‘This intricate, inventive collection of poems compels the reader to follow the mutations of light and shade at the tangled roots of history. With kinetic interrogation, fugitive humor and emotional depth, Jennifer Mackenzie summons poetry of amplified humanity and imagination.’— Lucy Van
Indonesian writer and activist Pramoedya Ananta Toer spent most of his adult life in jail, imprisoned first by colonial powers and later by Indonesian governments. In 1993 Jennifer Mackenzie received a copy of Toer’s manuscript Arus Balik and the author’s blessing to translate it into English. This was at a time when the author’s now celebrated work was banned in Indonesia and he was under house arrest in Jakarta.
Jennifer Mackenzie’s own Navigable Ink is a rare poetic exploration of Toer’s tragic, visionary and ultimately triumphant life. With skill, knowledge and sensitivity Mackenzie captures the beauty of Indonesia and Toer’s fight to preserve its integrity and essence. Throughout our world, his concerns for the environment, gender equality, free speech, non-discrimination and freedom are now more crucial than ever.
Navigable Ink is a work of poetry that is at once activist, lyrical and heart-wrenching. You don’t just read these poems – you feel them.
‘Each injustice has to be fought against, even if it’s only in one’s heart – and I did fight.’ Pramoedya Ananta Toer
I felt Indonesian when I finished reading Navigable Ink.
How can you not, when you read this poetry?
Jennifer Mackenzie brings us to Indonesia, lifts our soul to its harrowed presence.
When a land is invaded and colonised, when a whole culture is torn apart, what remains is its own spirit – “the spirit that could not be ritualised”
“Terre d’élection” or “Chosen land” is the French expression for someone who ‘recognises’ himself or herself in a different culture. Mystery is involved for the inner shift of consciousness that gives us a new home, a new place to be more profoundly oneself.
If there is such a thing as companion pain, Mackenzie has caught Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s. We feel his country’s bewildered balmy season, we feel the time it takes to destroy statues, to flood fields, or the seconds needed to destroy human beings, their blood on the shore, their memory trampled by war.
No melancholy, but no bitterness, just the taste of blood in our mouth, the vanishing sound of the gembang, the faint one of the gamelan still heard over the hills, nearly forgotten, disappearing, yet the voice of Indonesia intact, shored up, pulled out of the oblivion of too much pain, by an understanding heart, a witness who is there and not there, a soulful companion spirit.
“hosed research papers
poured a gallon of blood over manuscripts
a bomsite in my skull
taken away for years”
Catherine de Saint Phalle, author of Call Me Marlowe and Poum and Alexandre