Moon Thu Eain (b. 1995) is the youngest poet in this collection. Bold in her writing, she has broken many long-standing taboos in Burmese culture by openly writing about sexuality.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a professional poet?
I have no intention of being a professional poet or an amateur poet. That my favorite poets would see me as a poet is more than I could ask for. I write poetry because I love it and I love to write. I have been writing poetry since 2012.
How do you write?
I don’t have a routine. I write poetry when I feel it. Sometimes, I get inspiration when I am walking on the street or I am hanging out with my friends. I try to take small notes to grasp that sensation.
Sometimes, I sit at my study table and recall all the moments and senses from past, and I try to write. Most of the time, I treat writing poem as free writing. I write and I write until every words come out from me and leave me empty.
How does rewriting and editing – working on a poem – work?
Once it is a poem, it is already beautiful. When you decorate your poem – edit it – it may get more beautiful, but over-decorating will not help. There should be a balance between poetry and craftsmanship.
Do you imagine a life without poetry?
No. Poetry is like having a very delicious meal. Eating delicious food. It is pure pleasure.
How was your writing affected by living in an unfree society where freedom of speech was not permitted?
I do not think society affects my poems. I may write about an unfree society, but I do not let it to have any control over my words. I do not pay attention to the restrictions on freedom of speech.
I want to live by my own rules. Rules that I set for myself. And I am ready to take responsibility for my poems and stand by them.
Your poems often explore what life is like for a young woman in Myanmar.
One of the reasons I wrote poems about sexual freedom is there was not much written from a woman’s voice on this subject. As a female poet, I am proud that I can give a voice to what I think as a woman and as a human being.
But I do not like it when people automatically assume that I am a feminist poet or only write on sexual topics. I am female and my poems may sound like a female voice. That is natural. But I simple try not to care about what the other people may think of me based on my poems. Because at one point, harsh criticism blocked me from writing poems freely for a while and I did not like that feeling at all. I also felt very weak for failing myself because of criticism. So, I am trying to take all the negative criticism in a positive way and transform it into fuel to fly higher. I also believe that poetry is my other life and that this life should not be molded by the effects from actual life.
Poetry is my entrance to the world, my freedom, my existence. Existence means freedom and entrance, I think. How can I say it? I have my own private depression, moods and sadness. Getting darkness is easy, but happiness is difficult. That is why I write poetry – as a way to free me from kinds of things I don’t tell anyone. Everyone has these kinds of moods. I do too. I make my poems by writing down those moods. It’s like writing a diary. Writing poetry releases me from depression. If something can’t be told to my closest friend, I put those feelings in my poetry. I escape from real life by writing poetry.
You are currently studying in the United States.
My major is computer science and my minor is art. I am thinking to get a graduate degree, or find a job in computer science when I finish. Studying abroad has not been so easy. I rarely had time to write poetry the last year. But being in a new place gives me new perspectives on life, and I am very lucky to be studying abroad. My “poetic sense” is fed by these experiences, and I know I will write about them.
When I am a bit far from my home, I can see what I did not see in my country. I realise more how much I love my country. I also realise that there are so many differences between America and Myanmar. Myanmar is a developing country now, and I am worried that my culture will be washed away by this wave of development and globalization.
Authors’ Note: These interviews are excerpted from Burma Storybook, a poetry and photography book inspired by the documentary film of the same name, produced by Corinne van Egeraat and directed by Petr Lom.
The English language hardcover edition of the book is for sale at Hla Day, Innwa Bookstore, Myanmar Book Center and the Strand Hotel. A Burmese language-only paperback edition of the book is for sale through Yangon Book Plaza.
From Nov. 25 to Dec. 4, you can visit the Burma Storybook Photo Exhibit at the Tourism Burma Building.
For more information: www.burmastorybook.com