Poetry in motion: Myanmar's SEA Write laureate talks about new freedom in his country

Poetry in motion: Myanmar's SEA Write laureate talks about new freedom in his country

With its long and distinguished history in Myanmar, poetry is a form of literature to which the country's readers naturally turn. Sentimental but also rebellious, Myanmar's poets have conveyed threatening messages to the ruling military regime in their verses for much of the last 50 years. Under the permafrost of dictatorship and oppressive censorship, though, the poets have needed to find ways to write without finding half the words inked out. They've proved as ingenious in metaphor as the times have required.

The bird you're reading about, says Maung Sein Win, may not be a bird.

"It is very hard to live as a poet under the military government in Myanmar," says one of the winners of this year's SEA Write Award.

"Poets and writers alike have to use metaphors to get past the censorship and allow us to publish our works.

"If I want to write a poem to encourage Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, for example, I cannot say her name. I must mention her as a peacock so the censorship board will have no idea about who and what I'm really talking about."

A successful poet and author at home, Maung Sein Win has been speaking out for his country and the people of Myanmar through his poems, short stories and novels for the last 40 years. The Award's committee describes the 63-year-old in his biography as a respected and productive author.

Born in the small township of Padeegone in Bago Region, Maung Sein Win holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. He published three poetry tomes while still studying at Rangoon Institute of Technology: "Golden Fragrant Particles", "Ten Suns, Ten Moons", and "Footprint of Anxiety".

His first novel "How Cruel Ms. Pearl Is!" was published in November 1983. To date Maung Sein Win has published 90 novels, and more than six collections of short stories, many of them turned into videos and films. Likewise, some of his poems, several of which have gone through 10 reprints, have been adapted into popular songs.

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