Editor of Omong-Omong Media

Give Poems A Chance

Moch Aldy MA

3 min read

Deep down in our hearts, not only are we all tired of conflicts and wars, we fear and hate them. From Russia’s aggression into Ukraine to Yemen’s bloody civil war, from Myanmar coup d’état against the civilian government to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. People around the world need to do something. We need to be echoing peace, but at first, frankly, we need to see and absorb sadness and agony from the war victims, from endlessly conflicts that claim millions of lives, from real suffering that has the same tone—from east to west, south to north.

Such tragedies create a womb for magnum opus literary works—poetry of human suffering, anger, frustration but also hopes. And no doubt, we can interpret peace by poetry, by poems as have been created by young people in the Southeast Asian region.

The ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation organized last year a poetry competition for ASEAN’s young citizens, and asked the region’s renowned writers and poets: Okky Madasari (Indonesia), Melizarani T. Selva (Malaysia), and Hariz Fadhilah (Brunei Darussalam), to review and select the best poems.

The Institute then published a book of these best poems on Jan. 13, with Okky Madasari becoming the editor of this 56-page book titled “ASEAN Peace Poems”.

Calm before the storm

Yizhi Ria Riangmi (Indonesia)

When peace comes,
you will not find her on the edge of an olive branch,
or a ceasefire;
she will not be in the silence of the Tabernacle
or in the gentle waves lapping against your calves at the beaches;
only remnants of her remain in the temples,
not even on quiet hills overlooking sleeping skyscrapers.

If peace comes,
you will feel her on the brims of tidal waves just as they cascade
across the shore,
after a fire, when the walls are dampened, blackened with
lingering soot, ash thickening the air,
in hospitals, during a doctor’s long shift; they always say silent
hallways are a bad omen;
in the thick of a protest, voices reverberating across the streets,
the aftermath of a break-up, when the lovers leave;

When peace comes,
you will not find her serene.
Instead,
she courts chaos
like Saturn yearning for Jupiter’s kiss,
long awaiting his passing
for her moment of bliss.

#2

This anthology flows quite smoothly from every poem to another poem, making it difficult to simply stick with just reading a few poems from it and exit. Each poem is like walking together, gathering in the midst of a cold square, and sue things that must be voiced with the pureness sound of children inside their beings. The metaphors are done in vibrant colors. They range from strong-lined imaginary filled with a piece of agony to obscure scenes of a tropic beauty.

The contexture of words that we construct and formulate in such a way, which we call poetry—was an intellectual and creative medium to explore the many forms of duality, for instance, peace and conflict: from simple moments of tranquility, to complex arrangements of harmony; from ordinary restlessness of consciousness, to knotty composition of despondence.

In this collection of close and warm poetry, there is a kind of personal nerve-racking that is nicely conjured by the magic of language—into a collective urgency related to the climate crisis, global peace, unto the future of this world. Turning the pages of this anthology poems is a voyage of sounds, color, odour, and heterogeneous forms of psychological expression through the medium of text.

The Formula of Peace

Dani (Indonesia)

A little girl asked Einstein, “What is the formula of peace?” She
thought it would be the most challenging question and the
most serious scientific problem Einstein had ever encoun-
tered. “The greatest physicist in the world, can we really have
perpetual peace?” She wondered why war happened.
She could not accept, if humans were longing for peace, why
they still committed violence from time to time.
“Is it the universal theorem of physics, the absolute law of
the universe?” She was severely disturbed, why people could
conduct heinous crimes against humanity in the name of
peace. Thus, the little girl asked Einstein again, “What is the
formula of peace?”
“EMC².
Empathy, Mindfulness, Critical Inquiry and Compassion.”

#25

Beneath the ASEAN Peace Poems, there is an ancient longing for peace, of home, of past, of present, of future, of nature. There is a kind of utopia that is the antithesis of violence, anger, and war. It is heartwarming when read every poem by using conscience. Like attending a monumental campaign—which invites the reader to linger, consider, to stop talking, and start listening.

With poetry we can muse our reality, devise our existence, and redefine our collective values such as peace. And sorrowful worlds are gasoline for artistic or poetic inspiration. The poets or artists would go into furor poeticus (ecstasy), poetic madness, mystic experience, or divine frenzy—when they are feeling blue.

No Place Like Zamboanga

Earl Carlo Guevarra (Philippines)

I say that there’s no place like my hometown
Where the sun sets over the Sulu Sea
Yet I can’t go back now to my own town

The crabs and lobsters are fresh in my town There are pink sand
beaches for all to see
I say that there’s no place like my hometown

My loved ones all wait for me to come down home and have a
party under the tree
Yet I can’t go back now to my own town

These pure islands have palm trees as their crown with fine sand
beaches for all to roam free
I say that there’s no place like my hometown
There are rivers and falls just outside town Inside virgin woods
that would make one glee Yet I can’t go back now to my own town

Everyone’s taking selfies in another town and post on Instagram
of the great sights they see
I say that there’s no place like my hometown
Yet I can’t go back now to my own town

#14

Lattermost, poetry can’t change the world instantly, poetry just slowly changes the way we see the world. Poetry causes us to question our perception, interpretation of everyday reality, and in the end raises global awareness to jointly make the world a million times better place to live in.

As John Lennon screamed to the world to give peace a chance in 1969 as a protest against US involvement in the Vietnam War, now it’s time for us to give poems a chance to touch the hearts of the war gods, leaders, and people from all walks of life.

May all beings be happy.

Link to download the book: https://asean-aipr.org/resources/asean-peace-poems/

Moch Aldy MA
Moch Aldy MA Editor of Omong-Omong Media

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