Sapardi Djoko Damono was born in Solo, Central Java, on 20 March 1940, and spent his childhood and adolescent years in his hometown. He studied English literature at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, and has translated many works of fiction and poetry from English into Indonesian. He was editor of the Indonesian literary magazines Basis, Horison, and Kalam. Now he is Professor Emeritus at the University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Humanities.
The publication of Sapardi’s first poetry collection, dukaMu abadi (Your Sorrow is Eternal) in 1969 may in a way be seen as a rebirth of Indonesian lyric poetry—after a period of rough ideological rift during the 1960s. With clear, unadorned language and delicate inwardness, Sapardi’s poems are in sharp contrast to the slogan-ridden language of the then ideologically polarised Indonesia. Those turbulent times saw Sapardi finding his own voice in brief, limpid poems with simple yet pregnant imagery from everyday life. By the early 1970s he had already emerged as a master of profound simplicity. In many of Sapardi’s later poems, what starts as an ordinary event may, through a subtle turn of phrase, or a swift shift of perspective, suddenly take a twist towards the unexpected or the uncanny.
Among his poetry collections are Mata Pisau (Knife Point, 1974), Sihir Hujan (Rain Spell, 1984), Hujan Bulan Juni (Rain of June, 1994), Arloji (Wristwatch, 1999), Ayat-Ayat Api (Verses of Fire, 2000), Mata Jendela (Window’s Eye, 2001), Ada Berita Apa Hari Ini, Den Sastro? (What’s the News Today, Den Sastro?, 2002), and Kolam (Pond, 2009). He also writes short stories and has published two collections, Pengarang Telah Mati (The Author is Dead, 2001) and Membunuh Orang Gila (Killing a Madman, 2003). He compiled Mantra Orang Jawa (Mantras of the Javanese, 2005). His essay collections are, among others, Kesusastraan Indonesia Modern: Beberapa Catatan (Modern Indonesian Literature: Some Notes, 1983), Politik Ideologi dan Sastra Hibrida (Politics of Ideology and Hybrid Literature, 1999), and Sihir Rendra: Permainan Makna (Rendra’s Magic: Play of Meaning, 2000). His poems are included in several anthologies, such as Fire in the Sea: An Anthology of Poetry and Art (1996) and World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time (1998).
Sapardi Djoko Damono is a recipient of, among others, the Putera Poetry Award from Malaysia (1983), the Jakarta Arts Council Literary Award (1984), the SEA Write Award from Thailand (1986) and the Achmad Bakrie Award for Literature (2003). He took part in the Poetry International Festival, Rotterdam, in 1976.
duka-Mu abadi, Jeihan, Bandung, 1969
Mata Pisau, Puisi Indonesia, Jakarta, 1974
Akuarium, Puisi Indonesia, Jakarta, 1974
Perahu Kertas, Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1983
Sihir Hujan, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, 1984
Hujan Bulan Juni, Grasindo, Jakarta, 1994
Arloji, Yayasan Puisi, Jakarta, 1998
Ayat-Ayat Api, Pustaka Firdaus, Jakarta, 2000
Mata Jendela, IndonesiaTera, Magelang, 2001
Ada Berita Apa Hari Ini, Den Sastro? IndonesiaTera, Magelang; Jakarta, Kalam, 2002
Kolam, Editum, Jakarta, 2009
Poetry in English translation
Black Magic Rain, tr. Harry Aveling, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 1994
Water Color Poems, tr. John H. McGlynn, Temprint, Jakarta, 1986
Suddenly the Night, tr. John H. McGlynn, Lontar Foundation, Jakarta, 1988
Fire in the Sea: An Anthology of Poetry and Art, ed. Sue Cowing, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1996
World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time, ed. Katharine Washburn, John S. Major & Clifton Fadiman, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1998
A World of Poetry: An Anthology, ed. American Poetry and Literary Project, Dover Publications, New York, 2002
Before Dawn, tr. John H. McGlynn, Lontar Foundation, Jakarta, 2005
Pengarang Telah Mati, IndonesiaTera, Magelang, 2001
Membunuh Orang Gila, Penerbit Buku Kompas, Jakarta, 2003
Sosiologi Sastra: Sebuah Pengantar Ringkas, Pusat Bahasa, Jakarta, 1977
Novel Sastra Indonesia Sebelum Perang, Pusat Bahasa, Jakarta, 1979
Kesusastraan Indonesia Modern: Beberapa Catatan, Gramedia, Jakarta, 1983
Politik Ideologi dan Sastra Hibrida, Pustaka Firdaus, Jakarta, 1999
Sihir Rendra: Permainan Makna, Pustaka Firdaus, Jakarta, 1999
Puisi Indonesia Sebelum Kemerdekaan: Sebuah Catatan Awal, Pusat Bahasa, Jakarta, 2003
Sastra Bandingan: Pengantar Ringkas, Editum, Jakarta, 2009
Mantra Orang Jawa, IndonesiaTera, Magelang, 2005