Tag Archives: Bones Will Crow Arc Publications

Part Three: Bones Will Crow, 15 Contemporary Burmese Poets

Bones Will Crow 
 
 
 
Bones Will Crow:
An Anthology of Fifteen Contemporary Burmese Poets
Bilingual Edition
Edited and translated by ko ko thett and James Byrne

with additional translations by Maung Tha Noe,
Vicky Bowman, Zeyar Lynn, Christopher Merrill,
Pandora & Khin Aung Aye

Introduced by Zeyar Lynn with a Foreword by Ruth Padel

Arc Publications, 2012
ISBN 9781906570897
 
 
 
“This is the first anthology of contemporary Burmese poets published in the West, and includes the work of Burmese poets who have been in exile and in prison. The poems include global references from a culture in which foreign books and the internet are regarded with suspicion and where censorship is an industry. The poets have been ingenious in their use of metaphor to escape surveillance and censorship, writing post-modern, avant-garde, performance and online poetries.

The anthology reveals the transition of traditional to modernist poetry, the development of Burmese poetry over the second half of the 20th century, as Burma has changed. Through their wildly divergent styles, these poems delight in the freedom to experiment with poetic tradition.”
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
the burden of being bama
ko ko thett
 
 
it’s living on
sawdust and shrimp paste
to save for diamonds

it’s being a lustrous luna
in a bamboo tube
thinking ‘how dainty i am!’

it’s being a haystack fire
flaring suddenly
fading out swiftly

it’s aching for the aunt
from the embrace of the mother

what’s your key
majority in minor-c or minority in major-d
cease-fire in flat-b or cease-identity in sharp-g
give me a falsetto
let’s improvise
no need for harmony

what would you choose
want, rage or ignorance
defeatism or maldevelopment
an increase in viral load or a decrease in internet speed
sexual preoccupation or self-denial
power cuts or power crazes
a bag of rice or an ounce of democracy
myopic blitheness, escapist wizardry and alchemy
syncretisation of incompatibilities
internalisation of irreconcilabilities
the four noble truths
the four oaths ………
………………………………
………………………………
the menu is endless
the die’s been cast

your karma is you
life short
suffering tall
plenty of water
no fish, no fish at all
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
The Day (Before That Day)
Eaindra
 
 
The day before that day
A huntress held her breath
The day that annihilated itself
The day that dressed my wounds …

That day
With the cold-bloodedness of
A public executioner
Needed nerve to reconstruct itself …

That day
Of amnesia without special effects
Needed a genuine gasp for air
To purify its lungs …

That day
Could have been the moon jumping out
From the grim underside of clouds
That day
Could have been a ticket
For a journey that never began …

On that day
He switched off the song he’d been singing along to
I shelved the book I’d been reading
The nameless café bored him
And my aimless yacht anchored

In fact …
I achieved nothing
It was a day of horrid loss …
Horrifying disintegration …

In fact …
Uncertain were the days
The bitter days disfigured by experiments
They will never be resold
For the price I paid

In fact …
In life …
I was in the habit of abhorring
Gratitude
Apologies
Regrets

On that day
He mocked me
With the worst of words
I took all his barbs
And laughed them off
Epically

On the day before that day
Is it today
Is it really today?

The day before that day
I poisoned the arrowhead
That would shoot me down.
 
 
Translated by ko ko thett & James Byrne
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
The Sniper
Pandora
 
 
When you see them on a flag march
Repress your swelling bugs
No mortar shells, no hand grenade explosion
This battle must go on quietly
With a calm mind, in cold blood
With sharp shooting, trained hands
Hone your skills when the sun shines
Camouflage like a chameleon
Be immovable as a sleeper
Don’t blink, don’t doze off
Don’t miss your chance
If necessary, play dead
Don’t flinch, even if they walk all over you
Blame fate if they shoot you point-blank
To double-check you are dead
Life may end up in anticipation, in lethe
There isn’t much of a choice to make
For example …
Five enemies are approaching
Five bullets are all you have.
 
 
Translated by ko ko thett
 
 
 
 
from Bones Will Crow (Arc Publications, 2012).

Order Bones Will Crow.
 
 
 
*

Part Two: Bones Will Crow, 15 Contemporary Burmese Poets

Bones Will Crow

 
 

Bones Will Crow:
An Anthology of Fifteen Contemporary Burmese Poets
Bilingual Edition
Edited and translated by ko ko thett and James Byrne

with additional translations by Maung Tha Noe,
Vicky Bowman,  
Zeyar Lynn, Christopher Merrill,
Pandora & Khin Aung Aye

Introduced by Zeyar Lynn with a Foreword by Ruth Padel

Arc Publications, 2012
ISBN 9781906570897
 
 
 
“This is the first anthology of contemporary Burmese poets published in the West, and includes the work of Burmese poets who have been in exile and in prison. The poems include global references from a culture in which foreign books and the internet are regarded with suspicion and where censorship is an industry. The poets have been ingenious in their use of metaphor to escape surveillance and censorship, writing post-modern, avant-garde, performance and online poetries.

The anthology reveals the transition of traditional to modernist poetry, the development of Burmese poetry over the second half of the 20th century, as Burma has changed. Through their wildly divergent styles, these poems delight in the freedom to experiment with poetic tradition.”
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Sling Bag
Zeyar Lynn
 
 
Wherever he goes, in his sling bag
He carries his severed leg. If he has to shake hands,
He takes his severed leg out from the bag,
And touches it on the other person’s hand
As he says ‘Nice to meet you’
He must have gone through a lot of suffering
With that severed leg in his bag,
Though he still has his two legs intact.
When he needs reassurance, he’ll insert his right hand,
Like a dead hand, into the bag slung on his right shoulder,
To feel the sinews and greasy slime of the severed leg.
That’s how he recharges himself.
That’s how his pride is uplifted; his self-confidence restored.
The severed leg serves as his pillow when he sleeps.
The severed leg is placed on the dining table when he eats.
(Is he married? Let’s say he is.)
When he makes love to his wife,
The severed leg welds their two bodies together.
(Only then does he feel the hit, he says.)
The severed leg is his life, his past, his present and
His future, he says. ‘It’s truth’, he says.
‘It’s honesty’, he says.
‘It’s just him’, (says someone else).
Someone who claims to be a childhood friend.
He too always carries a sling bag.
 
 
Translated by ko ko thett & Vicky Bowman
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
the heat bearer
Maung Thein Zaw
 
 
in a not-so-new morning
vivified
in sunshine

i have been infatuated with
that fragrant little ear
of my dream

what a gusty wind

on my heart
a homeless crow is cawing
all my longings are in staccato
i have descended
like a melody who has sobbed herself out of tune
‘not really very special’ she says

the screechy
dry branch
soothes me in magada
not having found any cure under the waterfall

i build a tower
the height of my heart
and look out on the genesis of the world

the person who discovered fire happened to be me
 
 
Translated by ko ko thett & James Byrne
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Rose, 1985
Moe Zaw
 
 
     1.

At a certain café in New York City
If you happen to leaf through this page
The poem is dedicated to you,
Bold Rose, swelling with petals.
 
 
     2.

I have often taken
a stroll
On your burgundy lips
The humid breeze
Between
Your tongue
Your teeth
How can I forget
The scent of grapes it carried.
 
 
     3.

As I combed your drenched hair
You laced up my jungle boots.
Shall we call it a predestined meeting
Between water drops of life?
Many wrongs have since occurred.
 
 
     4.

We didn’t love Hitler.
We loved Shakespeare.
We didn’t love Mussolini.
We loved Modigliani.
We didn’t love Stalin.
We loved Yushchenko.
 
 
     5.

Columbus!
Mr. Columbus!
I couldn’t have predicted her plight
How my Rose walked the American plank.
 
 
     6.

My fragrance of Shinmadaung thanaka,
Has just hurried
From Pazuntaung Yekyaw
To North America.
 
 
     7.

Will your itch be relieved
In the land of cowboys
Riding the world like a horse?
Will you be gazing
At the image
Of a sensitive boy
From a whisky glass?
What will you be doing
During the American holidays?
How will be greet
One another
Whenever we meet?
 
 
     8.

From beneath the tragacanth tree
My soul, like the feather of a paddy bird, is marching
Towards the native land of the Apaches
Towards the Wild West, wherever you are.
 
 
Translated by ko ko thett & James Byrne
 
 
 
 
from Bones Will Crow (Arc Publications, 2012).

Order Bones Will Crow.
 
 
 
*

Part One: Bones Will Crow, 15 Contemporary Burmese Poets

 Bones Will Crow

 
 
 
Bones
Will Crow:
An Anthology of Fifteen Contemporary Burmese Poets

Bilingual Edition
Edited and translated by ko ko thett and James Byrne
 
with additional translations by Maung Tha Noe,
Vicky Bowman,
Zeyar Lynn, Christopher Merrill,
Pandora & Khin Aung Aye
 
Introduced by Zeyar Lynn with a Foreword by Ruth Padel
 
Arc Publications, 2012
ISBN 9781906570897
 
 
 
“This is the first anthology of contemporary Burmese poets published in the West, and includes the work of Burmese poets who have been in exile and in prison. The poems include global references from a culture in which foreign books and the internet are regarded with suspicion and where censorship is an industry. The poets have been ingenious in their use of metaphor to escape surveillance and censorship, writing post-modern, avant-garde, performance and online poetries.

The anthology reveals the transition of traditional to modernist poetry, the development of Burmese poetry over the second half of the 20th century, as Burma has changed. Through their wildly divergent styles, these poems delight in the freedom to experiment with poetic tradition.”
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
“This collection is important because these poems are a splendid counter to the current scholars’ obsession with ‘cultural authenticity’ of national literatures. What we have got here is not so much just Burmese poetry as simply poetry (in the cosmopolitan sense) that happens to have been composed by the Burmese in their language. It shows that Burma is part of the world and significantly part of World Literary Culture. The fact that we have both the Burmese language originals and the English translations (which are really lovely and wonderfully free of the usual attempt to ‘Burmanise-Buddhacise’ the English) makes the collection not only enjoyable to readers anywhere, but also of serious importance to scholarship on Burmese literature.”

– FKL Chit Hlaing
 
 
 
Bones Will Crow is an illuminating account of real Burma narrated by uncensored and often deviant Burmese, who dare to dream and challenge the norms. Burma Studies scholars and literature fans often lament the lack of authentic Burmese voices in print, accessible to the world outside Burma. Bones Will Crow not only fills this gap but also presents the readers with a counter-narrative of ‘exotic’ Burma often associated with golden pagodas and smiling faces. Daily struggles under crony capitalism, confronting commercialisation of female bodies, an exile’s homesickness, issues Burmese grapple with leap out of the pages of this anthology. This anthology is a long overdue, much-welcomed addition to everyone interested in Burma and Burmese poetry.”

– Tharapi Than
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
About the editors
 
  

ko ko thett is a Burmese poet who writes in English. He translates Western poetry into Burmese, and he is working on his first full poetry collection, the burden of being burmese.
 
 
 
James Byrne’s
second poetry collection, Blood/Sugar, was published by Arc Publications in 2009. He edits The Wolf, an international poetry magazine, which has published various Burmese poets like Zeyar Lynn, Saw Wai and Zawgyi. In 2008, Byrne won the Treci Trg poetry festival prize in Serbia. His Selected Poems: The Vanishing House was published by Treci Trg (in a bilingual edition) in Belgrade. He is the co-editor of Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century, an anthology of poets under 35, published by Bloodaxe in 2009, and he recently edited The Wolf: A Decade (Poems 2002-2012).
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Desert Years
Tin Moe
 
 
Tears
a strand of grey hair
a decade gone

In those years
the honey wasn’t sweet
mushrooms wouldn’t sprout
farmlands were parched

The mist hung low
the skies were gloomy
Clouds of dust on the cart tracks
Acacia and creepers
and thorn-spiral blossoms
But it never rained
and when it did rain, it never poured

At the village front monastery
no bells rang
no music for the ear
no novice monks
no voices reading aloud
Only the old servant with a shaved head
sprawled among the posts

And the earth
like fruit too shy to emerge
without fruit
in shame and sorrow
glances at me
When will the tears change
and the bells ring sweet?
 
 
Translated by Maung Tha Noe & Christopher Merrill
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
My Island
Ma Ei
 
 
Singhala for Prince Wizaya
Saint Helena for Napoleon
Tahiti for Gauguin
The Isles of Belles for Maung Shin
The Coco Islands for a baby turtle.

An island is a landmass surrounded by water.
But what do you call a place surrounded by dukkha?
Amalgams of body and soul,
Angst and anguish, suffering, doubt and delusion,
Circled by an illusory life,
I keep on trying … Yes, trying so hard to stand upright.

It was me! I was such a handful,
Such a flirt, such a red.
I’ve had no reward, just fingers pointing.
Dying ain’t much of a living!
The lady is a crank.

I’m out of shape,
A sculpture chiselled by two masters,
Here’s a chipped ear …
there’s a cock-eyed eye.
(Let them be chipped and cock-eyed).

Diluted in water
After slurping curses down
I turn a new page,
But life is un-renewed.
Sometimes I sing ‘I Seek Retention Loss’.

Look …
To purify the soul
Firstly, don’t deceive yourself.
Secondly, don’t deceive others.
In the long run, lies grow legs.

How I hate to spit it out,
Some men are too featherweight,
The copulate with their own craft.
 
 
Translated by ko ko thett & James Byrne
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
A Sun-ripened Song
Maung Chaw Nwe
 
 
Don’t chime in with
A definition of ‘the individual’
Just live within your own meaning
Just be sure
You’ve known defeat.

To punch a man
You need a strong lower jaw
When I land my fists on you
I maintain a good solid chin.

You are jawless
Yet your jabs keep raining on me
Mr. Truth
You are beyond the dhamma

What I hate most in this whole world is
That scumbag named Truth
Whose fat face is
Scarred with chicken pox.

In this life
You don’t need four, five, or six.
You only need two.
Just two, real love and
An authentic foe.

Maung San Aye, my friend,
Who has had to survive
By the smell of strangers
You need not install
Mercury lights in the town.
Towns are made of mercury.

There at Table No. 1 is
The man who lays down the law
Unerringly over his life.
Firmly seated there,
Isn’t Aung Cheimt, my pal,
A booming city?

Like Pompeii
Inundated with lava
The poet Phaw Way
Had once been a thriving city.

Who has lost
The whole earth?
Only they
Will get it back.

Maradona channelled
‘The Hand of God’
To score.
 
 
Translated by ko ko thett & James Byrne
 
 
 
 
from Bones Will Crow (Arc Publications, 2012).

Order Bones Will Crow.
 
 
 
 
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