Burmese Expressions

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Bones Will Crow: An Anthology of Burmese Poetry
Edited by James Byrne and ko ko thett
Published by: Northern Illinois University Press, 2013

This is the first anthology of contemporary Burmese poets published in the West, and includes the work of Burmese poets who have been in exile and in prison. The anthology reveals the transition of traditional to modernist poetry, the development of Burmese poetry over the second half of the 20th century, as Myanmar has changed. Through their wildly diverse styles, these poems delight in the freedom to experiment with poetic tradition.

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“Bones will Crow is an illuminating account of real Myanmar narrated by uncensored and often deviant Burmese, who dare to dream and challenge the norms. Myanmar Studies scholars and literature fans often lament the lack of authentic Burmese voices in print, accessible to the world outside Burma. Bones will Crow not only fills this gap but also presents the readers a counter-narrative of ‘exotic’ Burma often associated with golden pagodas and smiling faces. Daily struggles under crony capitalism, confronting commercialization of female bodies, an exile’s homesickness, issues Burmese grapple with leap out of the pages of this anthology. This anthology is a long overdue, much-welcomed addition to everyone interested in Myanmar and Burmese poetry.”

Tharapi Than (PhD) is Teaching Fellow and Lector in Burmese, School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London).

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On the Road to Mandalay: Tales of Ordinary People
by Mya Than Tint
Published by: White Orchid Press, 2006

Inspired by Chicago journalist Stud Terkel’s accounts of hopes and dreams of ordinary Americans, Rangoon-based writer Mya Than Tint introduces us to thirty-four of Burma’s forty million ‘ordinary people’, the a-nya-ta-ra. As he traveled through Burma on literary lecture tours in the late 1980’s, he encountered porters, sailors, fortune-tellers, waitresses, artists and petty criminals ‘on the road to Mandalay’. This is Mya Than Tint’s first major work to be translated into English.

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Backstage Mandalay: The Netherworld of Burmese Performing Arts
by Daniel Ehrlich
Published by: River Books Press, 2013

This book provides a glimpse under the curtain into the netherworld of the ancient Burmese performing arts. Backstage Mandalay reveals the private rituals of classical Burmese performers as they prepare for all-night festivals in upper Burma.

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This book, in the form of a photo essay captures an insider’s view of a fragile and mystical aspect of Burmese culture. The curtain is drawn to reveal the back-stage of the Burmese theater; a world populated by animist spirit media (nakadaws), monsters from the Ramayana Buddhist texts, princesses (minthami) and princes (mintha). We go behind the scenes to see the preparations of these performers as they travel around the towns and countryside between temporary bamboo stages constructed for all-night festivals.

With a forward by anthropologist Ward Keeler, this book is both a visual and informative testament to Burmese performing arts.

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From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey
by Pascal Khoo Thwe
Published by: Harper Perennial, 2003

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In 1988, Dr. John Casey, a professor visiting Burma, meets a waiter in Mandalay with a passion for the works of James Joyce, and the encounter changes both their lives. Pascal, a member of the Kayan Padaung tribe, was the first member of his community to study English at a university. Within months of his meeting with Dr. Casey, Pascal’s world lay in ruins. Burma’s military dictatorship forces him to sacrifice his studies, and the regime’s brutal armed forces murder his lover. Fleeing to the jungle, he becomes a guerrilla fighter in the life-or-death struggle against the government. In desperation, he writes a letter to the Englishman he met in Mandalay.Miraculously reaching its destination, the letter leads to Pascal’s rescue and his enrollment in Cambridge University, where he is the first Burmese tribesman ever to attend.

From the Land of Green Ghosts unforgettably evokes the realities of life in modern-day Burma and one man’s long journey to freedom despite almost unimaginable odds.

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