September 08, 2008

The poet of patriotism

Toto: The poet of patriotism

cited from The Jakarta Post, Thursday, October 11, 2007

Elementary school students often recite the poem Pahlawan Tak Dikenal (Unsung Heroes) in front of their class or during national day ceremonies.

"Sepuluh tahun yang lalu dia terbaring(He lay down on the ground 10 years ago)/Tetapi bukan tidur sayang(but, he was not sleeping, dear)/Sebuah lubang peluru bundar di dadanya(A round bullet hole in his chest/Senyum bekunya mau berkata, kita sedang perang/(his frozen smile says we are at war)."

Acclaimed poet Toto Sudarto Bachtiar, who died Tuesday of a heart attack, wrote the above poem in 1955 to remember a heroic battle on Nov. 10, 1945, in Surabaya, East Java.

Besides Unsung Heroes, Toto who was born on Oct. 12, 1929, in Cirebon, West Java, wrote many famous patriotic poems, including Tentang Kemerdekaan (About Independence) and Ode.

But Toto poem's were not only about blood and sacrifice. Gadis Peminta-minta (Beggar Girl) is about the frustrations of living in a big city.

In 1987 it was put to music and included in a compilation album that was recorded with the support of culture and education minister Fuad Hassan.

The album was then distributed to elementary schools across the country in an effort to give students a greater appreciation of poetry.

Toto also translated into Indonesian the works of great writers including Jean Paul Sartre, Anton Chekhov and Ernest Hemingway.

His wife, Zinar, said Tuesday that Toto, who was buried in the family's burial plot in Gumuruh Bandung, had been working on a translation of Leo Tolstoy's masterpiece War and Peace.

Toto was not an unsung hero as his poems will be remembered by many people. They remind us of the humbling sacrifice and bravery of the men and women who have served this nation. ***