Throughout the history of our literature, Myanmar poetry has borne a high tradition, forming a prominent part of it. However, not much of Myanmar poetry has extended beyond the country's frontiers. The reason is obvious. Seldom has a Myanmar poet attempted to render into English his original work in Myanmar. Incidentally, a few Myanmar nationals have done so a compatriot's poem in the native language. Much less has a Myanmar ventured to express his poetic ideas in English, a gateway to the wide world.
Now, a Myanmar national's poem in English has found its way to claiming the attention of the international literary observers. He is none other than Moe Hein, an offspring of Journal Kyaw U Chit Maung and Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay, literary luminaries of their time. He has inherited his father's features, seriousness and equanimity, patriotism and literary bent. Compared to his parents, he is virtually a blossom in the dust.
Moe Hein's poem "Head and Heart" has been published in the Anthology of Poems titled "The Nearness Of Day" by the National Library of Poetry, Maryland, U.S.A,. It is also included in the eleven best poems recorded as "Sound of Poetry" on tape.
The poem "Head and Heart" reminds me of a poem in "Bodhicaryavatara" composed in Sanskrit by an AD-7 Buddhist philosopher and poet Santideva, and also of a passage under "Buddha, His Life and Teachings" by Paul Carus (1852-1929).
The paraphrase of the Sanskrit poem is as follows:
a lamp to those in darkness; bed and board to the homeless; a minion to those needing attendant; thus will I be of service to all beings.
Heal your wounds, you wounded, and eat your fill, you hungry. Rest, you weary, and you who are thirsty quench your thirst. Look up to the light, you who sit in darkness, be full of good cheer, you who are forlorn.
Not unlike the above mentioned two excerpts, Moe Hein's "Head and Heart" (See page -34) is, indeed, a lovely lotus blooming out of the pond-bed of Buddhistic thoughts.
It is ardently hoped that Moe Hein's "Harmony of Head and Heart", a collection of his English poems, will bridge the two realms of poetry -- Myanmar and the rest of the world.
not in a way that chains you to me
by passion, pity or obligation.
What I am
will not always be as time and age
are chipping me away.
What I have
is not forever mine as I may leave them
or they may leave me under any
What I do
can't always be to your liking
and may even be against your wishes.
if you wish love me in a way
you would love a young child.
Nothing more nothing less
just a pure love called "Metta"
your heart will not flutter
your head will be at ease.
free from bondage.
(From Poems On Sentiments)