International Malay Language Poetry Competition champion, Shamsul bin Haji Ahmad, believes those with an interest in poetry should join competitions and workshops.
Shamsul said this during an interview, organised by the Language and Literature Bureau (DBP) through the Literature and Magazine Division under a programme, ‘Wawancara Bersama Penggiat Seni’ to enliven the National Youth Day 2022 celebration.
Conducted via live stream through DBP’s social media platforms and Zoom, Shamsul shared his experience of being named ‘Sayembara Deklamasi Puisi Bahasa Melayu Antarabangsa 2022’ champion in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in May.
Universiti Brunei Darussalam student Hamizan bin Isa, who is on his work placement at DBP, moderated the interview where Shamsul recounted his experience in the competition as well as his interest in public speaking, particularly as a poet.
“When I was a student, I always joined public speaking competitions, like debate and public speaking (pengucapan umum) as well as forums and doing master of ceremonies (MC) work,” Shamsul said.
“It was my first time participating in the International Malay Language Poetry Competition and everything was decided at the last minute.
“I registered on the day when submission closed, so I had nine days to choose a topic and make preparations.
“I was fortunate to have received support,” he continued. “My workplace also supported my decision and allowed me to take time out for the competition. All these positive vibes drove me to do my very best.
“Even though I registered for the competition late, it did not hinder me from doing my best. My aim at the time was to challenge myself and give my best to see how far I could fly.”
Shamsul said all contestants received guidance from the Language and Literature Bureau of Malaysia, and on hand were some of the best poets with vast amount of experience who dominate the poetry world in the 1980s and 90s.
He said, “One of the trainers was based in Egypt. We did our correspondence virtually. It was pretty challenging due to the time difference between Malaysia and Egypt. Still, with determination and strong will, I just kept going.
“Another trainer was a Malay language lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Azlan Ahmad. He guided me in articulation, pronunciation and understanding the stanza of a poem.”
The competition comprised 16 participants from 11 countries, including Russia, Syria, Pakistan, South Korea and South Africa.
“Before the competition, participants gathered for training, rehearsals and discussions. Some of the participants had yet to be fluent in the Malay language, and we tried to assist them.”
“Reciting poetry is not only about performing in front of an audience; we need to perform on the stage and use our emotions to connect with the crowd. Every poet has his or her style. If we recite inaccurately, our audience will not understand the message delivered.”
Shamsul also said that despite being the champion, there is still much to learn. “For me, the learning process is never-ending. I still need to seek guidance from those with broader experience,” he said.