Kuali Hitam

Warisan Zurinah Hassan


Interviewers, including students and reporters often asked these questions:
Why do
you write poetry more than other
do you write about, or what are the themes of your writing.
answer to the first question is, I began with poetry because my introduction to
literature and writing was through poetry. As a child I sang children songs (lagu kanak-kanak) or traditional nursery
rhymes while playing with friends.  When
we have radio in the house, I spent hours listening especially to songs. I picked
up the lyrics which in those days were usually beautiful and meaningful. Some
tunes used beautiful and romantic pantuns. I came to learn and appreciate the
beauty of words and encountered the poetic value in my language. I roamed the
gardens, the seas and mountains described in the songs, and picked up beautiful
expressions which kindled my imaginations. My love for poetry was nurtured and
I began to write.
back my themes can be summarized as below
From 1967 to about 1972   I wrote mostly about social issues especially
 poverty among farmers and fishermen.
From 1972 to 1980 was my restless years,
searching for myself and the meanings of live.   
In the eighties my marriage and Islamic
awareness calmed me down. I found meaning in family relationship.
In the nineties, the situations of the Malays
disturbed me most.
By 2010 I found myself coming back to society and
the reality of live.
In the first phase, from 1967
to about 1972,  I wrote mostly about
social issues especially  poverty among
farmers and fishermen. As a young enthusiast I read anything I could find on
poetry and on what was happening in the local literary scene. Articles by my
favourite poets, Usman Awang and Kassim Ahmad inspired me. They advocated
writers as voice of society  .  Most of the early poems are published in my
first personal anthology, Sesayup Jalan (USM Press 1974). One of them was about
about a fishing village, Tanjung Dawai
This evening at Tanjung Dawai
Admiring your scenery
But who owns your beach
No, no you certainly
You only have a boat and a net
To cast your life in the open
The second phase from 1972 to
1980 was my restless years. I was searching for myself and the meanings of
live.   I was looking West to T.S.Elliot
and later, the absurd writers especially Samuel Backett and was very much disturbed
by the notion that life is a never ending wait. This was when I wrote AT THE
BUS STAND depicting life as the wait  for
the bus to a destination that you have not decided
At the bus stand
Smokes from moving cars
Has landed in my eyes
 At this bus stand
A long shadow
Is lying
On the dust
And I waited on
The buses have gone
I am still at the station
Making no decision
On my destination.
My marriage in 1979 brought in
the third stage in the eighties, concurrent with Islamic awareness that calmed
me down. I found meaning in family relationship and prayers. During this time
there were many poems talking about love, family and keeping harmonious
relationship with Allah and His creation. An example is a poem entittled Certainty
You may not be the best man
But for a woman like me
I am not sure there is anyone
Do not ask if I am happy
I too will not question your
For when one tries to be too certain
one ends up with more
The more we analyse and discuss
There is more to learn,
The nineties could be taken as
the fourth stage . I was disturbed and worried about the future of the  Malays. Politicians and everyone else were
talking about how the Malays  are losing  ground in their own inherited land. This time
I look through the pages of history, legends and folk tales and felt very
sad  that  we   have made mistakes along the way. I wrote
poetry about the misdeed and lust of Malay rulers, that had weakened the empire
of Melaka long before the attacks from outside.
One such story was the
heartless killing of the Bendahara (Prime
Minister) of Melaka and all members of his family by the Sultan.
I did not resist when they
come with the keris
To take my life
If it is Your Majesty’s wish
After all it is my own saying
That the Malays never disobey
their king
But I do regret
That your majesty should
As every tree has its root
Everything has its beginning
The start and their origin
Demang Lebar Daun installing Sang
As  the first king
They come to a treaty, an
A king is not a king
without his men
Since then Demang came second
A Bendahara in status and rank
He even became the king’s
In the state  protocol
Sang Sapurba is above all
But in  family relation
Demang in a higher position
From there
To Singapore and Melaka
Bendahara were addressed  by their tittles
Seri Maharaja, Paduka Raja
Seri Wak Raja
Meaning king’s father,
guardian of the ruler
For it is true bendahara arrre
The strength of the nations
The king heads the country
The bendahara in authority
The king wwears his crown
The bendahara guards his
The sharp keris of his majesty
Pierced through the
bendahara’s body
Tha madness of  the action  
Has wounded a nation.
A king is but a servant
To the rules that make him a
the millennium I found myself coming back to society and the social problems .There
are so much ills around us that I felt guilty to be indulged in aesthetic .
One such poem is
As promised before election
Lorries of cements, pebbles
and sand
Trampled our land
As promised before election
So began the construction
For days and months
Then a mosque with magnificent
sparkles in the sun
And come the big occasion.
We stood in procession
From the foot of the hill
To the edge of the mosque
With flowers and posters
The whole village was there
to welcome a minister
Beating of kompangs and speeches
Delivering  massages full of  praises
For the new mosque
Speaking of loyalty to god
Loyalty to His messenger
Loyalty to the government in
And this loyalty need not be
The  minarets 
stand tall  to the cloud
The call to prayer clear and
But my grandma and friends
Never come near the mosque
Grandma said often
The new mosque is magnificent
The floor is raised on higher
The steps and tiles
Boost of their creativity all
But we are already old
Our feet wobbles on sparkling
They don’t build this mosque
for us to pray
But for a show off
and more of a display.

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