“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww’!”
Jack Kerouac, On The Road
There are many kinds of madness, but our favorite is the kind where it drives someone to purse their creative passion and embrace others to join them in being mad together. The Mad Ones is our new periodic column, in which we interview people who inspire us through their madness.
We are beyond excited to feature an interview with The Murmur House, a literary community for young Indonesian writers and illustrators. We first found The Murmur House on Twitter, and quickly pre-ordered the inaugural edition of Murmur, its literary journal. I still remember the surge of warmth I felt when the journal came, with its origami cat, literary quote, and brilliant collection of prose, poems, and essays. Here is what Syarafina Vidyadhana (Avi) and Rain Chudori (Rain), co-founders of The Murmur House, have to say about their budding literary community.
What is the idea behind The Murmur House? Why did you start it?
Rain: The idea first started when Avi and I were in a coffee shop by a lake. We were rambling about love and literature, I was really bothering Avi who was supposed to do her essay on existentialism in Le Petit Prince, if I’m not mistaken. As we continued talking, the topic switched to how solitary writing has been for writers, especially young ones. Today’s technology and the Internet in a way detach us not only from our roots but also from each other. So we came to the idea that there should be a platform for young, Indonesian writers to grow and share their works.
Avi: It’s a Christmas’ eve in 2013. I remember the coffee shop by the lake, the dreadful final paper, and the particular boys and books we talked about—but no, Rain wasn’t in any way bothering me. It was rather refreshing, conversing with her, for she was the first person before many that I met, who shared the same concerns on our local literary scene. Anyway, the name of the house was derived from Murmuration (n.), a natural phenomenon in which flocks of starling birds move together from one place to another during their migration. Their movements are very synchronized to the point that when one bird changes its movement, the other birds quickly adapt to it. They are also very sensible and caring towards each other. We find this phenomenon to be extraordinarily beautiful. Thus, it has been our very philosophy in nurturing our house.
Who are the people behind the Murmur House?
Rain: Avi and I are the co-founders of The Murmur House. We have several departments in our house: editorial, events, shipping, design, merchandising, social media, and marketing. Each department consists of 2 to 3 members. I’m a writer, as are some of the other members. Several are literature students, though there are also those who work in other fields. Most importantly, we’re readers.
Avi: Also there’s Agustina Pringganti, editorial chief for our debut journal, and Dwiputri Pertiwi, the current editorial chief. We also have Shofwatul Widad, Meisya Citraswara and Ratnayu C. Kirana who have been there with us since the beginning, Alyssa Syamina, our translator, and many more.
Why do you choose English as the medium for your journal, Murmur? Did you find any criticism for choosing English instead of Bahasa Indonesia?
Rain: Initially, we chose English as our medium because we felt wanted a platform for Indonesians who writes in English. For our second issue and thereafter, we are planning to publish our journal in both English and Indonesian.
Avi: Our purpose is to break the language barrier and deliver our stories to a global audience, and to reach out to young Indonesian writers who are more comfortable writing in English. We believe there haven’t been many similar platforms in our local literary scene. However, that decision makes our journal enjoyable only to a specific kind of readers—those who are familiar with English. Based on this decision alone we received some criticisms, basically on how our journal seems somewhat “elitist”. Although I don’t agree with them, I think it’s quite understandable.
Still related to that, there’s been a debate on whether or not works written in English by Indonesian authors can be claimed as “Indonesian literature”. This is saddening, I believe language choice shouldn’t be a problem; Indonesian authors—and any authors anywhere—should be free to choose whichever language fits them best and not discriminated for it.
How do you balance the tension between curating quality pieces for Murmur and fostering an open, supportive environment for young writers?
Rain: our editor in chiefs, Agustina Pringganti and Dwiputri Pertiwi, have created a method of evaluating the pieces which the rest of the editorial team follows. We select pieces that are not only well written, but also honest and resonant to the qualities our house hopes to achieve.
Avi: To be honest, it hasn’t been easy. Our community is trying to reach out as many young Indonesian writers as possible. The aim is to be a house for writers to help each other grow, to share thoughts and experience, through our gatherings and other programs. Meanwhile, curating process is necessary because we have a responsibility to our readers and ourselves as editors to sustain the quality of our journal. The challenge is in explaining that the community and the journal are two separate things that require different approaches.
Other than your Murmur journal, you also organize offline gatherings called Murmuration where writers are invited to read aloud. In the age of blogs, audio books, and social media, why do you think read aloud meet ups are important?
Rain: I think social media plays an important part in building our house. Without it, I wouldn’t have known Avi, or most of the members, writers, illustrators we have worked with. More importantly though, it’s important to cultivate the house through frequent gatherings. It’s warm, intimate, and the highlight of being in a community.
Avi: Offline gatherings are essential for growth—and they’re much fun, too! On our first Murmuration we were surprised because there were a lot of people who read aloud impromptu! I think many find reading aloud therapeutic. I personally like it because I get to meet real human beings and converse with them, and it definitely has more perks compared to exchanging 140 characters (or more) with an avatar (or profile picture).
Who do you think are the young Indonesian writers to watch? Can you share some of your favorite stories or books written by young Indonesians
Rain: Khairani Barokka is one of my favourite Indonesian writers. She is one of a few Indonesians who write in English. I find her writings raw and resonant, I was honored to have two of her poems in our journal. I think that Talissa Febra, one of our new editors, is a wonderful writer and I hope to read more of her work soon. Other writers I’m fond of are Arman Dhani, Aan Mansyur, and Agung Setiawan.
Avi: Yes, Okka (Khairani Barokka -ed.) is indeed special. She’s a strong independent woman with a great sense of humor, and she writes the most unique poems, too! And there’s Dwiputri Pertiwi, a young talented essayist and poet, who recently launched her collection of poetry ‘Hiatus’. Next on the list there’s Sabda Armandio Alif, he’s going to publish his first ever novel sometime soon and from the look of it, I think it’s gonna be great!
What can we expect from The Murmur House in 2015?
Rain: We’re blooming. We’re currently working on our second issue, “Love and Other Drugs” and we will launch it in our Murmuration event on February. On March we will have an exhibition in POST, Santa. We are also working on a workshop road trip to several cities. And on January 29th we will participate in the launching of idwriters.com, where I will also do a reading.
Avi: All that and a running website, yay!
How can people get in touch with you?