Saturday, August 20, 2016

Two poems by Kyi May Kaung, one original, one a translation by me from Tin Moe--

http://asean.org.nz/have-i-become-stateless/


The latest part of a Southeast Asia Globe series that shines a light on the region’s finest poetry – this month verse from Myanmar


Compiled by Nathan A. Thompson  Illustration by Oliver Raw
Poets from Myanmar are usually outlaws by default and they often end up in jail, which is why so many live in exile. It’s either that or prison.
Illustration by Oliver Raw
Illustration by Oliver Raw
Take the late Tin Moe. By the time he joined Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy he was already a respected poet and intellectual. His politics earned him four years in the infamous Insein prison where, as an extra cruelty, he was denied reading or writing materials. After his release he fled the country and died in 2007 while exiled in Los Angeles.
In this extract from his poem “Awake from a Homesick Dream” there is a strong sense of disorientation in lines such as “the fluctuating graph of my dream / deformed”. Then the poet is “wandering in Germany, England, Belgium and Holland” as if unsure if he is still dreaming or awake. This sets the tone for the rest of the poem, one of woozy unreality where the poet struggles to find a sense of terra firma, “that path I believe / still vague”. The only safe, sequential descriptions occur when the poet describes his home life, where he would “spread a mat / compose poems and read / hum songs / sip tea”. In these brief lines the poem loses its shaky, bewildered tone and finds stability in memories of home. 
Many of Tin Moe’s poems were translated into English by fellow Myanmar poet Kyi May Kaung. Kaung received political asylum in the US in 1989 after the failure of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Myanmar, and she has been railing against the prevailing military junta with paintbrush and pen ever since. Her poem “Geese” opens with a question: “Are those clouds or are those mountains[?]” By not providing an answer the poet shuns exactitude and opens the door to possibility. The setting is dawn – a time of new beginnings, uncertainty and possibility. Only the geese seem sure of themselves, “flying in one straight / line”. The poet muses: “I must ask the geese”, but this intention is not enacted, so it remains a possibility, a dream.
A committed activist and campaigner for a free and democratic Myanmar, Kaung’s idealism is writ large in this poem. For her, the way forward is clear and hopeful even if the details are “with the mist”. 
“Geese”
by Kyi May Kaung
Are those clouds
or are those mountains
rising – from the
horizon – with the mist.
I must ask the geese
honking at dawn
flying in one straight
line – across the
lake – their shadows below
them.
“Awake from a homesick dream” (extract)
By Tin Moe
The fluctuating graph
of my dream
deformed and curved
inverted, 
sprawled. 

Wandering in Germany, England,
Belgium and Holland,
Have I become stateless?
I miss this, I miss that,
at each of life’s junctures 
one thing today, one thing tomorrow
my mind dyed 
a dull colour,
forests on fire,
my winter dreams
deranged.

My own country without peace 
I take refuge in other nations 
How can I feel secure?
The path I believe 
still vague, 
the door not yet ajar. 

In my village, country
I would spread a mat
compose poems and read, 
hum songs, 
sip tea, 
pick at tea leaf salad, 
my hope  
a life where I can do as I want. 
When will my wish be fulfilled? 
I search but I cannot see.
Keep reading:
“Image nation” – From its people to its palaces, its rituals to its stunning natural beauty, Myanmar is a land of mystery and intrigue. Photographer Nathan Horton offers budding shutterbugs some insider tips for documenting their travels using a selection of his favourite frames from the Land of Golden Pagodas
The post “Have I become stateless?” appeared first on Southeast Asia Globe Magazine.
Source: ASEAN

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