Jakarta Post 06/11/2007
Jan Cornall, Contributor, Sydney
A new storm is brewing across the small stretch of sea separating northern Australia from its neighbors. One of its by-products is a bilingual anthology from WordStorm, the Northern Territory Writers Festival, held in Darwin.
Some of the best writers and poets from Indonesia, Timor Leste, Singapore and Australia are represented in a new book titled Terra, launched June 2 at the Sydney Writers Festival.
All the writers have one thing in common: They have all been guests of the WordStorm festival since its conception in 2004.
This impressive volume of 65 short stories and poetry by 45 authors -- including Indonesian writers Ayu Utami, Nukila Amal, Linda Christanty, Triyanto Triwikromo, Iswadi Pratama and Dorothea Rosa Herliany -- is edited by Sandra Thibodeaux in Darwin and Sitok Srengenge in Jakarta, with most pieces translated by Kadek Krishna Adidharma in Bali.
Funded by the Australia-Indonesia Institute and ArtsNT, Terra is published jointly by Indonesia's Kata Kita and the NT Writers Centre.
Hot off the press only days before, it sold like hotcakes at the launch venue overlooking Sydney Harbour, where a crowd had gathered to hear select readings from Terra.
Editor Thibodeaux explained the history behind the book and its title, then the audience were treated to some moving readings.
Readings featured a short story by Aboriginal elder Alec Kruger was read by co-author Gerard Waterford, as well as a play excerpt about Indonesian and Malaysian students in Melbourne by Alana Valentine, a sad yet funny Martini story from Frank Moorhouse and an ode to Sydney by Mike Merrill titled Night Knows.
Indigenous Australian poet Romaine Moreton read her poems, Beside the River and Freedom Now, followed by their Bahasa Indonesia translations read by Jarrah Sastrawan, a high school student.
The power of this moment was not lost on those in the audience -- Indigenous Australian writing read by a young man who carried more than a hint of Indonesian poetic tradition in his voice as his father, Balinese poet and musician Ketut Yuliarsa, looked on.
It is also fitting that the Utan Kayu International Literary Biennale, based in Jakarta, and the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF) in Bali, would be launching Terra this year. The movement of writers and their work traveling between new festivals in the region has nurtured the latest cross-cultural literary wave just starting to break on our shores.
The triad of WordStorm, the Utan Kayu biennale and the UWRF has nurtured a strong flow of communication between writers, publishers, translators and the reading public.
A series of readings at various cultural centers across the archipelago are planned for the Indonesia launch of Terra at the two international literary events. Supported by the Indonesia-Australia Language Foundation (IALF), readings will also be held at all IALF English teaching centers.
Terra, like Utan Kayu's bilingual festival publications, provides a great model for other festivals to follow. Funding for translators is key to turning this wave into a significant movement.
The benefit to the literary community goes without saying: When some the best writers from each featured nation are compiled in a single volume, readers who wouldn't normally travel so far afield are able to partake of a literary feast without leaving home.
No travel warnings or visa problems here. Instead, a bunch of neighbors have reached across terra firma and written up a storm.