How poetry by Maung Lin Yeik takes a twist in Myanmar with Boccacio and Freud

By San Lin Tun

Moe Way Literary Magazine, 1980, July Issue

Moe Way Literary Magazine

Myanmar modern poetry became popular and gained much momentum in 1970’s. They often appeared in the reputable journal, Moe Way Literary Magazine. The young poets liked the flavours explored in Htinn Yoo Pin Yeik (The Shade of Pine Tree), a collection of English poems which had been translated by the literary genius of Maung Tha Noe. The youth attempted to use the techniques used by poets translated in this pioneering collection.

Conventional poets criticized them for not following the classical styles of poetry writing. The old school poets said that modern poems did not follow the conventional versification forms. While conventional poets preferred “rhymes and rhyming systems”, modern poets used “rhythms and un-rhymes systems” in their poems which resembled “free verse” and allusions to literature and the world outside of Myanmar.

A well-known Myanmar modern poet Aung Cheint reinforced: “There are no hard and fast rules or ways to write Myanmar modern poetry. They read English poetry books and translated poems. They felt inspired by reading them and tried to compose modern poems like them. In that way, Myanmar modern poetry came into existence.”

Poet Maung Lin Yeik

Maung Lin Yak

Among those rebellious young poets, Maung Lin Yeik was one of the prominent exponents of Myanmar modern poetry. Though he worked as a technical school teacher, he wrote poetry that won admiration and praise from both fellow poets as well as the readers. As a part of Myanmar Poet Union in 2010, he participated in poetry readings and literary festivals within the country. He talked more about modern poetry than conventional one.

In August 1969, Htay Win took on the pen name of Maung Lin Yeik, which means (shades of light)  and published his first poem in Phu-Ni-Nyo-Pyar magazine. He published his first book of poetry (co-authored with Than Nyein Aung), New-Oo-Ye-Eik -Met- Cho (Sweet Dream of the Spring) in 1978. Being a recipient of the prestigious Shwe Amyu Tay  Award for poetry in 2010, he became more active in propounding modern poetry, often taking on leadership roles in the Action Group of Myanmar Poets and Myanmar Poets’ Union. He worked as an editor in Myanmar EBook Online (2003-2006), Myanmar Tribune Journal, 2007 and Pansodan Art and Culture Journal, 2013. He also wrote children’s books. In January 2016, his book, Lu Ga Lay Kye Nge (Little Boy who gazes the star) and poetry collections for children was published.

His latest poetry book, Thaung Byin Baw Pon Swe Gyin (Drawing Pictures on the Sand Flat), has been published this year. It has more than fifty poems, spanning fifteen years, 2002 to 2017. They encompass the shifts in his thoughts, experiences and ideas on life and other economic, political and social issues. Here are some poems translated from his latest book.

  A Day Which Was Cut Across

The hills from which I’ve retreated,

the hills which I haven’t conquered,

though with closed eyes the desert

stretches as far as it goes.

The games which I’ve aborted

the dreams from which I’ve woken up

the moon lies above my head

while I run and stop.

I’ve passed over bridges,

and many lanes.

sometimes, a stretch of forest

sags me from afar.

Sometimes, within the reach of sword.

between ghost jetties

I’m plying.

Never touch an anchor line.

until there is steam pressure,


I’ve reaped a bundle of green waves in my arm.

This poem is about a man’s struggle to gain what he wants in life. To describe the strength of the man and his effort, the poet uses various pleasant metaphors, such as hill, dream, moon, bridges, lane, forest and moon and for the hardship, he uses, desert and sword for imminent dangers to face. While ghost jetties evoke the feeling of isolation, of being a lone warrior, the man manages to have green waves in arms, that is, he fulfills his dreams. Muang Lin Yeik’s use of recurrent images is quite different from conventional poetry which put more focus on local images and themes, rather than images from other cultures. The second poem, “The Creaky Zinc Roofs In Storm” goes a step further and evokes Sigmund Freud and fourteenth century Italian poet and writer, Boccaccio, to expose commercialism and find harmony in music and lyrics sung by an “old rescue worker”.

The Creaky Zinc Roofs In Storm

The Zinc roofs are creaky whenever the wind blows,

The house lizards on ceiling are chirruping,

The ad model from switched-on TV channels speaks endearingly,

“This is the best toothpick in the world”.

Throwing two sleeping pills into the mouth

causes to meet Freud on the next day.

My token number is 38,

The waiting 38 years old woman before me

has big butts. So let’s say 38.

It seems I’ve heard the 38th lover

says in the novel “Missing Till One Dies”.

No, it isn’t. I don’t get along well with

the poet who says he’s read Boccaccio tales 38 times.

I usually sit and sip some beer

with the old rescue worker

who does not retire from work

though he is in 83 years old.

It’s sure that his arm muscles

are not flabby hideously.

It’s sure that his reluctant walking style

is obvious.

When he dives into waves

from the bank like a lad,

Before considering that,

before the news which says 3 sharks have been found

being aware that the sea has turned into the shark

to remember that hotels are as silent as Meditation Centres

for a long time.

“Mr. Freud, that old rescue worker is a gay in my dream”.

About the plan to publish “A Devoted Couple” poetry book

by the poet who read Boccaccio’s tales,

about the 38 lady who has returned home out of impatience

what do you think of a girl

who is about to be 22 years old.

(Don’t mingle it with “A girl who is at the age of  28”*.)

Well, isn’t it novel is dead in Myanmar?

About her craving, sex and schizophrenic manners,

and undesirable scandals,

Still alive, devoid of good reputation.

It seems a bit sympathetic to tilt one’s face up a little bit.

Wait! Do you think it’s about the lady in the real world?

“Mr. Freud, that girl who is about to be 22 years old is always in my dream.”

She’s sobbing all the time in my dream.

Yes, she is.

When awoke, eyes are still wet with tears,

Wet dreams!

Don’t tease it a wet dream.

The old rescue worker is standing with a cello

at the edge of the sea.

To a girl to be heard, lyrics of loyalty are composed,

The poems in the “The Devoted Couple” are recited,

Yes, it is. From the beginning

creaky the roofs are

when the wind blows.

Note: *A Novel of Nu Nu Yi (Innwa)

(translated by San Lin Tun)

Though Myanmar poetry is coming to limelight  with translations like in the collection,
Bones will crowedited by Ko Ko Thett and James Byrne, highlighting fifteen poets of Myanmar,  there  still remain many whose voices remain unheard outside the confines of the country.



San Lin TunSan Lin Tun is a freelance Myanmar-English writer of essay, poetry, short story and novel and he has published ten books, including “Reading a George Orwell Novel in a Myanmar Teashop and Other Essays” and his latest novel “An English Writer”.  His writings appeared in NAW,, Hidden Words/Hidden Worlds short story anthology, PIX, South East of Now, Asia Literary Review and Opening Up Hidden Burma. He worked as editor-in-charge of Learners’ English Educative Magazine, and a freelance contributor to Home and Services Journal and Myanmore. Currently, he is contributing his essays, and articles to Metro Yangon Section in Myanmar Times Daily


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