Some (or most) people might think poetry is some kind of melodramatic literary product, with flowery, figurative language not everyone understand. And there might not be many people who would think that poetry can also be funny, comic even, triggering laughter of its readers. Buku Latihan Tidur by Joko Pinurbo, one of Indonesia’s senior contemporary poets, falls into that category. It is not only hilarious, it’s refreshing, and yes it is thought-provoking but it doesn’t try to take anything seriously. Many poems listed on its table of contents indeed address some serious issues—like religion—but still in a very light, entertaining manner.
Those who are already familiar with the poet (those who aren’t can try and pick up Selamat Menunaikan Ibadah Puisi, some sort of “summary” of his past works) must have known that Pinurbo loves to play with words like someone playing a Rubik’s Cube, the result of which is revealing colorful sides of Indonesian language and what’s funny about it. This tendency is clearly seen in almost every piece of his poems here, but new readers may catch it up directly in Kamus Kecil, the second on the list, where he flips some words, or put two words together with only one letter difference, to show that those words can make up meaningful senteces.
bahwa sumber segala kisah adalah kasih;
bahwa ingin berawal dari angan;
bahwa ibu tak pernah kehilangan iba;
bahwa segala yang baik akan berbiak;
bahwa orang ramah tidak mudah marah;
bahwa seorang bintang harus tahan banting;
bahwa untuk menjadi gagah kau harus gigih;
bahwa terlampau paham bisa berakibat hampa;
bahwa orang lebih takut kepada hantu ketimbang kepada tuhan;
…” —(page 3)
The last line above is particularly funny because it’s mostly true that people are more afraid of ghost (hantu) than of God (tuhan).
In Tokoh Cerita, Pinurbo seems to try to point out how tricky it is to write a story and fill it with characters. He describes himself as an author who sits side by side with his fictional character, then suddenly he crosses out himself and so one character disappears and disturbs the plot. This attempt takes the reader back to the notion that writers often pour out themselves—either their alter ego, part of their personality, or their real-life experiences—into the stories they create. And once they decide to take back their character and let the others run wild, that’s when the storyline starts to get uncontrollable. Meanwhile, Perjamuan Malam is another amusing poem in which Pinurbo jokes about a meal where the dish on the plate (seemingly fish from the way the poet describes it) looks about to say “ouch” when it’s going to be eaten. Here he really makes the most out of his stock of metaphor.
There’s also an irony where Pinurbo thinks (or, seems to think) that people are actually insane in general, and that sanity is something as rare as holidays.
“Kepalaku rumah sakit jiwa yang kesepian
(my head is a lonely mental hospital)
ditinggal penghuninya mudik liburan.”
(all its inhabitants going out on vacation)—(page 18)
It is very intriguing that the poet would really think that way. Or perhaps, he means to refer to himself, what with his “abnormal” tone of poetry and crazy ideas. Whatever it is, this one poem can truly knock the reader’s mind as it points out the contradiction between what’s people generally believe (that sanity is a normal condition) and what’s real (that it is insanity the normal one).
(what’s your religion?)
Agamaku air yang membersihkan pertanyaanmu.”
(it’s water that cleans your question)—(page 6)
As naturally funny and linguistically comic as it is, Buku Latihan Tidur still can’t help but fall into the dangerous area of religion, which is a very sensitive topic if you see the condition these days. But Pinurbo doesn’t try to set up some doctrine for people to follow. In fact, he tries to show that religion should be relieving, calming, freeing belief and not something that makes people so angry, so intolerant, so snobbish, so hateful and vengeful toward others. Like in the poem Sajak Balsem untuk Gus Mus, where he highly criticizes “religious people” who do their prayers everyday but then chiding, bullying, fighting others and get mad when they’re at the losing side. This subtly harsh criticism can also be found in Kolom Agama. It basically criticizes the national ID card in which we have to fill what our religious belief is for all people to see. What’s the use of it, anyway? Does it make you a good person? What if the religion stated on the ID card is not the religion the ID card owner holds? There are too many a case like this. Moreover, as the poet implies in this poem, what’s important is not religion, but love.
Buku Latihan Tidur by Joko Pinurbo has not only so much fun, but also so many themes and tricks of how to handle them. It consists only of 80-something pages yet it is so rich: either in its contents or its metaphorical language. Pinurbo doesn’t only entertain us, but he provokes our thoughts. He invites us to come and see many things from a comical angle, from a humorous point of view. He seems to want us not to take anything seriously, but if we think about it, we’ll find things truly funny but most of the time in an ironic way. Joko Pinurbo really has a gift to do that.