National Poetry / Literature Day in Indonesia Date in the current year: April 28, 2024

National Poetry / Literature Day in Indonesia National Poetry Day (Hari Puisi Nasional), also known as National Literature Day, is celebrated in Indonesia on April 28. It commemorates the death anniversary of Chairil Anwar, a renowned Indonesian poet and one of the brightest authors of the 1945 Generation.

Chairil Anwar was born on July 26, 1922 in Medan, North Sumatra, then Dutch East Indies. Determined to become an artist since turning 15, Anwar dropped out of school at age 18 to pursue his interests. When he was 19, his parents divorced, and Anwar moved to Batavia (now Jakarta) with his mother, where he became closely acquainted with the world of literature. He spent his time mastering foreign languages (Dutch, English and German) and reading books by internationally renowned authors such as W. H. Auden, Hendrik Marsman, E. du Perron, Rainer Maria Rilke and J. Slauerhoff.

In 1942, shortly after the beginning of the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies, Anwar wrote a poem titled “Nisan” (“Grave”) inspired by his grandmother’s death. It was reportedly his first poetic work. Although the poem did gain Anwar recognition, it didn’t instantly open all the doors for him. Literary magazines rejected some of his works for being too individualistic and going against the spirit of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (a propagandist concept developed by the Empire of Japan and imposed upon the populations of occupied territories).

However, some of Anwar’s poems passed the censors and were published. In addition to writing, he was active in the local literary scene and soon became a kind of unofficial leader of what is now know as the 1945 Generation: a group of Indonesian writers and poets whose literary style was formed during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies. Their works were more realistic and political than the works of the previous generation of authors, Pujangga Baru, which tended to be more idealistic and romantic.

Unfortunately, Anwar’s life was cut short by disease. He died on April 28, 1949 at a hospital in Jakarta. The exact cause of Anwar’s death is unknown. There have been suggestions that he might have died from tuberculosis, typhus, syphilis, or a combination of several health conditions.

Anwar’s legacy consists of more than 90 literary works, including 71 poems. Most of them were first published posthumously. His most celebrated poem is “Aku” (“Me”) written in 1943, which reflects Anwar’s individualism and joie de vivre. Anwar’s experiments with language, such as the unusual use of prefixes and suffixes and the utilization of Dutch and English loanwords, are believed to have influenced the development of the modern Indonesian language.

Although National Poetry Day commemorates Chairil Anwar’s death anniversary, the holiday isn’t dedicated solely to him. It celebrates all Indonesian poets, writers and playwrights who have helped to shape the country’s national literature. National Poetry Day is not a public holiday, but schools, cultural centers and other establishments celebrate it by organizing poetry readings, writing contests, awards ceremonies, and other events and activities that focus on poetry and literature.

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