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Book Review: First Drop of Red

I’ll be honest the first thought in my head when I saw First Drop of Red and the dramatic cover was: WOW A POETRY BOOK ABOUT MENSTRUATION! Written by a young Indonesian female poet and published by POP (Gramedia imprint), it’s a sign that our world is changing, truly! I would never have been able to find such a book when I was a teenager going through my own “first drops of red”.


Aha. So the poems are not about menstruation – talk about super imposing your perspective into a text (oh, me). The poems in First Drop of Red are about colonialism, growing into womanhood, the deconstruction of virginity (GODS DO I LOVE THIS), and self-acceptance. In the wonderful way that poetry is, there are also many other cryptic layers and hidden meanings amongst the words, lending itself to various possible interpretations depending on who you are as a reader and how (and when) you are reading it.

My Favorite Parts

I always enjoy a good honest ranting. Angry poems ala Sylvia Plath are only the beginning of centuries of women being oppressed and pushed down and considered second-rate to men. Dinda Mulia delivers good on the angry vibes. Preach it girl!

The collection doesn’t just have justified anger, though. First Drop of Red also has burning sensual moments building up to a beautiful climax. For me, it’s in The Yearning section, beginning with the poem Man with the Ocean Hue told from the woman’s perspective, shifting on to the man’s perspective with Dark Eyes (of the Night, Beneath the Moonlight).

“Made a dog out of this loyal darling…”

dinda mulia

That line for me feels like the pinnacle of the book. Perhaps because of the “dog” allegory which for many of Indonesia’s societies is considered haram (forbidden, dirty). Without cultural context this might not read as powerful; steamy romance genres are, after all, full of werewolf dogmen submitting to their female mates. But within Indonesian perspective, for a man to admit that a woman has made him into a dog is earth-shattering. Couple that with the gorgeous illustration by Pinahayu Parvati and I’m seriously getting goosebumps. Such a combination rarely happens by accident, so let’s give a nod to the editor: Anida Nurrahmi.

After this set of two poems comes My Atheist Boy which feels like a solidifying statement: the ground has settled, but it’s not the same ground as before.


It takes a lot of courage for women in our society to step up and write about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Every time a woman does that, it’s a small act of revolution. I suspect the work is far from over, and there is much to do still. But a revolution consists of millions of small acts, continuously pushing authoritative doctrine made to suffocate women. With our voices, we claim back our dignity. With our pens, we write our way into a new world.

Go on, show your support and purchase the book. If you like Asian vibe poetry by women poets, consider also flinch and air by Laura Jane Lee, or check out my first poetry collection at the shop.

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Pandemic Reflections, a Poem

I deeply believe

the pandemic saved me

reminded me

that life doesn’t have to be so complicated

that my schedule doesn’t have to be

so suffocated

I quite like

the lazy afternoons

the song of neighborhood birds

nine hours of sleep

honking cars unheard

After all

If I may be coy

Is this not what we work

Our whole lives to enjoy?

(I thought this would be a fun way to start 2022, by reflecting on some of my benefits from the great pandemic – anyway, happy 2022 everyone)

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Poetry Book Review: flinch and air

I first discovered flinch and air by Laura Jane Lee from @lesenwanderer bookstagram account. So what happened was, I contacted lesenwanderer to see if she would be interested to read and review my poetry collection: A Season of Poetry. I was very glad when she accepted. A couple weeks later, she paired the review of my poetry collection with flinch and air, another poetry collection – what an honor for me! Here is the post.

As such I have lesenwanderer to double thank – not only for reviewing my poems but also for introducing me to Laura Jane Lee’s poetry.

Asian Experiences

flinch and air is a collection of poems on various experiences of Asian women, from the author’s grandmother to other women she met who inspired and left an impact on her (for example the taxidermist of the museum). The poet included her own experience in Sweet Like a Bao, which actually is my favorite poem in the collection. Perhaps because I have been to Hong Kong (the poet is based in Hong Kong) and can imagine all the lines she is evoking.

There was a particular poem about the father and daughter that I think is a real masterpiece, but my heart hurts too much reading it because well, let’s just say I wish I had what that daughter had.

Poetry Style

Poetry is something so personal, and every poet has a unique voice, especially if they’re reaching deep into themselves, bearing the insides of their soul through their poetry. That’s what I love and hunger for when I read poetry, and Laura Jane’s poems satisfied that craving of mine. Some poems were easily understandable and made me smile, while others relied on evoking moods through rhymes and rhythms, which I enjoyed also.


I read this book on my Kindle, and I bought the ebook from Outspoken store. However, I must say some of the digital formatting didn’t translate too well to my device. I know it’s fiendishly difficult to format poetry into digital books, so that’s why whenever possible I prefer buying a physical copy of poetry collections rather than a digital copy. Alas, flinch and air is not readily available in Indonesia and shipping would cost an arm and a leg so that’s that. The price of convenience, eh.

Well. at the moment, I’m still quite satisfied with the amount of money I spent and the content I got. I hope Laura keeps writing and creating!

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First Blood, A Poem

I finally picked up Milk and Honey (Rupi Kaur) and also Lang Leav‘s poetry collections: Love Looks Good On You. Needless to say, it was the boost I needed to start working on my second poetry collection! There are so far 60 short proses and poems in the draft, and here is one of them.

First Blood

“Have you started bleeding?”

“No…have you?”

“Of course! Last year!”

“Wow. How does it feel?”

“Oh, you know, just a bit bloody. Not too bad.”

Why hasn’t mine come yet?

Is something wrong with me?

Where could I have gotten more information

Other than the other girls’ conversations

Why was there no education

No open communication

On something so important

As our menstruation?

For more of my poetry, you can check out my first poetry collection: A Season of Poetry at the shop. Thank you for your support!

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Digital Art Commission

This is the second digital art I’ve commissioned this year, the first one being a Nisha fanart. This one is an illustration of one of my poems: Live Your Life. The poem is part of the collection A Season of Poetry.

Here is the digital art commission, and the artist is Laurentia Prisca.

September 2021

Get to Know the Artist

As usual, curious me asked the artist some questions so I can get to know her better.

Airin : How did you learn to draw?

Laurentia : Self-taught from tutorials! And also seeing references which is similar to my style.

Airin : What attracts you to making digital art ?

Laurentia : I saw some of my favorite KDrama illustrations on Instagram, so I got interested to try it out, but not seriously. When the lockdown started, I was so bored being at home all the time, so I decided to refresh myself by working on the digital art.

Airin : What do you do for work ?

Laurentia : I’m a geotechnical engineer.

Airin : (at this point I am highly impressed) I bet you have other hidden talents! What are your other hobbies?

Laurentia : I enjoy singing, and I watch a lot of movies.

What a cool gal! Check out her other digital drawings on her Instagram gallery.

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A Covid Lament

So much death

Every hour, every day

We hear news left and right

She’s passed on, he’s gone

Their family got the virus

Our family has tested positive

I don’t dare to pick up the phone

Lest it’s another gut wrenching update

I don’t want to check whatsapp groups

Lest it’s another acquaintance getting infected

Where can we turn?

Who can we go to?

Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, Moderna?

Billions are scrambling for all of those

How are we going to mourn

When this is all over

If this will be over

Who will be left?

How much more can we stand

Burning in this hot mess

Before we too stumble and break

How much longer?

Written July 2021

Illustrator brigit.ta has published a gorgeous artwork accompaniment to this poem.

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There’s Always a First, a poem

“Better than sex.”

“The best experience in my life.”

“I love the beer after a deep dive!”

“Been diving since I was 13.”

“Its like flying.”

“Its freedom!”

“Its my therapy.”

“Its my meditation.”

“Its a different world down there.”

“Its so beautiful.”

“Help, I can’t equalize!”

“Aren’t you afraid of the water?”

“Of the sharks?”

“Of the deep?”

“Of the dark?”

“Will we see the sunfish?”

“Do you use nitrox, or oxygen?”

“I’m just an open water beginner!”

“This is my very first time.”

“I’m scared.”

“Of the water.”

“Of the deep.”

“Of the dark.”

“I’m scared.”

“Here, take my hand.”

“Breathe slowly.”

“Reach out, hold my hand.”

On Diving

20 August 2018

Lembongan, Bali

To read more of my poems, visit A Season of Poetry in the shop. Your support means a lot to me!

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With My Two Hands, a poem

With my two hands

I can cook a meal to feed my body and my loved ones.

I can massage away pain and give a short relief for aching muscles.

I can garden! Oh the Joy!

Create resources which I get to harvest myself!

With my two hands

I can make music, the very language of the universe.

I can write, immortalize my story.

With my two hands

I can make a difference

I can change my life.

Written 11 March 2021. For more of my poems, you can visit A Season of Poetry at the shop.

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What Do You Seek? a poem

Do you seek beauty

lovely as the full moon

fleeting as the morning bird?

Do you seek power

crushing as the thunder

commanding the hearts of men?

Do you seek wealth

shining glittery gems

born of the ground

chiseled by crafty hands?

Do you seek glory

the ardent praise of your fellows

a hall full of standing applause?

Do you seek solitude

the calm lake by the mountains

which reflects your face clearly?

Do you seek friendship

a relationship to test time

standing by in each other’s storms?

Do you seek immortality

a legacy sketched in history?

Oh wandering soul

do you know what it is you seek?

For my other poems, take a look at A Season of Poetry.

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While We Still Can, a poem

Here we all are

so lucky to be alive and alright

at the end of one long long year

where darkness was absolute

but kindness overcame fear.

Here we all are,

hoping for a kinder year

praying for those we hold dear.

And if tomorrow does not come

if next year proves harsher than this one

if those we love leave us

and everything we work for is lost?

Well, bear it we must

and bear it we shall

a day at a time

while we still can.

A poem for the new year.