-- Oyos Saroso H.N., The Jakarta Post, Bandarlampung
OVER the past decade, Indonesian literary critics have noted that Lampung has become an important national center for poetry, along with Jakarta, Bali and West Sumatra.
Many upcoming young poets in the past 10 years have come from Lampung, prompting literary observers to dub Bandarlampung -- the capital of Lampung province as "the city of poets".
Poet and literary critic Sapardi Djoko Damono once said the future of Indonesian poetry was rooted in Lampung, while literary writer Nirwan Dewanto said poetry writing in Lampung was unique because so many promising young poets have emerged in the region.
"The culture of poetry writing in Lampung today can only be compared with that of Bali," said Nirwan Dewanto.
During the past few years, the works of Lampung's young poets have been published in national media and in anthologies of poetry. Lampung's young poets have also been invited to take part in national and international literary events.
Ari Pahala Hutabarat, 33, a poet who is also a theater director with the Berkat Yakin Community Theater (Kober), is certainly making his mark in the region.
Ari, also a poetry teacher at Lampung University, has played a key role in mentoring young poets in the province. They look to him as a master craftsman in literature.
"I kept referring to these poets as friends but they honor me like a holy man, affording me the same respect they would a kyai (religious teacher)," Ari said. He added he didn't wish to appear so elevated, but that his students' high regard for him highlighted the important role teachers play in their students' development.
The graduate from the Language, Education and Indonesian Literary School of Lampung University said his teaching style was a mixture of the educational concepts developed by Paulo Freire, the renowned Brazilian educationalist, and the traditional educational methods used in Indonesian schools.
Ari said that through using the education methods of Freire, the learner gets to understand the future uses and purposive contextualization of their education.
"The actual education process is the process of becoming aware, which is linked to a real concern for humanity. This means that education has a meaning if it's used for the sake of humanity.
"In teaching students to write poetry, I like to emphasize this point," said the father of one.
Ari added his teaching methods were different from those used in formal education. The process of learning poetry isn't always conducted in a classroom. For example, it can be taught in the school yard or at a coffee stall.
"According to Paulo Freire, true education is a tool which helps the development of humanity. Education has to help people to learn more about themselves and how to express themselves. I think his method is very suitable for teaching young poets."
Besides teaching university students, Ari also teaches high school teachers the art of poetry writing. He even teaches prisoners at the city correctional institution.
"The happiest I've ever felt was when poetry written by prisoners that I taught was published in a newspaper.'
"There was one prisoner whose mother came to visit and he showed her the newspaper that had published his poetry. The mother was very proud that her son could write poetry and this became a talking point for the people in her village," said Ari, also the head of the Lampung Arts Council's Literary Committee.
"If the method of learning is right, then a poet can be created by a teacher.
"The poetry teacher and the community are only, however, the facilitators who help to stimulate students to explore their creativity."
Ari acts as the theater director for Kober and has directed more than 20 plays staged by the group, which was established in 2002. He has also held many creative writing and acting workshops.
As a poet, Ari is often invited to read at many national and international poetry forums. In June 2003, for example, Ari read at the Modern Indonesian Poetry Stage at Utan Kayu Theater (TUK) Jakarta.
In August 2003 he performed in the International Poetry Festival, also held at TUK. In 2005 he read his poetry at the Indonesian Poetry Heaven Event held at Taman Ismail Marzuki Park Cultural Centre and at the May festival in Bandung.
This was followed by an appearance at the 2006 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, and at an event called Erotic Literature in the New Studio at TIM.
Ari Pahala's works have also been published in local media, including Kompas, Media Indonesia, The Journal of Kalam Culture, Trans Sumatra and the Lampung Post. He has also been published in dozens of poetry collections.
The head of the Lampung Arts Council, Syaiful Irba Tanpaka, said there were only a handful of teachers with experience supporting poetry in the region.
"In the 1980s, poets from Lampung were famous outside of their region. Those poets have become senior poets around the country, and many teach," he said.
Jimmy Maruli Alfian, a lawyer working in the government court in Sumatra and also a professional poet, said Ari's role had been important in helping him develop his poetry and the poetry of his friends in Lampung.
"Poetry became my extracurricular activity in law school," said Jimmy.
"I would probably never have become a poet if I hadn't met Ari Pahala. He was on the (university) staff as a teacher ... he was great in discussions and became a good friend," he said.
Source: The Jakarta Post | People | Sat, 07/19/2008