Oct 8 2019

Just A Thought on “Ode to the Book” by Pablo Neruda

Ode To The Book was first published in 1954 in Odas Elementales, originally written in Spanish, and then translated to English by Margaret Sayers Peden in 1994. The Chilean laureate was the author of more than thirty-five books of poetry and one of the most celebrated Latin America’s writers of the 20th century. According to Rene de Costa (1982), Odas Elementales is “political without appearing to be politicized, simple without being simplistic, it appealed to an extraordinarily wide range of readers through a seemingly artless, almost breezy series of compositions exalting the most basic things of our daily existence, the plain and the ordinary, fruits and flowers, thread and bread” (145). In a retrospective view, for some, it was seen as Neruda’s effort to reach a larger audience, the mass. 

More important at the time was its linguistic level, its use of everyday language, the spoken language of the people. Neruda’s Odas elementales depart from this established modality with a highly flexible free verse form and a unique thematic focus that strives to be both public and lyrical and elemental. One interesting fact is that the style was influenced by newspaper column format, the mass media of the time. Neruda was asked to contribute a weekly column of poetry by one of his colleagues, Miguel Otero Silva, who was a director of the newspaper El Nacional in Caracas. Neruda accepted the offer but requested his poems to be published in the news section instead of a supplement. This way, he argued, would enable him to write about any topic (de Costa, 1982: 148). 

Perhaps the selection of the form of ode was intentional since the Greek or Pindaric ode was originally a public poem, usually performed to celebrate a person, an event, a thing, or an idea. Although not all of his poems were ever published in El Nacional, it was the idea of making poetry accessible to the vast public that seems to reflect a paradigm shift, and not only in his poetic expressions but also in the media literacy of the time.

Aug 15 2017

Books in The Age of Digital Media

Plato believed that writing, as a form of communication technology, might pave the way to death since it is artificial, and hence inhuman. The role of books, as the old champion of literacy, has changed in the era of what communication theorists call ‘secondary orality’. The implication of the infamous phrase ‘books are the window to the world’ in the era of the new technologies has also been reinterpreted. Furthermore, the internet, as the form of modern communication technology, apparently shares the same faith.

It is often asserted that the flourishing of digital media in recent decades and multiplication of new media platforms, made possible the by invention of the internet, has transformed the way we perceive the world and ourselves. With only one click away, anyone with internet connection these days can easily access virtually unlimited information at their disposal. Even though this new form is cheaper and faster, the internet leads to the death of the age-old methods of distribution. The book, the champion of the print culture, is becoming obsolete in the reign of digital media. The metaphor ‘books are the windows to the world’ is becoming increasingly inappropriate in the age where we can open a window(s) to explore the World Wide Web.

Despite its powerful potential in disseminating information and enhancing human communication as never before, the new media is more often than not condemned as mind-weakening and even moral-corrupting. This seems to echo the Socratic paradox about the vice and virtue of literacy. Socrates used the Greek word pharmakon or drug as the metaphor for writing to convey that it could be a cure and a poison (Furedi). On one hand, he believed that writing could serve as a medium of enlightenment and communication. On the other hand, the spread of literacy would encourage subjective interpretation, thus enabling the masses to explore and question the prevailing authority and, in turn, challenge the established order. To put it more simply, in the cultural and political context of Socrates’ Athens, there are too much information for the vast majority of the public, the uneducated.

Once words put into writing and roam everywhere, they are prone to misinterpretation and unfair judgment since a piece of writing cannot defend itself or as Ong (2001) put it, “…the reduction of dynamic sound to quiescent space, the separation of the word from the living present, where alone spoken words can exist” (80). Unlike oral discourse that involves direct human participation, reading creates spatial and temporal distance between the speaker and the listener, thus separating the knower and the known, and “…in a way denature even the human” (42). Indulging oneself in private reading therefore estranges the readers from the real world and actual human experience.

Socrates’s concern seems relevant to the contemporary issues surrounding the new media technology. Computers were credited with the power to create artificial world called the cyberspace. Unlike private reading, computer allows for more interactivity instead of being estranged and remote, thus eliminating distance between the users.  However, both print-mediated and computer-mediated communications pose more questions than answers. Internet addiction is a problem these days as book addiction was back then.

Jan 25 2017

Religiositas Massa dan Kegilaan dalam Sajak ‘Khotbah’ Karya WS Rendra

Karya sastra senantiasa berbagi ruang khusus dengan kegilaan dan membentuk hubungan yang sinergis. Bahasa sendiri, sebagai medium karya sastra, merupakan instrumen yang melandasi Foucault dalam menelusuri fenomena kegilaan. Sastra menawarkan perspektif tersendiri dalam memahami kegilaan melalui medium bahasa dan menampilkannya sebagai representasi pengalaman manusia. Dalam sajak karya WS Rendra yang berjudul Khotbah, kegilaan digambarkan bukan dari balik tembok rumah sakit jiwa, namun dalam suatu kebaktian Minggu di sebuah gereja. Kegilaan akan religiuositas diangkat menjadi tema sentral dengan motif yang provokatif. Pada saat yang sama, alusi-alusi Alkitab dimainkan untuk membangun nuansa religius dalam puisi ini. Dengan berdasar pada anggapan awal tersebut, tulisan ini bertujuan untuk membahas representasi kegilaan dalam sajak Khotbah karya WS Rendra sebagai kritisisme terhadap religiositas massa. Pembahasan dilakukan melalui analisis piranti kebahasaan puisi, seperti diksi, majas dan pola bunyi. Dalam konteks yang lebih luas, tulisan ini juga bertujuan untuk mempermasalahkan batasan-batasan definitif antara religiusitas massa dan kegilaan yang dikaitkan dengan wacana sosio-kultural yang melingkupi karya tersebut

Unduh draft paper di sini

Jan 9 2014

What is Media Literacy?

As cliché as it may sound, we now live in a media age. In Indonesian scope, the fact is that the number of Internet users in Indonesia is increasing significantly over the years, due to affordable prices of gadgets and mobile Internet services. In spite of the significant number, Indonesian government has not taken the issue pretty much seriously.

 The problem is that many young Indonesians nowadays receive nearly all their information through the internet; yet an adequate understanding of media is not given in schools. The active consumption of media among young people in Indonesia makes it necessary for them to be trained to deal with messages in the media. It is important to build awareness of what messages in the media might persuade to. This requires knowledgable stance and critical thinking. It is important for them to be media-literate. For more information, go visit medialit.org


Jan 8 2014


Ant climbing Mount Fujiwara. But Slowly. Slowly.