I. Introduction

Poetry is kind of literary work in which the conciseness of meaning is emphasized in every single word. Every word in poetry can have ambiguity in it. And this often makes people think poetry hard to understand, mysterious, or even mystical. We can find this kind of problem in some works of our contemporary poets’ such as Sutardji Calzoum Bachri’s Tragedi Winka dan Sihka, Sepisaupi, O,etc., or Ibrahim Sattah’s Sang Sing Song Where they seem to be boundless and have absolute freedom not only in word choice but in shapes as well. We, therefore, may agree with Auden that words in poetry arise from a confused mind of a poet (Kennedy, 1971:331).And it is also said that their works are noyhing but a bunch of meaningless words from those who claim themselves poet.

Actually, what these poets have done with theirs works is not a forbidden thing, because poetry has boundlessness and freedom in word choice and shapes, which is known as Poetic License. Poetic License is merely a special characteristic of poetry; none of literary works other than poetry has it. And this can be exploited to express poet’s emotions, thoughts, and opinions even in an extremely radical way.

Apart from that, this boundlessness and freedom in word choice and ahapes has given and impact to linguistic field; it has created certain deviations in linguistic convention.


2. The Kinds of Deviation in Linguistic Convention on Poetry

Geoffrey Leech claims (according to his study on various poems collected in a certain period of time) that there are 9 kinds of deviation found in poetry

(Leech, 1976:42-52). They are:

a. Lexical Deviation, a poem is considered to have lexical devation if its words deviate from their actual and standard from in order to have deeper value in meaning and in aesthetic. The word ‘mentari’ for ‘mentari’. A more extreme example is shown in Sutardji’s “O”, in which he uses the word ‘Okau’ to mean ‘kau’,

b. Semantic Deviation, this deviation shows that an ordinary word can have an extraordinary meaning, and that a word can have difference in meaning depending on the poet’s life and cultural background. The words ‘Hujan’, for example, can mean disaster to poets living in a flood-risk area, but connotes blessing to those living in a desert. Another example is in the first rhyme of tenka ‘Kanishiki Gangu’ by Takuboku; the word ‘kogarashi’.

Which refers to the strong freezing wind in late Autumn, and is commonly used by Japanese poets to express a lonely feeling that one has when losing his beloved, does not connote such loneliness to Takuboku. He uses that word to describe his suffering from tuberculosis, which was still a hardly recoverable disease at the time.

c. Phonological Deviation, this is the deviation in sound which is done deliberately in regard to the rhyme. The famous pot, Chairil Anwar, uses the words ‘peri’ for     ‘perih’, ‘menggigir’ for ‘menggigil’, etc. Tokuboku in the fortieth rhyme of  Japanese tanka ‘Kanishi Gangu’ uses the word ‘nitayona’ for ‘nitayoona’. Those    words are all written just to keep the poems rhymed.

d. Morphological Deviation, this is the deviations in how a word is formed.

In the third rhyme of tanka ‘Kanashiki Gangu’, Ishikawa Takuboku uses the word

‘yasumite’ for ‘yasunde’.W.S. Rendra often uses this kind of devation; the words like ‘nangis’ for ‘menangis’,’mungkret’ for ‘mengkerut’,’ngangkang’ for ‘mengangkang’ can be found in his poems.

e.  Syntatic Deviation, in kind of deviations, poets disregards the rules of sentence.

They sometimes put no period between sentences; make no space between words,  etc. And if we do not pay a very careful attention, it of course will make us  difficult to find out which words belong to a sentence and which belong to other,              let alone understand the idea. The example for this can easily be found in Sutardji’s works; one is given below:

“ngiau!kucing dalam darah di menderas

Lewat dia mengalir ngilu ngiau dia

Bergegas lewat dalam aortakudalam rimba


(Sutardji C.B.,Amuk)

f.  The Use of Dialect, this kind of deviations is often found in the poems written by those who want to express their emotions and feelings thoroughly but think that the standard language cannot represent what days are exactly feeling. They think the dialect of their mother tongue can fit their need for it. Darmanto Jt., for example, used the words ‘gemrenggeng’, ‘boten’,`ples kepleng-kepleng’,etc. in his poem Kisah Karto Tukul dan Saudaranya Atmo mBoten’ or Linus Suryadi, who uses the Words ‘diubeg-ubeg’,`dikeloni’, etc. in his poem ` Maria dari magdala’.

g.  The Use of Register, Register is range of vocabulary, grammar, etc used by speakers in particular circumstances or professional contexts. Register, which is also called professional dialect, is only used by a small particular group of people in a society. For example, the term ‘lembu peteng’, which means illegitimate child, is exclusively used by Javanese noblemen.

h.  Historical Deviation, in this kind of deviation, poet use archaic words which are longer used in daily language. They do so in order to enhance the aesthetical value of poem. For example, the word ‘Gangu’ in Ishikawa Takuboku’s ‘Kanashiki Gangu’ have the same meaning as `omocha’/toys.

i.   Graphological Deviation, this is the deviation in which poets disregard the rules of writing. They write the words in such a way without any boundaries in lines, space, or rhymes. Sutardji’s ‘Tragedi Winka dan Sihka’ and J.E. Tatengkeng’s ‘Kuncup’ are good example for this.
































3. Closing

These nine deviations by leech are often found in poetry. But, of course, it doesn’t mean that every poem has the 9 deviations aspects in full; one or two aspect may occur in them.

The deviations in linguistic convention on poetry is a very important thing to know and understand by those who concern, especially the critics, so that they do not hastily jump into a conclusion to consider one poetry worthless when it contains some deviations in word or shapes in it. On the contrary, this boundlessness and freedom in word choice and shapes should be viewed as the power of poetry which is very valuable.


R. A. Kanya Varistha Devi Puspokusumo, was a Japanese Language and Literature Lecturer of Bandung Yapari-ABA Language Institute in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia (1996-2006). She is now enjoying to be a Writer and a Japanese, English, and French Translator in Indonesia and overseas.


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  11. Kanya Puspokusumo Says:

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