Fitri Nganthi Wani, the daughter of disappeared poet Wiji Thukul, at the launch of her new book in Yogyakarta on Friday (08/06). (Photo courtesy of Partisipasi Indonesia)

Words From a Bullet: Disappeared Poet's Daughter Digs Deep Into Family Memory for New Poetry Book


JUNE 11, 2018

Jakarta. Poet Fitri Nganthi Wani, the daughter of Indonesia's disappeared poet Wiji Thukul, has released a new poetry collection titled "Kau Berhasil Jadi Peluru" ("You Have Become a Bullet"), launched on Friday (08/06) at Yogyakarta's Jogja Village Inn. The title of the book is a reference to her father's legendary poetry collection "Aku Ingin Jadi Peluru" ("I Want to Be a Bullet") released in 2000. Fitri's new book contains 52 poems written from 2010 to 2018.

Fitri told The Jakarta Globe in a text message on Saturday her book is a tribute to her father and her family that has suffered greatly since Wiji went on the run from authorities and then disappeared in the dying days of Suharto's New Order in early 1998.

Fitri’s 2009 poetry collection, "Selepas Bapakku Hilang" ("After My Father Went Missing"), also dealt with the memory of her father. Fitri said the new book shows she has matured as a poet.

"This book is more mature, more personal. The poems are better organized, they don't jump from one theme to another too quickly. I've also put more thought into the language," the 29-year-old poet said.

Actor Gunawan Maryanto, who played Wiji in Yosep Anggi Noen's 2016 biopic of the poet, "Istirahatlah Kata-Kata" ("Solo, Solitude"), said at the launch that one of the more interesting elements of Fitri’s new poems is her description of her mother as a "wound that never heals."

"Her mother represents reality to Wani [Fitri’s nickname]. Her father is another reality that has turned into fiction. Wani admires but also, at the same time, almost bemoans her mother’s strength. She has had to deal with so much suffering since her husband was taken away but she has never stopped fighting for his cause," Gunawan said.

Actresses Annisa Hertami and Sekar Sari, filmmaker Ninndi Raras, Fitri’s younger brother, singer-songwriter Fajar Merah, and folk singer Bagus Dwi Danto, better known as Sisir Tanah, also attended her book launch.

Kau Berhasil Jadi Peluru is published by Warning Books, an indie publisher based in Yogyakarta. Fitri said she was approached by Tomi Wibisono from Warning Books, who offered to publish her new poems.

"I didn’t say yes immediately because I was doing something else, plus I didn’t feel ready for it," she said.

Then Yulia Evina Bhara, Istirahatlah Kata-Kata's producer and the director of Partisipasi Indonesia Foundation, told Fitri she wanted to turn Fitri’s poems into a book and make a music video of "Bunga dan Tembok" ("Flowers and a Wall"), a famous poem by Wiji Thukul that has been turned into a song by Fajar Merah.

"I knew Yulia has a solid team, so I said yes. That was also when I had just finished collecting all my scattered poems into one big file. Then I remembered Warning’s offer and told Ebe [Yulia’s nickname] about it. They [Ebe and Tomi] talked and my book was born," Fitri said.

In a statement Yulia said the collaboration between her and Fitri will not stop at this book.

"Three years ago, Wani was one of our main sources for the Wiji Thukul biopic. Now we're doing this poetry book. But there are still over 200 poems that aren’t in there yet. We've still got a long way to go," Yulia said.

Aside from her father’s poetry, Fitri said her main influences are Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Virginia Woolf, Kahlil Gibran, Seno Gumira Ajidarma and contemporary films and pop music.

"I love poetry. Poetry has been a loyal friend in every struggle of my life. It is an effective therapy for me to express what I feel about everything happening around me," she said.

Fitri now juggles writing with running a homemade herbal skincare business.

She said she doesn’t have high expectations for her poetry and prefers to see where it will take her.

"I think of my poems as my children. They will grow on their own and I would be happy if they have a positive influence on other people," Fitri said.

Kau Berhasil Jadi Peluru are available now from Instagram stores @kauberhasiljadipeluru, @bukuakik and @berdikaribook. It will be in brick and mortar stores soon.