jambatan emas jambatan perak
Bawakan tujuh dulang hati kuman, hati nyamuk
Air mata dan air pinang muda setempayan
Darah raja dan anak raja semangkuk

Alu telah menduga
Dia akan sanggup merentang jambatan derita
Dia merelai negeri menjadi dulang air mata
Kehidupan terbakar dalam api berahi
Selagi kepanasan tidak terpercik ke tubuhnya

Tun Mamat
Sebenarnya aku memberi syarat ini
Kerana aku tidak sudi menjadi permaisuri Sultan
Dan hidup bercerminkan kekeruhan
Aku bukan Tun Fatimah
Yang pandai memaafkan kezaliman
Aku bukan Tun Kudu
Yang tahu merelakan paksaan
Cukuplah dengan Puteri Hang Li Po
Yang terbungkus menjadi persembahan
Dan tersungkurnya Tun Teja
Ketika menangkap bayang-bayang cinta

Biarlah Gunung Ledang berdiri mengingatkan
Ada bunga yang tidak dapat digubah
Sesedap titah
Seorang perempuan pun ada kalanya
Berhak memiliki kebebasan
Seorang sultan pun ada kalanya
Harus tunduk kepada kekalahan.

This proposal is an episode in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals). The story may not have been historically true. The princess may not have existed. But the writer of the Sejarah Melayu has constructed the story as a medium to criticize the Sultan for his unjust rule of the country and his cruelty especially to women, treating them as if they have no heart and soul. The Princess of Mount Ledang proposed these conditions of the dowry as a way of refusing to marry him. As for the Sultan, this was the first time anyone said no to him. The princess was the first woman to succeed in showing the Sultan that he too must be able to accept rejection. The important point in “Message of the Princess of Mount Ledang to Sultan Mahmud” is the exertion of a woman’s right to decide and take control of herself and her life. That the princess was able to speak her mind showed that women have freedom of expression and the right to refuse. As I put in my poem:
Let Mount Ledang stand tall, a reminder to all
Of a flower that survived and remained free
Untouched by the royal fancy
Even a woman can choose to disagree
Even a king has his turn
to admit being beaten.

Besides the “Princess of Mount Ledang,” there are other legendary ladies in the Malay Annals, one of which is Princess Hang Li Po.

The Voyage of Princess Hang Li Po (Original title: pelayaran Hang Li Po)

The beautiful Princess Hang Li Po
In the voyage to Melaka
Crying in agony
So young and so tender
To be torn from her mother
Like a shoot from its root
She’d rather die
Drowned by the ocean
Than to lose the loving touch of her parents
Is this her fate her destiny
To be delivered as a gift,
Wrapped as a commodity
Shipped to Melaka
As a bride and a donation
That would strengthen the nation
Her mother, Her Majesty, The Maharani
Had spoken in tears
My beloved Li Po, please be brave
This fact we have to face
You and me what we are born to be
As queens and princesses
We do not own ourselves
Marriage for us is not a personal decision
It is a state arrangement, a political mission.

Do not cry for your father
He is a man, and a king
He loves you as a daughter
But his kingdom is everything
He laughs and cries for the nation
The kingdom demands his attention
First the reign over his land
Family happiness comes second.

Yes Li Po
Look what history has written
Of empires and nations
Built and strengthened
At the sacrifice and tears of women
While many brought to the end
By misdeed and greed of men.

 (Menghadap ke Pelabuhan/Facing the Harbour: 24-25)


Hang Li Po yang jelita
Dalam pelayaran ke Melaka
Menangis di dalam bahtera
Semuda ini dia dipisahkan
Dari ibu tempat bermanja
Bagai pohon dari akarnya
Rasanya biar bercerai badan dan nyawa
Biar mati di tengah gelora
Dari berpisah dengan keluarga

Apalah nasibnya badan
Sudah menjadi barang hantaran
Dibawa ke Melaka
Sebagai hadiah kepada Sultan
Kononnya untuk meneguhkan kerajaan

Bondanya Maharani yang mulia
Berpesan dengan air mata
Duhai Hang Li Po anak tercinta
Tabahlah menerima ketentuan ini
Inilah takdir kita
Menjadi puteri dan permaisuri
Perkahwinan kita bukan soal peribadi
Hidup kita bukan untuk diri
Diri kita adalah milik negeri

Apalah diharap pada ayahnda
Dia lelaki dan maharaja
Kau puteri kesayangan
Tetapi negeri adalah tanggungan
Tawa dan air matanya
Hanya untuk negara
Kuasa lebih penting
Daripada bahagia

Iya puteriku
Sejarah telah mencatatkan
Banyaknya kerajaan
Yang diteguhkan oleh pengorbanan
Dan air mata perempuan
Dan banyak pula negeri
Yang diruntuhkan oleh nafsu lelaki.

Princess Hang Li Po was the princess of China betrothed to the Sultan of Melaka as the show of support and protection from the much feared Empire of China to the newly founded nation of Melaka. The Princess was taken away at a tender age when she still playing around at home, cuddled by her mother. I imagined Hang Li Po’s tears dropping into the ocean, crying  for the people she loved and missed so much. Her mother must have also cried in agony, but they both were women facing patriarchal oppression. As a mother I was very much disturbed and saddened by this mother-daughter separation. It would be heart-breaking for any mother to have her daughter taken away and sent to a place so far away.   Given the condition of travel at that time, there was no guarantee of seeing each other again.  More than that, Hang Li Po as a female, was being treated as a commodity shipped to Melaka. Marriage for queens and princesses was not a personal decision but a political mission. Her father, as a man and a king, thought and talked less about family happiness but more about his kingdoms.
Hang Li Po was not the only one sacrificed for the sake of the Malacca Sultanate. There have been others. There were famous beautiful suffering ladies of Malay Annals including Tun Teja, Tun Kudu dan Tun Fatimah. Tun Teja was the daughter of a statesman of Pahang, who felled in love with Hang Tuah and agreed to run away with him to Melaka. Later in the boat she found out that she had been deceived by Hang Tuah with all his talks of love. Hang Tuah at the time was sent to exile by the Sultan and abducting Tun Teja for a present was his mean of getting back into the Sultan’s favour.
Another pitiful woman in the Malay Annals was Tun Kudu. She was the consort of  Sultan Muzaffar and a sister of Tun Perak,  the man who saved Malacca from foreign attacks. Tun Perak rose up for his bravery that strengthened Melaka and it was rumoured that he was eyeing the position of Bendahara much to the dismay of the existing Bendahara, Tun Ali. Subsequently rivalry broke up between supporters of Tun Ali and Tun Perak. This threatened the stability of Melaka and the position of the Sultan. Someone came up with a solution that the widowed Tun Ali should be married into Tun Perak’s family. When offered to pick his choice,  Tun Ali  made it clear that the only woman in Tun Perak’s family that he desired was Tun Kudu,  the wife of Sultan Muzaffar and the queen of Melaka.  Sultan Muzaffar agreed  supposedly for the sake of peace and stability. Tun Kudu was divorced and she became another woman who was asked to sacrifice for the sake of Melaka. Indeed Melaka was built on the sorrow and tears of women, but it eventually fell due to the greed and misdeed of men, as has been the case with so many other nations.

Part of the poem Episod Tun Kudu goes:

Tun Kudu was the consort of Sultan Muzaffar
A bunch of grape sweet and  ripe
In the vineyard of his heart
Bendahara Tun Ali was looking
And secretly craving

Tun Kudu, the wife
Cool as cucumber 
Waiting to be sliced
By the royal knife.

Defying his age
Tun Ali was adamant
To ask for the fruit of his passion
a woman in the chamber of the Sultan
as a prize of his retirement

Sultan Muzaffar and Tun Ali
Making arrangement and agreement
Between gentlemen
Exchanging position and a possession
That they called a woman.
Who have no say in the discussion
It is up to men to discuss
And the duty of woman to sacrifice.

I have written poems about women in the legends, but  my main concern is the  about the present situation. What happened to the legendry ladies is happening to many women in our time, though in different ways. Even today,  marriages are not  necessarily a matter of the heart. There are marriages of convenience, marriages for family honour, business arrangements, social commitments, and more often to save a woman and her family from the social stigma. A girl is  brought up to preserve a good name so that she will be married into a  good family. It is believed that no woman would remain unmarried by choice . There is a high and often unaffordable price of living alone and remaining true to one’s identity and carving one’s own destiny. My point is what I put in the line, “A woman has to be less herself, in order to be more a woman”. This is delivered in a poem entitled “Marriage”:
-one woman’s opinion

Marriage is the difficulty
Of changing routines and priorities
That make you less yourself
And a woman has to be less her self
In order to be more a woman.

Marriage to a woman
Is a protection
For her who dares not live
On her own identity
It is too costly and too risky.

(Menghadap ke Pelabuhan/Facing the Harbour: 82-83)

Even up to the present time some young girls sacrifice advancement in career for a marriage prospect much to the loss of their nations. In a poem “Salam Perempuan Dari Penjara,” (A Woman’s Greeting From Prison, 2010) [S1] ,  I looked at a woman’s journey through life as a procession which no one dares to divert from. It is a procession where everyone walked to a fixed destiny:
She and her sisters
in a procession to their day
while within this wall
they have not lived at all.
 (Menghadap ke Pelabuhan/Facing the Harbour: 60-61)

As I have mentioned earlier, there are women who marry for the sake of freeing themselves from social stigma. As for choosing their life partners, the elders told their girls not to be choosy and told their boys to choose their bride properly. This depressing situation gave rise to a poem “Satu Percakapan Singkat” (A Short Conversation):
A Short Conversation
(with a fellow poet)

My friend
On our love for  life
We may not differ from each other
On our love for poetry
That too is similar

But you are a man
And I am a woman
That make the whole different

A man is free
to limit his choice
a woman limits her choice
to free herself.

 ((Menghadap ke Pelabuhan/Facing the Harbour:  pp.88-89)

Born as a woman, there is not much that you can do but pray to God for his protection and guidance. I wrote a poem,  “Nyanyian Menidurkan Halini” (A Lullaby to Halini), in which I told a little girl  not to cry. And I wish I could teach her not to shed tears  now and forever. She should grow up as a strong personality and not to cry on the wrong shoulders.
With this song Halini
I put you to sleep
Sleep will not always come easy
When you are old enough to know it

Calm down Halini
Don’t cry anymore
You must learn to value your tears
Don’t let it fall
on any wrong shoulders.

May you grow up Halini
With courage and confidence
Put your trust in God
You will really need him
Because you are born a woman.

((Menghadap ke Pelabuhan/Facing the Harbour:  pp.80-81)

 [S1]Please specify if these numbers indicate verses or pages.