To all the bards we have known…

Due to the MCO, it would still be worth our time to get to know the poets who were originally scheduled to recite a few of their poem during the World Poetry Day on March 21

by AZALEA AZUAR/ pic credit: FACEBOOK

Roy’s masterpieces, while heavily entwined with myth and nature, are still fully post-modern

EVERYBODY can write, but not everyone is a wordsmith. Some are skilled at making puns, some are good at rhymes.

Some might have the flair of making a sentence sound so special that it gets stuck in your head.

Take William Shakespeare, for example. The opening phrase from Act 3, Scene 1 of “Hamlet”, “To be, or not to be. That is the question” has become a popular cultural reference for some four centuries after the play was written.

The Bard of Avon, as he is sometimes referred to, is one of the most influential writers in the English language.

Closer to home, we have famous poets such as Zurinah Hassan, Usman Awang and A Samad Said.

To acknowledge the importance of poetry, Unesco celebrates World Poetry Day annually on March 21.

The initiative started back in 1999 during Unesco’s 30th General Conference in Paris, to raise the awareness of endangered languages, as well as to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression.

World Poetry Day is also meant to promote the reading, writing and teaching of poetry, revive oral traditions of poetry recitals, as well as foster the convergence of poetry between other forms of creative works such as music, dance and visual arts.

Now that most of us are stuck at home following the Movement Control Order (MCO) that began on March 18, perhaps it is time to get reacquainted with some of the best works that have ever been published.

If you do not have any favourite poet, perhaps it is time to get to know some of the best works that could just change the way you see the world.

After all, the more well-travelled among us would attest that in many parts of the world, poetry is very much in every culture as it speaks to our common humanity and shared values.

Poetry is a driving force for peace and it can also be used as a tool to unite people from different parts of the world.

While the session that was planned by Lit Books for last Saturday — in conjunction with World Poetry Day at its store in Tropicana Avenue, Petaling Jaya (PJ) from 4pm to 6pm — had to be postponed due to the MCO, it would still be worth our time to get to know the poets who were originally scheduled to recite a few of their poems.

They are Roy Kulleh Grasi and Hafiz Hamzah, as well as a Syrian refugee poet Mwaffaq Al-Hajjar.

Roy is from Kapit, Sarawak, who is also known as a singer-songwriter and cultural enthusiast.

His poems are new, yet the works are rather intimate. Roy’s masterpieces, while heavily entwined with myth and nature, are still fully post-modern.

Mwaffaq’s ‘Poetic Entropy’ is not just about the poet himself, but his surroundings as well, as he wanted to show that science is the poetry of the universe

“I was reading all kinds of Malay literature. None of them spoke from the experience of Borneo’s indigenous people. So, I started keeping journals, writing about the lives of indigenous communities that I observed with my own eyes. This was the true beginning of my poetry,” Roy said.

One of his published works “Tell me, Kenyalang” is written in Iban and Malay languages and translated in English by Pauline Fan.

The book is a collection of poems that will change the way people think of contemporary poetry throughout the world. It also encompasses the roles of indigenous languages in global literature and in translation.

Complementing his poetic career, Roy is also a founding member of Nading Rhapsody, an avant-garde Borneo band which draws from the oral traditions of Sarawak for contemporary music.

Roy’s compatriot, Penang-born Hafiz, has published two collections of poetry which are “Malakalis” and “Gertak Sanggul”.

The poet is also a writer and journalist based in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and he is the founding editor of independent publishing house Obscura Malaysia. Hafiz aspires to ignite the passion of reading and to inspire the love of Bahasa Malaysia among local readers.

He started the publishing house to introduce local audiences to the world of classical literature, especially those who only read Malay texts and aren’t familiar with other languages.

Hafiz believes this initiative will enrich the reading experience in Malay language.

Meanwhile, Mwaffaq, a refugee who has been in KL since 2016, has been writing poems since he was 12 years old.

The Syrian refugee fled home because he “couldn’t kill another human being” after being recruited into the military upon his graduation from university with a degree in petroleum engineering.

He was the winner of the 2017 Migrant and Refugee Poetry competition and later debuted on the Malaysian stage in a production of Nassim Soleimanpour’s “Blank” last year.

Mwaffaq’s “Poetic Entropy” is not just about the poet himself, but his surroundings as well, as he wanted to show that science is the poetry of the universe.

Now, let’s all pray that the MCO can be lifted soon, so that we could really enjoy their work in person…