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Muhammad Haji Salleh Poetry Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1110 words Published: 14th Jun 2017

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Wikipedia defined that self-identity is the mental and conceptual understanding and persistent regard that sentient beings hold for their own existence. In other words, it is the sum total of a being’s knowledge and understanding of his or her self. Components of the self-concept include physical, psychological, and social attributes, which can be influenced by the individual’s attitudes, habits, beliefs and ideas. These components and attributes can be condensed to the general concepts of self-image and the self-esteem.

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In our own culture and society, we are taught by our parents and the elderly to value or own culture and custom and must not feel that we are superior to others after we had accumulated a lot of new knolwedges and experiences. We should not turn our back to our own society, roots and land after we had been abroad but we should be proud of our own identity. This is what is lacking in most of us in our community. We tend to forget our roots and we are not proud of being part of a particular culture or race.

In this research paper, I have choosen to analyze two masterpiece from our Malaysian writer.This study is based on Muhammad Haji Salleh’s poems, which is “si tenggang homecoming” and “the traveler” .The overall aim of this paper is to analyze and discuss the portrayal of the theme searching of self-identity. In this research paper, I will also include the two poems implications of using these two poems towards education.

2.0 Background of the author

Muhammad Haji Salleh (1942- ) is a well-known Malaysian poet, critic, translator, editor and researcher. He is the sixth Malaysian Laureate. He was born on 26th March 1942 in Taping, Perak. Muhammad had most of his education in Malaysia; he received his early education at Bukit Mertajam High School and Malay College Kuala Kangsar. However, he did his teacher training at Lodge Teacher Training College in England. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Malaya (Singapore), Masters of Arts from the University of Malaya in 1970 and a Ph.D from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States of America in 1973. In 1977, he was a Professor under the Fullbright-Hays programme and taught at the North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA. He is a professor at the Department of Malay Letters in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and was once appointed as the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities as well as Head of Institute of Malay Language and Literature. Muhammad Haji Salleh is the only Malaysian poet who is studied in the Literature English programme.

3.0 The Author’s Writing Career

Muhammad Haji Salleh began writing poetry in 1963 when he was a student at the Malayan Teachers’ College, Brinsford Lodge, England. Muhammad started writing much earlier but only towards the late 1960s that he became well known in Malaysia. Muhammad has lived much of his life abroad in the United States while he is pursuing his studies and most of his poems are written in English. As his educational background was centered on Bahasa Malaysia and English language, he writes in both languages. Later, he devoted much of his time to write in Bahasa Malaysia. He often translated his own Malay poems and other local Malay poems into English. T.S.Eliot and W.H.Auden who he admired influenced the English poems that he wrote. The beauty of the language and the messages convey in the poems written by these two poets had inspired Muhammad Haji Salleh to write English poems.

Muhammad Haji Salleh has received various awards for his works, both at national and international levels. Muhammad won the Asean Literary Award in Bangkok, Thailand. A Number of his poems won various prizes and in 1972, he was awarded the Asean Literary Award for his anthology of poems Perjalanan si Tenggang II, which was subsequently translated in English in 1979.He was made a National Laureate in 1991 and was awarded the Hadiah Sastera Kebangsaan in 1976, the Australian Cultural Award to Asian Artists in 1975 and the Asean Literary Award (Poetry) in 1977. Writing both in Bahasa Malaysia and English, Muhammad has devoted his life to the development of the Malaysian literary tradition. He is not only well known as a poet but also as a literary scholar.

As a post-colonial poet and a professor of literature, Muhammad is known for his passionate quest for identity. In fact, the quest of identity is reflected in his poems especially in the outstanding collections of Poems of the Outsider (1973), The Travel Journals of Si Tenggang II (1979), Time and Its People (1978), Poems from the Malay Annals (1981) and Rowing Down Two Rivers (2000).

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4.0 Background of The Poems: si tenggang’s homecoming and the traveler

Muhammad is known for his passionate quest for identity through his writings. It is very clear that his works explore the human condition and problems related to individuality and community life. These two poems: si tenggang homecoming and the traveler are able to portray Malay traditions, culture and beliefs because it deals with a universal theme, which are the issue of identity, selfhood and the essence of being oneself. Both of these poems reflect the poet’s concern for the Malay society and explore the human condition and problems related to identity.

Muhammad consistently wrote about the theme of seeking for self-identity because he lived most of his life abroad and influenced by the western world, where he stayed there for many years but he never forgot that he belongs to the Malay society; his mother tongue is Malay which is the language of his native land. Although he writes in English but he still talks about the village life, the city and its people and the Malay society as a whole. That is why both of these poem generally consist of encourages criticisms or opinions that differ from the Malay culture. It is because traditional society generally does not encourage criticisms or opinions that differ from accepted beliefs or those, which have been taken to be a way of life.

5.0 Discussion on si tenggang’s homecoming and the traveler.

Si tenggang’s homecoming poem consists of six stanzas. Upon closer study, it is a reflection of si tenggang’s experiences as a traveler, who had been abroad for a while and returned to his homeland. The persona is telling the reader that in the process of discovering himself; he has not lost his sense of inheritance and roots. This can be seen through stanza 3, line 31-34,


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