I was leafing through the Autumn edition of the Poetry Book Society bulletin, admiring the title poem of Don Paterson’s latest collection, Rain (more on this podcast), when I stumbled across a poem by Toeti Heraty, an Indonesian poet, philosopher and campaigner whose work had been – until that moment – completely unknown to me. But then, one of the virtues of magazines is their potential for serendipity.
The poem – in its English translation, courtesy of the Poetry Translation Centre – is about the gap between words and meaning.
by Toeti Heraty
I want to write
an erotic poem
in which raw words, unadorned,
where metaphors are unnecessary
and breasts, for instance,
do not become hills
nor a woman’s body a sultry landscape
nor intercourse ‘the most intimate embrace’.
It’s quite clear
this poem is written in the space
between exposure and concealment
between hypocrisy and true feeling.
There are more poems by her at the Poetry Translation Centre. If I find a way to buy the pamphlet this was taken from I’ll add it here.