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Literature Festival
Three Poets from Three Nations | Workshop: The Essential Things in Poetry

Foto: MIWF 2016,  © Revius, Online Journal
Foto: MIWF 2016 (from left to right: Joko Pinurbo, Alia Gabres, Marius Hulpe), © Revius, Online Journal

Marius Hulpe said poetry must remain independent, that we must never feel limited in writing poetry

By its third day, the 2016 Makassar International Writers’ Festival (MIWF) was becoming increasingly festive, with a series of 10 events held across four venues. MIWF is an annual event that always draws literature lovers and practitioners from the city of Makassar, from around Indonesia, and from around the world. At the festival, these diverse participants can come together to share their experiences of exploring the world of literature.

The event is not only attended by great writers, but also welcomes readers, book-lovers, and artists. MIWF also provides a space for students of literature to take extra lessons off campus, and to hunt down their literary idols, whose works fill the bookshelves in their boarding houses.

One activity that took place from 3:30pm-5:30pm at the DKM Building Fort Rotterdam was the workshop The Essential Things in Poetry, attended by three great poets from three different nations, namely Joko Pinurbo from Indonesia, Marius Hulpe from Germany, and Alia Gabres from Australia. Together they shared their knowledge and experiences in writing poetry, and discussed things such as what they consider the essential elements of the poetry they write.

Joko Pinurbo, a well-known Indonesian poet, said that first of all, when writing poetry there must be something concrete. What’s the point, he asked, in writing something abstract? Instead, we must try to produce poetry that gives a clear message about where it’s going, and what topic is being portrayed. Second, Pinurbo advised creating poetry or prose that touches on experiences of everyday life, including both in our own lives and in the lives of others, such as our readers. Third, he said that to become a writer who can produce good writing requires continual study and practice over a period of at least 10 years – that’s what it takes, he said.

The talented young poet Marius Hulpe from Germany, who has already written three books, also shared his experience of writing, and especially in writing poetry. Hulpe said poetry must remain independent, that we must never feel limited in writing poetry, and that it’s best to write about things that are difficult to talk about out loud, and are unheard by most people.

Foto: Marius Hulpe, MIWF 2016,  © Revius, Online Journal Foto: Marius Hulpe, MIWF 2016, © Revius, Online Journal Marius Hulpe is a talented young poet from Germany who has already written three books.

Alia Gabres, as a female writer who writes strongly worded poetry, told stories about war and about giving voice to marginalized people. She said that once after performing her poetry on stage, someone came up to her and suggested that she should stop writing about things like that, and start writing love poems. That experience made Gabres swear to herself that she would never write a poem about love. But later on, she realized that there are few people who know about the love stories experienced by black women, and she wanted to give voice to that. And so was born her own brand of ‘radical’ love poetry. Her story shows how if we limit ourselves to only write about the things around us, then we also limit our creativity to break new ground.

As the moderator, Aslan Abidin, who is also a poet, added that poetry is a viewpoint that must be communicated to others, both as an idea and in an aesthetic way. In this way, writing — and especially writing poetry — is not only a matter of pouring out ideas, aesthetics and other elements, but also thinking about how those elements will be received by the reader.

The closing statement was delivered by Joko Pinurbo, who said that “The biggest threat to new writers is their own self-doubt.” Perhaps his words can become a source of encouragement for those of us who wish to start writing.