Pro: Sarton


This poem, ‘Pro: Sarton’, seems to be written half in dedication to, and half in advocacy for, the writer May Sarton. As one of the participants explained, Sarton was an American poet, novelist and memoirist who is particularly remembered for her journals in which she captured the details of her domestic, daily life. Debra Yatim’s poem speaks to this intimacy and makes Sarton’s example a rallying cry to all aspiring writers. Many of the key ideas in the poem, speak of tension between bearing and resisting the intensity of the world. We toyed with “braced in the face / of the everything” but chose the slightly more active “must shake facing” to convey both the vulnerability and the resolve required of the writer to take on each of life’s fresh little disasters, whether they’re problems with our pets or the impending capital-S Sleep (which we carried over from the original).

The clashing images and registers of the poem seem designed to emphasise the disorientating demands on the writer to see the complexity of life. May Sarton (a pen name) is given both the formal respect of authorial grandeur in the title with her surname (‘Pro: Sarton’) and spoken of intimately and knowingly as “Ibu May”, which we chose not to translate as “Ms. May” as that seemed strangely formalising in English whereas, in the Indonesia, as our bridge-translator Khairani Barokka explained, it is common for writers to known by their given names and many people are not given patronymic surnames.