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).
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.