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Review: Kill The Radio, by Dorothea Rosa Herliany

The Indonesian poet Dorothea Rosa Herliany writes about the meanings of silence. In Kill the Radio she writes about living through the 30-year long Suharto dictatorship.

So things have come to this
it no longer matters whether we weep or laugh...
we can only choose to listen in silence
and stammer, to forget our convictions
no longer trust the language of our hearts.

Herliany's subjects are power and powerlessness - cultural, sexual and political. Many of these poems record the resistance of the Suharto dictatorship, notably One Day in July, One Day in Indonesia, Talking Trash and A Poem of Tears.

For her, poetry is the language of rocks with which to resist corrupt politicians. It is a place of safe retreat -

i am lost in a land where words are trash.
in my poetry, i build myself a small house
where my conscience can live.

As Linda France says in an introduction to the book, there is a refreshing feminist clarity about the way Herliany writes about the historical role of women in Indonesian society.

Ibu works in the fields, dressed in a traditional blouse
century after century planting seed, weeding and harvesting
I don't understand why ibu never rebels.

For Herliany, it is the job of a poet to help get rid of the old myths.

to write other poems
with new words. to create new myths
to give you a different history.

In a poem dedicated to the East Timorese leader Xanana Gusma, she writes:

We are simply fighting for a place
on a page in a history book, the one
we write and only we read.