Poetry And Terror: Politics and Poetics in Coming To Jakarta

by Peter Dale Scott
with Freeman Ng
Foreword by Robert Hass
Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield)
ISBN: 978-1498576666

An essential guide to Peter Dale Scott’s book length poem combining autobiography with an exposé of the 1965 Indonesian massacre: Coming To Jakarta: a Poem About Terror, which former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass once called “the most important political poem to appear in the English language in a very long time.”

The book includes:

  • A close examination, in the form of conversations between Peter Dale Scott and Freeman Ng, of the content and compositional history of the poem, and of Scott’s evolving understanding of it.
  • A reprint of a 1985 Scott prose essay, inspired by the poem, on U.S. involvement in and support for the massacre, along with an account of how this essay was translated into Indonesian and officially banned by the Indonesian dictatorship only to ultimately inspire, in conjunction with the poem, the groundbreaking films of Josh Oppenheimer (“The Act of Killing” and “The Look of Silence“) that have led to the first official discussions in Indonesia of what happened in 1965.
  • An exploration, in the form of new essays written by Scott, of:
    • How major poetry by its demonstrable contribution to cultural development (ethogeny) and hence to changes in what Burke called our “second nature,” is also a needed creative force for political progress.
    • The healing power of the memory-work of recovering suppressed memories of intolerable catastrophe.
    • East-west relations through the lens of the yin-yang, spiritual-secular doubleness of the human condition.
    • The mystery of right action, guided by the Bhagavad Gita and the maxim in the Gospel of Thomas that “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.”