Zug is a small town with a population of about 115.000 inhabitants, that is located on the edge of a serene lake in Switzerland, with its four seasons. It always exhibits much activity in every season. People eagerly wait for the summer season. The city resident usually swims or just sits and reads on the lakeside. Even some people will ride around the lake for 3–4 hours on their bicycle.
Every summer, Lisa Palak, the city animator with her team, will come to put some orange folding chairs and boxes of books. People can also visit the island of reading (Leseinsel), being a place of culture amongst all the other activities that take place on the lakeside. Every year the city of lakeside is filled with books and people sit reading on folding chairs. This summer of ’11 Lisa proposed if I could get involved with literature activity related to her library. I remember two important occasions. First is a poetry event on the streets in the city of Vienna, Austria, by poet Helmut Seethaler. Helmut with his brave way exhibited his poems in small pieces of paper under the restructured building. Even he had done so for 30 years. As the result he was sentenced to clause of vandalism by the court of Wina. His poems, which are loaded with irony, were considered to pollute the beauty of city. Secondly, the street artist Hans-Jürgen Gäbel in Konstanz, German. Hans with his unique way read the poem that is memorized from his mind. One poem was worth for minimum 1 Euro.
By those two ideas from the streets of Vienna and Konstanz, I showed Lisa for the combination format of both. Lisa and her team agreed. The preparation was so simple, with 2 rolls of thick thread and cutting pieces of poems from childrens books or internet. Poems were divided into two categories, for children and adult. Lisa looked for poems for children, and myself for adults.
The committee prepared four planks of board written in German:
1. Möchten Sie ein Gedicht pflücken? (Would you like to take a poem?)
2. Möchten Sie ein Gedicht schreiben? (Would you like to write a poem?)
3. Möchten Sie ein Gedicht lesen? (Would you like to read a poem?)
4. Möchten Sie ein Gedicht hören? (Would you like to hear a poetry reading?)
Instead of those signs above, there are still four provocative invitations:
1. Nimm ein Gedicht (Take a poem)
2. Pflückt ein Paar Gedichte (Collect a pair of poems)
3. Literatur zum Pflücken (Literature to be collected)
4. Nimm Texte (Take texts)
When the Germany poems from Georg Trakl, Hölderlin, Theodor Storm to Goethe have been collected, I got a new idea – ‘Why not to exhibit poems from Indonesia?’. Considering the public will be in German language, I contacted three German and English translators. I hope the poem translation will be ‘intimate’ with the original poem in Indonesian. Only by chatting on Facebook, I approached Sabine Müller, German translator in Köln. She gave two poems by Iswadi Pratama from Lampung, ‘Pulang’ (Zu Hause) and ‘Memandang’ (Betrachten), both in German and Indonesian. I tried to ask Alex Grainger, English translator in London, who has translated poem by Wayan Sunarta, poet from Bali in ‘Desa Terakhir’ (The Last Village). Still through the Facebook media, I asked Wawan Eko Yulianto a favour, English translator in Malang. He gave the poem ‘Celana’ (Pants) by Joko Pinurbo.
Slowly I had been thinking that actually Switzerland residents mostly use Schwizerdütsch dialect; German with its characteristic that sounds strange and different with the standard German (Hochdeutsch). Then I visited the city library: I soon found two collections of poems in Schwizerdütsch ‘Föönfäischter’ and ‘Öppis isch immer’, books written by Max Huwyler, an 80 years old maestro poet. I retyped Max Huwyler poems at home. I printed out 34 pieces of poetry. Most of the poems are short, so they only need small pieces of paper. To attract pedestrians, I bought coloured cardboard and painted it with such as vespa, bus, fish, bird, tree and abstract shape. Then I attached the poems to the cardboard so they looked like puppets without strings. The small cuttings of poems in white colour was attached on the coloured shaped cardboard. Two different piece of papers with their own density were in a synergy. Actually I planned just for accessories, but if only blank white paper filled with lyrics of poem would not too enchanting. I then modified Helmut’s idea to make it more spellbinding.
More or less there were 100 poems in small page sizes. Most of them has been attached on the coloured shaped cardboard. Then I felt doubt because this event is held in Switzerland where legal matters are more sensitive. Casually I contacted Andreas Grosz, a young poet in Zug. I wished to make sure whether this event was not against the law in Switzerland. Remembering that I have not asked the poet, Andreas suggested me to contact Max Huwyler to get his permission for submitting his poems. Instead it would be better not to exhibit poems which still have the copyright, except poets who have passed away for more than 70 years, so copyright is free. Furthermore Andreas warned me if I break the regulation and the writer or publisher find out it would be serious matter. I could connect Max Huwyler and surprisingly he let his poems hang out on the threads at the lakeside. Even through email he relied that if he could come he would bring markers. Understanding input from Andreas, I should be more careful that I will not make problems for my aim to socialize poems for pedestrian in the lakeside. Hence I asked Sabine to request permission to Iswadi Pratama in Lampung. Also I asked Wawan Eko Yulianto to request permission to Joko Pinurbo in Jogja. Both poets have sent their permission via email, so I feel so sure. I requested permission from Wayan Sunarta in Bali through Facebook chatting.
I have to exclude the poems of European poet Herman Hesse because his copyright still prevails. He passed away in 1962 so it has just been 49 years. Of course I would submit Rilke’s because it has been 85 years. As I have felt sure that copyright of German poet was in the public domain, then I tried to think of verses of Indonesian Facebook friends. Some of them that I could exhibit on the lakeside are: ‘Naif’ by Hoo Jan d’Ras from Bali, ‘Oh to be free’ piece by Desdemona Casio from Jakarta, Anak-Anak Serdadu by Dadan S. Sanusi in Bandung. Hujan dan Panas by Eva Schlamp in Austria. I recall the book ‘Yam Cha’ piece by Indonesian Migrant Labour (BMI) in Hong Kong. I took ‘Lelah’ a poem by Elnisya Mahendra, ‘100 hari’ creation by Alijah Purwanti and ‘Di atas Pusara Keadilan’ by Ally Dalijo. I asked their permit by Facebook email. Finally I also submit my own poem ‘Di Antara’ translated into German by Reto Meili to ‘Dazwischen’.
Take and Read Poem
Most themes of the poems are related to nature and the summer season. Thursday, August 4. at 4 p.m. my friends from Indonesia: Ita, Rosidi, Usep, Rully and myself left for the Zug Lake. Whilst Lisa and Patrick, her teamworker, were ready to set the threads on the trees. The thick threads were spread around in a U-form amongst many trees. Three meters from the trees is the mouth of Zug lake. Not far from there, there is a quite wide deer cage. Undoubtedly mothers with their babies on strollers passed by the event area. We pinned the small cuttings of poems by clothes pegs. The wind blew hard, the papers of poems rolled around. A new idea came up: there has to be two threads staked so that one side of the paper is doubled-pinned by clothes pegs; up and down.
All is more beautiful now. The coloured papers with many models and poems. Folding chairs have been set in the center of the grassed area. The books of poem which are mostly in German are also exhibited on small table. Some books of poem created by an Indonesian poet have also been displayed near the table: such as ‘Liku Luka Kau’ by Aguk Irawan, Mn, ‘Les Cyberlettres’ created by Cyber-Literature poets, ‘Ini– sirkus senyum’, a piece by Bumimanusia’s mailing-list, ‘Rembulan Matahari dan Bayangan’ by Maureen Sumolang and Urip Herdiman Kambali, ‘Malam Sutera’ by Sitor Situmorang and ‘Nyanyian Akar Rumput’ in both Indonesias and Dutch by Wiji Thukul. About half an hour has passed and about hundred of poems have been hang out on the threads. In two directions, the pedestrian starting to make slower steps. They are starting to get closer to read the small extract poems in paper. My heart blooming, to celebrate the cheers/happiness, as this is the first event in Switzerland. However in my own village, Boja Cenral, Java, it has been done twice: First time in SMAN Boja and the second one is the town hall of Boja. From those experiences in Java I feel quite confident to hold this event in Switzerland.
Surprisingly, a tall young woman entered the arena whilst taking a hung-out poem. She said she wished to read it. Then later, after I approached her, I know her name to be Laura. She took Iswadi Pratama’s poem ‘Pulang’ (Zu Hause). She was holding cuttings of the poem ‘Pulang’ in her hands. She will read the German version and I was asked to read the Indonesian version. Rosidi and Rully have been ready on their guitars for accompanying the rhymes of Iswadi Pratama’s creation. Whilst Ita has been ready with the handy cam. The performance of Laura and myself raised clapping from the audience.
This is the original Indonesian version:
Jangan kau semprotkan parfum pada baju-baju itu
Ia telah tergantung dibalik pintu, sudah lalu
Aku tak mau kehilangan bau keringatku
Tolong matikan televisi
Supaya ada sunyi
Supaya terdengar keluh meja dan kursi
Aku ingin mengenangkanmu pada bunyi
air di kamar mandi, kecut ketiak
atau nasi basi di dalam rak
Dan kau bisa mengingatku
pada derit engsel di pintu kamar
Atau dengus nafas yang tak sabar
Ya, Aku sudah pulang
Lubang hitam di kepalaku makin dalam
Kau rumah dibatas kelam
And this is the German version:
Sprüh’ kein Parfum an diese Kleider,
sie hingen hinter der Tür, es ist zu spät.
Ich will den Geruch meines Schweisses nicht verlieren.
Bitte mach den Fernseher aus:
So, dass es still ist,
so, dass das Seufzen von Tisch und Stuhl zu hören ist.
Ich möchte dich an Geräusche erinnern:
das Wasser im Bad, mein Achselschweiss
oder der verdorbene Reis im Regal.
Und du kannst mich erinnern –
an das Knarren der Angeln in der Zimmertür
oder das heftige Atmen voller Ungeduld.
Ja, ich bin zu Hause.
Das schwarze Loch in meinem Kopf, es wird tiefer,
du bist ein Haus von Dunkel umgeben.
I noticed a man with grey hair came near the threads hanged with poems. In fact he is Max Huwyler, the local poet. He had been selecting attentively from one paper to other ones. Of course he could find his own poems, spread around there. Not too long after, two swiss girls with their tight trousers got more close. One of them then held the cutting paper formed in blue owl. In the center, attached Goethe poem ‘Sorge’ (Kekuatiran). Guitars were ready, those two girls stood up and the lake’s wind accompanied the lyrics of Goethe’s poem. The friendly and helpful Ita was able to persuade a shy girl from Kurdi, who was sitting in a chair alone at first. She entered the grass arena to gather with us and read a German poem, as it is the official language in Zug. After enticing her more, finally she wrote a poem. Before, Laura also wrote a poem. Those two poems were also attached on the threads. Whilst waiting for readers that hopefully come from the pedestrian, Rosidi and Rully played some western songs with stunning strings from the guitars. The situation was more alive, just like a small celebration in the center of garden. I was keen to see some mothers reading the hung-out poems for a long time whilst taking their babies out the strollers. Yes, the place is so strategic and quite with two sides for pedestrian.
Now Maestro Max Huwyler gets closer to the center, because that swiss girl who read the Goethe poem would read Max Huwyler verses ‘Huere’ (Very), especially it will be in the Switzerland dialect, Schwizerdütsch, so obviously it will be more interesting.
This is the Schwizerdütsch poem ‘Very’:
Huere guet de Kirsch,
huere gschiid de Goof,
huere fäiss die Sou,
huere zwääg die Chue,
huere gschnell de Töff,
huere tüüf de Schnee,
huere chalt de Wind,
huere tumm de Satz,
huere schöön die Frau…
Max noticed the poem read by a girl beside him. Whilst sitting Max explained the meaning behind that poem. Before he went, he also had the opportunity to read some poems from his book. Laura didn’t go anywhere: in fact she still remained with us. Then she stood up again and opened the Goethe book. Because there are ‘male lines’ in that poem, she read half of it and the rest was taken over by me. Not only that, she opened the diary and attached to the first page was a copy of the poem ‘Stufe’ (Anak Tangga) by Hermann Hesse. She admitted that anytime she feels upset, she would read that Hesse poem. She read ‘Stufe’ standing up. I also read a poem of Rilke that is closer to daily life than a Goethe poem, in my view. Usep also read a poem by Indonesian Migrant Labour (BMI, Hong Kong) and a Wiji Thukul poem. There were two young guys reading poems hung out on threads, each of them stepped forward and read the poems accompanied by two guitars. Time flies so fast. Approaching 8 p.m., turned in line, the committee and wives read the poems. Lisa stood up and read a Turkish poem. Michelle, Rudy’s wife, read an English poem and Claudia, my wife, read a Schwizerdütsch poem.
After four hours the poem exhibition of attach, write, take and read a poem finished; my impression is westerners read poems without apparent involvement. They obey and abide to the text. Perhaps the text itself has its own power, without body movement and dramatical mimic. Usep and myself intend to read the poem by waving the hands just like the palm tree fronds broken by strong wind. Is it influenced by a tropical sun that makes human be in good temperament? Or the result of declamation lessons in elementary school?
Finally the event of Take and Read a Poem at the Zug Lakeside is over. This event was repeated four times every thursday during this August of 2011. At the thread stakes on the west side no more clothes pegs pinned poems: It meant some pedestrians have taken the poems home.
By Sigit Susanto