Khairani Barokka’s Lilac Mood Mixtape

‘Best of’ lists are not something I feel exist in my life, or rather, I am incapable of making one. Instead, lists for moods and synaesthesia.

Khairani Barokka’s poems ‘Flood Season’, ‘Jakarta’, and ‘Ramadhan’ appeared in The Poetry Review, Vol. 107, No 1, Spring 2017.

‘Twin Flower, Master, Emily’ by Don Mee Choi

Vital, hypnotic, always laced with a razor-edge is Don Mee Choi. A filmic translation into Spanish (trans. by Valerie Mejer Caso & Josefa Gonzalez), with English subtitles, here: 

‘Home’ by Safiya Sinclair

Safiya Sinclair exhales a soul into the reader’s body (and I realise, in my body, her work is spiritually aligned to Don Mee Choi.) 

‘Home Again’ by Tyehimba Jess

You see what I did there. This poem lodged itself in the chest years ago, and never left from the minute read.

‘Dream of Ink Brush Calligraphy’ by Karen An-Hwei Lee

A perfectly palindromic offering, a steadying poem of the spirit.

‘Making Mines Frires’ by Dominique Ahkong

A comfort-poem (disclosure: Dominique and I have been friends for many years, and she and her family remind me of life-giving meals). The Studio Ghibli line’s a starred move.

Javanese Alphabet in Hanacaraka Formation

Father tongue. Are there any other languages with an alphabet in the shape of a poem? Age-old genius from ancestors. My own translation below, from various picked-up translations of Javanese into Indonesian. There are also other translations that go deep into Javanese spiritual tenets. A goal in life is to learn to fluently speak a dialect of Javanese, and also of Minang, rather than current stop-and-start snippets.

Hana caraka | Two soldier-messengers,

Data sawala | Each with animosity towards the other.
Padha jayanya | Equal strength in battle,
Maga bathanga | Both become carcass.

‘Warning’ by Widji Thukul

In 1998, Indonesian poet and social activist Widji Thukul was “disappeared” by authoritarian forces. It feels impossible to be a poet from home without this memory. Work sometimes feels a post-script to this, a humble offering to his brilliant, resilent family, reminder against complacency. In this video from the 2014 Asean Literary Festival, where he was awarded, his compatriot Sosiawan Leak reads Widji Thukul’s poem “Warning”, after I read the translation in English:

Khairani Barokka. photo by Rose Thomas


Khairani Barokka is an Indonesian writer, poet and artist based in London. She is the writer/performer/producer of, among others, a deaf-accessible, solo poetry/art show, 
Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee. Published internationally in anthologies and journals, Okka has presented work extensively, in nine countries, been awarded six residencies and various grants, and given two TEDx talks (Jakarta and [email protected]). She is author and illustrator of poetry-art book Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis Press, 2016), co-editor with Ng Yi-Sheng of HEAT: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology (Buku Fixi Publishing, 2016), and co-editor, with Sandra Alland and Daniel Sluman, of Nine Arches Press’ UK anthology of D/deaf and disabled poets (forthcoming May 2017). Her first full-length poetry collection, Rope, will be published by Nine Arches Press in October 2017.