Adimas Immanuel: EWF 2016 and Regional Literary Exchange

As part of EWF 2016, we teamed up with Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, and Ibis Hotels to connect writing communities from Melbourne, Bali, and regional Victoria.

On exchange from UWRF, poet Adimas Immanuel featured in several EWF events, and during his stay in Aus we connected him with regional Victorian writer, Mark Smith, for a cultural and community exchange. Adimas sent us some thoughts about his time at EWF and his experience participating in the Regional Literary Exchange.

A cold wind snarled me right after coming out from Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne. The cold was real: I was shivering, teeth chattering, feeling pain in all my joints. The air temperature on my phone pointed on 7 degrees Celsius. The city was starting its winter season. Finally, I had arrived in a country that I knew first from a children’s song many years ago, when I was a child.

Melbourne is one of the busiest cities in Australia. Passing through the town alone among a lot of people who walked fast, talked fast, and came from different backgrounds made me feel very small. However I realized: I came to this city to participate in a number of discussions and poetry reading sessions for Emerging Writers Festival 2016 from June 14-24. As the only young Indonesian writer that was invited this year, I was fully prepared. Moreover, in participating in the cultural exchange between Indonesia and Australia, I was there as the representative of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, an annual literary festival held in Indonesia to share Indonesian literature.

After an approximately twenty minute journey, I finally arrived at the hotel that had been provided by the EWF committee in the Swanston Street area. I immediately unpacked my luggage, put out my clothes and re-checked the schedule of events and the various series of activities in Melbourne and decided to take a walk around the hotel. The hospitality of the people I met, the energy of the people of this city, infrastructure and modern architecture made my enthusiasm higher and higher to undergo every session. Tired of walking around, I decided to rest to get ready for the first session the following day.

The Emerging Writers Festival (EWF) is an annual literary event based in Melbourne, Australia, which aims to gather many authors, readers, and other creators to exchange ideas through a number of panel discussion sessions. This year, State Library of Victoria was the central point of the festival although other sessions were also taking place in cafés, restaurants and other venues around the city.

For this festival, I was involved in a panel discussion, Poetic Practice, and a poetry reading, Songs & Stories of Home. In the panel discussion, with Omar Sakr, Alison Whittaker and Zoe Dzunko, we talked about various things about poetry, ranging from the beginning of when we decided to write poetry until its impact as daily practice. We also discussed wider topics, such as the issue of city, hometown, ethnicity, gender, and politics. Then in the poetry reading, Songs & Stories of Home, I recited poetry about my imagination of home and my childhood memories. This session was very interesting because in addition to the writers and poets performing, many Australian musicians enlivened the event by presenting one or two songs.

Some people may ask if I spent the whole time in Melbourne, as my trip was for a whole week. Of course not, the EWF committee is well aware of this and I thank them for specially creating a program for me to see some more of Australia. I had the opportunity to be hosted by Mark Smith, an Australian writer who lives in Anglesea, a coastal city about two hours drive from Melbourne. Mark Smith is a novelist and short story writer who works daily as a teacher and surfer. I think his activities are a perfect combination for a balanced life. Half-jokingly I said that even though I write very well, I will not be able to reach his achievements because I can’t swim or surf!

For two days, I was invited to travel down the Great Ocean Road, a coastal road two hundred kilometers in length that split the hills and is directly adjacent to Bass Strait. The place is very beautiful because in addition to showing the deep blue sea landscape that has a wide view, there are so many varieties of trees, shrubs and Australian native animals. Predictably, like most people who visited Australia on the first time, I was very glad to have the opportunity to see kangaroos and koalas up close.

According to Mark, this area has inspired many writers in Australia to move the beauty of nature into their stories, like Jock Serong who uses Port Fairy’s background for his novel Quota, Gregory Day who uses Aireys Inlet, as does Peter Temple for his novel, A Broken Shore. The Great Ocean Road apparently was also selected by Mark as the background for his new novel, The Road to Winter. I was lucky enough to get the book before it circulated in bookstores. After that, in the evening I had a discussion with the Write Here In The Surf Coast group in Torquay, who all come from various professions, ranging from short story writer, novelist, poet, editor, advertising practitioner, even a microbiologist! All of them come together for the sake of writing and sharing stories. How fun!

Although I already visited many places such as Anglesea, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (I found many archives of old cinema and of course the car replica of Mad Max!), Federation Square with its festivities, the calm Yarra River with the beauty of the city lights, Brunswick Street, I still feel there are lots of things I have not seen during my time in Victoria. In the airport lounge, for a moment before going home, I remember many good things that Melbourne has given to me: this city is a good example of multicultural life with so many colors blending with each other. I keep a good memory about the people, conversations, food, art activities, and social life because it all intertwined to evoke the spirit of creativity. It has been be my fullest experience and will give me new motivation soon after I land in Indonesia. Right after the airport loudspeakers made the announcement to board, I suddenly missed my country, the traffic jam, hot temperature, the sound of the engines, and Indonesian food, of course.

Adimas Immanuel, Jakarta, 2016

Adimas Immanuel is an Indonesian poet. He was born in Solo, Indonesia (1991). His poems have been published in various publications. He has published several poetry collections: Empat Cangkir Kenangan (Serba Indie, 2012), Pelesir Mimpi(Katabergerak, 2013) and Di Hadapan Rahasia (GPU, 2016). In 2014, he was longlisted for the Khatulistiwa Literary Award and shortlisted for the Indonesian Readers Award. 

To find out more about the Regional Literary Exchange, check out Mark Smith’s reflection here.