The Myanmar Times
Wednesday, 03 September 2014
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Myanmar poetry published in English

James Byrne at New Zero Art Space on October 11. Yadanar/ The Myanmar TimesJames Byrne at New Zero Art Space on October 11. Yadanar/ The Myanmar Times

A new English-language collection of Myanmar poetry, published in England in July, is set to be released in the United States in April 2013, after which it will be available for distribution in Asia, the anthology’s co-editor told The Myanmar Times last week.

The collection, titled Bones Will Crow, was edited and translated by England-based poet James Byrne and Myanmar poet Ko Ko Thet.

The book collects original Myanmar-language works, as well as English-language translations, by 15 contemporary poets: Tin Moe, Thit Sar Ni, Aung Cheimt, Ma Ei, Maung Chaw Nwe, Maung Pyiyt Minn, Khin Aung Aye, Zeyar Lynn, Maung Thein Zaw, Moe Zaw, Moe Way, Ko Ko Thet, Eaindra, Pandora and Maung Yu Py.

Mr Byrne was in Myanmar this month for a 10-day poetry workshop led by Thit Sar Ni at New Zero Art Space in Yangon.

He said he got the idea to publish the anthology after searching through libraries in England for Myanmar poets and coming up empty, finding only books on the country about politics and economics.

“It was difficult to find out about Myanmar poets,” he said. “I felt it was impossible, and I started dreaming about the idea of working on a project about Burmese poetry.”

Mr Byrne said he eventually asked artist Htein Lin and his wife Vicky Bowman, a former British ambassador to Myanmar, about Myanmar poets, which led him to publish a translated poem by Saw Wai in his own literary magazine, The Wolf, in 2006.

Even then, Mr Byrne said the only Myanmar poets he was aware of were Saw Wai, Min Thu Won and Zaw Gyi.

Saw Wai had gained the attention of the Western world on February 14, 2006, when the BBC transmitted his poem about former senior general Than Shwe.

“I don’t blame anybody in particular, but I wasn’t satisfied when people referred to Saw Wai as ‘the poet’ of Myanmar,” Mr Byrne said. “I felt that there must be many other people who wrote modern poetry in Myanmar, and I wanted to find out what the differences were between Saw Wai and these others poets.”

In late 2006 he published five more works by Myanmar poets Mya Aye, Phone Thet Paing and Ma Naw Ha Ri in The Wolf, and asked U Htein Lin and Ms Bowman to write an accompanying introduction about modern poetry in Myanmar.

“I made contact with poet Mg Thar Noe to translate the poems of Min Thu Won and Zaw Gyi, but I still had many questions about modern Myanmar poets. When I read more poetry, by Zeyar Lynn and then Khin Aung Aye, these really woke me up,” he said.