Sapardi Djoko Damono: Writing, Source of Happiness

Sapardi Djoko Damono remains involved in both academics and poetry up to now. Sapardi has served as a professor in the Department of Literature at the University of Indonesia (UI), as well as holing the post of rector there in 1995-1999. He still actively teaches in the Masters program at the Jakarta Art Institute.  He continues to write not only poetry, but also short stories, essays and academic analyses.  

After decades of creativity that has earned him both national and international literary awards, Sapardi modestly reflects on his journey.  

“To me, writing poetry is a joy. After writing, I always feel happy and free of care. And I share that joy with others. Writing is my main source, if not my only source of happiness,” Sapardi says.  

Sapardi’s poetry has drawn praise from critics and admiration from the public. A number of his poems have become highly popular after being set to music, while many of his works have also been widely distributed on social media. Very few poets gain the respect of both critics and the general public. One of the reasons for his ability to achieve this is that Sapardi uses simple and endearing language in his work.  

“It is simple enough, I think; I am simply communication with people. I do not hide anything, nor do I complicate simple things. I use words that are familiar to people; words that have not yet worn out their welcome by becoming clichés.  If they have become commonplace, I attempt to breathe life back into them,” he explains.

Besides writing, Sapardi also translates the works of foreign writers into the Indonesian language. His translations are vital for introducing literary works to a wider public.

In the video interview, Sapardi talks about the importance of quality translation and how literature goes beyond books.