Poem Taken From a Newspaper Item

by Manuel Bandeira

Sweet Johnny was a porter in the open market and lived in a numberless shack on Babylon Hill

One night he went into Twentieth of November Bar

He drank

He sang

He danced

Then he threw himself into Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon and died drowned

I first found this poem from a book by Sapardi Djoko Damono, entitled “Bilang Begini Maksudnya Begitu” and it was the Indonesian version. Then I found that English version from the internet, from google book “Brazilian Women Speak: Contemporary Life Stories”. 

Here is the Indonesian version.

Sajak Berdasarkan Sebuah Berita di Koran

Si John Periang adalah seorang pesuruh di Pasar Petani dan tinggal di Bukit Babilonia di sebuah gubuk yang tak bernomor

Pada suatu malam ia pergi ke Warung Dua Puluh November

Ia minum

Ia menyanyi

Ia menari

Kemudian ia menceburkan diri ke dalam Telaga Rodrigo de Freitas dan Tenggelam

I may write more about poems in the upcoming posts. I don’t promise.

My Favourite Poems

One of my favourite Indonesian poets is Sapardi Djoko Damono. Many of his poems are short and composed with simple words. I wrote some of his poems in a post before. 

I recently found translation of some poems by Sapardi Djoko Damono. I personally think that translating poem is difficult and often, the translation doesn’t create the same emotion as the original one. However, there are some good English translation that I want to share. Here I will write both Indonesian and English versions.

Aku Ingin

aku ingin mencintaimu dengan sederhana:

dengan kata yang tak sempat diucapkan

kayu kepada api yang menjadikannya abu

    aku ingin mencintaimu dengan sederhana:

    dengan isyarat yang tak sempat disampaikan

    awan kepada hujan yang menjadikannya tiada

The poem was then translated by John. H. McGlynn.

I Want

I want to love you simply:

in words not spoken

tinder to flame which transforms it to ash

    I want to love you simply:

    in signs not expressed

    clouds to the rain which makes them evanesce

That “Aku Ingin” poem is quite popular here. It talks about love in simple words while the meaning may not be so simple.

Another good translation that I found is “In Children’s Hands” from the original work, “Di Tangan Anak-anak”.

Di Tangan Anak-anak

Di tangan anak-anak, kertas menjelma perahu Sinbad

yang tak takluk kepada gelombang, menjelma burung

yang jeritnya membukakan kelopak-kelopak bunga di hutan;

di mulut anak-anak, kata menjelma Kitab Suci.

    “Tuan, jangan kauganggu permainanku ini.”

That poem was translated by Harry Aveling and became like this one below.

In Children’s Hands

In children’s hands, paper becomes Sinbad’s boat

unconquered by the waves, become a bird

whose calls open flowers in the forest;

in children’s mouths, the word is Sacred.

    “Hey mister, please leave my game alone.”

The interpretation can vary. So let your imagination show you what this poem is about.

Note: I find it difficult to set the line space so sorry if the poem lines don’t look like the original work. Also, if I make mistake in writing the poems, please let me know because in poem, every letter, mark, and space matters.