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Works of Tengku Amir Hamzah

If Amir Hamzah is only a Pangeran Indera Putra or Pangeran Langkat Hulu di Binjai, he probably will be remembered only as one of the victims in the social disaster in East Sumatra in March 1946. But he was fore the most part a poet - the greatest of his time - and more often known as a king-poet (“Raja Penyair”)  rather than as a prince the Sultanate of Langkat.

Amir left 50 original poems1 , translations of 77 poems, 18 of lyrical prose, 1 lyrical prose translation, 13 prose and 1 prose translation. The total sum is 160. The number is still coupled with Setanggi Timur (poetry translation) and the translation of Bhagawat Gita (Abrar Yusra, 1996:58) - and, of course, who knows how many papers that had not been published. Amir Hamzah had only published two poetry collections, namely Buah Rindu (1941) and Nyanyi Sunyi (1937).

Amir Hamzah, as reflected in his works and various discussions about him, is an unending contradiction and discussion material. Although Amir noted as the pioneer of the modern Indonesian culture because of his participation in the Pujangga Baru magazine, but it did not prevent HB Jassin to throne him as the last representative of the old (Malay) age (in Goenawan Mohamad, 2005 and in Yusra [ed.] [1996]).

In a brief introduction to the poetry of Amir which were collected in Puisi Baru, a collection of the poems by the poets of Pujangga Baru, published in 1946, STA revealed, “In Amir Hamzah, a new spirit meets old Melayu language in shape, sound and rhythm which are very beautiful . The language is difficult to understand because they used as many archaic words and words from his mother tongue. In Nyanyi Sunyi, he describes that the unconsummated worldly love was granted calmness in the light of the Divine” (2004:149).

But Abdul Hadi just do not see any total separation of the modernity of the Indonesian literature from the traditional Malay literature system: Amir is a successor Melayu literary tradition par excellence (1996, 1999 and in Yusra [ed.] [1996]).

A. Teeuw (1959) are more likely to see Amir as an antidote to the entirely Western-oriented Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana. In his commentary, Amir’s works clearly states that “we can become the new poet though still deep-rooted in Indonesia, namely Indonesia archac which more or less is derided by Takdir as the era of ignorance” (1959: 112).

Teeuw’s commentary puts Amir as a precursor but not the main drivers for the new era of Indonesian literature. Melayu/Indonesia language modernization in the poetry and the defintive separation from the old Malay world are to be carried out to perfection by Chairil Anwar (Teeuw, 1983). Chairil himself once commented dimly about Amir: he concedes that “Amir’s composition of words can be said destructive for the old language, but a bright light for new language movement” (in HB Jassin [ed.], 1959: 121).

As though to mediate the quarrel about the Amir Hamzah phenomenon, Goenawan Mohamad (2005) put Amir in the context of the culture at large. For Goenawan, Amir is a witness of an era of transition that has its own conflicts. However, the conflicts is not beyond Amir but goes on inside him – “the cultural polemics” is the “inner polemic” of Amir Hamzah.

Discussions about Amir Hamzah and his works still going on until now. These will not be completed in the coming times as Amir has obtained a place in the history of Indonesian culture and literature. That way, perhaps his greatest desire as a poet is satisfied: always being read at all times by many people. (An. Ismanto/TAH/1/07-2010)


1 This number is based on H.B. Jassin’s count in Amir Hamzah Raja Penyair Pujangga Baru (1963). The number 50 fo the original poems is correct if some of the poems which are divided into parts, such as “Buah Rindu” and “Bonda”, each were counted as one piece of works.

Works Cited
Alisjahbana, Sutan Takdir, 2004. Puisi baru. 11th edition. Jakarta: Dian Rakyat. Hal. 149.

Hadi, Abdul WM, 2003. “Amir Hamzah dan relevansi sastra Melayu”. In Abrar Yusra [ed.], 1996. Amir Hamzah 1911 – 1946 sebagai manusia dan sebagai penyair. Jakarta: Pusat Dokumentasi Sastra H.B. Jassin. P. 120-134.

_______, 2003. “Amir Hamzah dan relevansi sastra Melayu”. In Abdul Rozak Zaidan & Dendi Sugono (ed.), 2003. Adakah bangsa dalam sastra? Jakarta: Pusat Bahasa Departemen Pendidikan Nasional.

Mohamad, Goenawan, 1969. “Amir Hamzah dan masanya”. In Abrar Yusra [ed.], 1996. Amir Hamzah 1911 – 1946 sebagai manusia dan sebagai penyair. Jakarta: Pusat Dokumentasi Sastra H.B. Jassin. P. 120-134.

_______, 2005. “Amir Hamzah dan masanya”. In Goenawan Mohamad, 2005. Ketika revolusi tak ada lagi. Jakarta: Alvabetsastra. P. 403-420.

Teeuw, A., 1959. Pokok dan tokoh 1. Jakarta: PT. Pembangunan.

_______, 1983. “Estetik, semiotik, dan sejarah sastra”. In A. Teeuw, 1983. Membaca dan menilai sastra. Jakarta: PT. Gramedia.

Yusra, Abrar [ed.], 1996. Amir Hamzah 1911 – 1946 sebagai manusia dan sebagai penyair. Jakarta: Pusat Dokumentasi Sastra H.B. Jassin.

  1. Poems. (2)
  2. Prose. (4)
  3. Lyrical Prose. (6)