Gratiagusti Chananya Rompas, or Anya, center, during the 'Kota Ini Kembang Api' book launch at Kinokuniya Bookstore, Plaza Senayan, on Thursday (13/10). (JG Photo/Sheany)

Writer Expresses Emotions Through Poems, Typographies in New Book


OCTOBER 14, 2016

Jakarta. Poet and writer Gratiagusti Chananya Rompas, or Anya, pours her own experiences and emotions in her new book "Kota Ini Kembang Api" (This City is Fireworks).

The book, launched at the Kinokuniya bookstore in Plaza Senayan, South Jakarta, on Thursday (13/10), is a collection of 61 poems. It is a palette of experiences and emotions that uses both urban and natural elements to illustrate love, anger, desire, loss as well as hope.


One of the poems in her new book is “PendarPendarCahayaMenyelinapRuangMata” ("Glimmering Lights That Seep Into the Eye"), which she described as a summary of other poems within the book. The book's title is also lifted from a phrase in this poem, "KotaIniKembangApi," written deliberately without spaces between the words. The book constantly features daring typography to express the poet's true feelings.

"Life in the city is natural for me, I was born in Jakarta and I've spent most of my life here," Anya said. However, she emphasized that the city in Kota Ini Kembang Api should not be viewed as referring solely to Jakarta. In fact, readers can think of the word "city" as the individual hometown they are from.

Describing herself as an "unreliable narrator" of her own life, Anya has carefully chosen the words that she used in her poems, which adopted everyday themes throughout. All the poems in her book use the same font, avoiding capitals for titles and featuring bold choices of typography in which some of her poems are deliberately upside down or widely spaced out. The poems within the book can also be read as one big poem, as there is a sense of continuity which she wants the readers to feel.

Anya’s choice for typography was based on individual moments that she experienced as she wrote these poems.

"When I wrote ‘Mabuk Lampu,’ (Drunk With Street Lights") I was lying down and staring up at the street lights outside my window. The poem is upside down in the book, and it represents my point of view at the time," Anya said.

She also explained that the widely spaced out sentences in her poem "senja" represent the emotional emptiness that she felt in the past.

For Anya, poems are a reality with history — they do not come from a blank space.

"Poems are a way to get to know one’s self, and heal both the heart and head — an experiment as well as an emotional and intellectual work," she said. 

Anya also said writing is her way of getting to know herself.

"When I began to write these poems, I still had a lot of teenage angst in me. It was difficult to understand what I was feeling, and writing helped me to understand my own emotions better."

The book also features a series of water color illustrations by Adiputra Singgih. According to Anya, the artist skillfully managed to capture the emotions that she wants to illustrate through her poems.

"It took Adiputra only around 45 minutes when I first told him about the book to be able to grasp in illustration what I wanted to say in words," Anya said.

Anya has previously self-published 200 copies of Kota Ini Kembang Api in 2008 at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. She has written the poems since early 2000s, with some versions having being revised over the years. The second edition of Kota Ini Kembang Api, published by Gramedia, features five new poems.

Anya is one of the founders of BungaMatahari (Sunflower), an Indonesian online poetry community. The community organized "Festival Tanpa Nama" (Festival Without A Name) in 2012, in which they collected 50 poems, half by underground poets and the other half by more well-known names. The selected poems are then displayed to be voted by visitors, but all the poems did not show the name of the authors. It was the community’s way of exhibiting the art, without the baggage of fame.

"The BungaMatahari community has always focused more on the work, instead of the ‘name’ that comes with the work," Anya said.

Poet Cyntha Hariadi said at the event that Anya’s writing enables the reader to experience darkness and brightness back and forth.

"It’s like having your own guide to experience and see the little things in life," she said.