My First Attempt


By Latiff Mohidin

At dawn they returned home
their soaky clothes torn
and approached the stove
their limbs marked by scratches
their legs full of wounds
but on their brows
there was not a sign of despair

The whole day and night just passed
they had to brave the horrendous flood
in the water all the time
between bloated carcasses
and tiny chips of tree barks
desperately looking for their son’s
albino buffalo that was never found

There were born amidst hardship
and grew up without a sigh or a complaint
now they are in the kitchen, making
jokes while rolling their cigarette leaves

Translated by
Salleh Ben Joned

Okay… where do I begin… Hmmm… first of all this is just my humble take on this poem and bear in mind that I don’t have a clue of neither the poem nor the poet. The main thing to notice here is the fact that it is translated thus, telling us that the poem was originally written in Malay. I like the idea behind it that could make the students realise that literature is universal and that a good piece of art can be appreciated in any language without losing its strength, beauty and aestheticism. I’ve tried googling “Sajak Latiff Mohidin”, in hope of finding the original version… which could be manipulated into lesson to make it more interesting… but I could not find it (please send it to me if you found it). I guess I might be visiting bookstores as soon as I reach civilisation soon.
I personally felt that the new collection of poems hold more values and in-depth lesson that students nowadays really seem to need insurmountably. As the title suggest, this poem is obviously trying to convey the hardship that a family in a village is facing after a big flood. “Smart-a**” students might be asking; “How do you know that they live in a village, sir?” The answer lies within the albino buffalo (kerbau balau), a complete giveaway of the setting of the poem, as city people are not known to be rearing buffalos (IMHO). However, the big theme or message in the poem as I see it is not the hardship itself but how the family handle it. In other words, it can be said that the theme might be “the optimism of the unfortunates”. I can’t help but to state again here that this is 100% my own words so, feel free to share yours (the upside to the fact that no ‘baby-step’ is written yet). Back to the theme of my choice, I said so based on the lines 6-7 and also the last 2 lines:
but on their brows
there was not a sign of despair
It was stated before lines 6-7 that the returned home at dawn in a soaking-wet clothes that is all torn-up and with bruises and cuts all over… but, their face did not show any sign of hopelessness and despair that would normally be expected.
now they are in the kitchen, making
jokes while rolling their cigarette leaves
These last two lines further accentuate my points on the optimism of this family. Imagine yourself hours after a terrible tragedies or disaster. It takes a lot of courage and strength to see the silver lining and to move on after that. Yet, that is exactly what this family is doing. They’re spending time together, enjoying each other’s company and may be gratifying on the fact what they still have instead of what was lost. This is exactly the authentic and profound values that our students need to be taught about. In my students’ case, most of them would be able to relate very well with the family; the fact that they face the same kind of struggles and the fact that they are almost always grateful with what they have (disturbingly, some of them seems to be to optimist that they don’t bother to want to change their fate… but this is out of topic… haha). Back to the point that this is a good value and most students nowadays should realise that they really are becoming ungrateful brats. I’m sorry to go here and there at such a random pace, but this is no assignment rite? So, humour me and please read till the end. The tragedies in the poem actually allow us with a lot of option for pre-reading activities. The suffering of this family can easily be contextualised with a depiction of real occurrence around the world. Floods and tsunamis are obvious choices; you can have it in form of pictures, videos, audios or even articles. But we can go a step further by showing pictures of malnourished families having great times under extremely unfortunate circumstances. I remembered Mdm Z saying something about how her children could not really sympathised with what they saw on their trip to Africa (if i’m not mistaken) because the children there are so happy. Even when they don’t really have a lot to be happy about. There are actually a value that could be learnt here. It’s just a matter of making it obvious to the students and this is where we should facilitate.
Let’s try to look into the other literary elements here. Settings have been discussed though I can’t be sure of the time frame as I could not trace the original poem. Hmm… let’s see… metaphore; nope, simile; nope, personification; nope, onomatopoeia; hehe… is ‘sigh’ counted as one?, assonance; nope, and alliteration; nope. This is my observation, again… feel free to correct me. And another one is rhyming scheme; I think this is a free verse right? With no apparent scheme. So… I think that’s all for now… as I’m typing this my battery is almost dead… I wonder what’s wrong with the generator this time… we’re having power disruption again… at 9 a.m. just like yesterday… Hmm, such a challenging day to keep smiling… But I guess after reviewing this poem, I could brave it through; come the heat, the sun, the hunger and the thirst… I should be grateful that I’m alive and I should “make hay while the sun shines” right? Hahaha, such a very strange idiom to be contextualised here.
p/s: I love the 2nd poem even more… let’s hope that I can write the review soon
      -there was no electricity till later at the evening

14 thoughts on “My First Attempt

  1. Thanks friend, Cikgu Nor Fadzleen, sure… I'll be honoured to have you link me into your entry… btw, great blog that you have (nice template too… hehe).

  2. Latif used to write with lots of colours. he still does. In The Midst of Hardship he uses colours of 'dawn', 'home', 'stove', 'scratches', 'wounds', 'brows', etc. I would tell my kids that life is full of colours – like those on a pallate of an artist. How's that?

  3. hard knocks in life ,yah,cikgu?what we go thru our younger years cud always make us more gullible or we can look at them as colors of rainbows? 😉

  4. I stumbled by ur blog as i'm looking out 4 any info on d new literature components.Just like u said, there's nothing much for us,teachers, on them. However, i like ur blog and i hope u don't mind having me link them.

  5. salam!i think i ever read this poem before somewhere in england….it really looks da same…. i wonder whether this poem is the original malaysian master peace and not just trying to poserrr~

  6. Salam..Just like others, i googled something on Latiff Mohidin and found your blog.I believe you did a great job with the analysis. Thank you very much.I enjoyed reading it. Would you mind if I link your blog to mine?FYI, I am not a school teacher but a freelance tutor. Nonetheless, I need to know the syllabus. Thanks again for the very insightful piece. =D

  7. I am about to teach this poem tomorrow morning. I was searching for the original poem too, but instead I found your blog. Thanks a lot for the information you shared in your post. btw, I am a practicum teacher. Just started my teaching last Monday. =)

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