Our latest poetry spotlight is on A Glass of Summer, Neat by Burmese poet Nge Nge (Kyaukse), co-translated by Pandora and Olivia McCannon. Pandora, who is Myanmar’s most vocal champion of women poets and a renowned poet herself, describes how Nge Nge’s “deep, probing philosophy in her poems indicates a maturity beyond her years.” About this featured poem, McCannon says: “I love its merging of physical sensations and emotions, its surprising twists and turns, the unexpected constructions which open new neural pathways, and the beautifully layered tone: ironic, philosophical, weary, resilient, and full of delicate humour.”
Sugarcane juice tastes sweet, flies breed
The stem tastes leafless as it soaks up the heat
You’re not afraid of summer though you’ve walked through beating sun
Fish out the dry leaves floating in the drain full of bath water
Don’t let summer die the way water dries
Heat cooks, heat spoils
Which part of the body feels human? Head, torso, limbs?
Life is a dry leaf swirled by hot wind
The thing that resists the weather
Mind is crystal, hard to melt when heated
Mind is liquid, hard to evaporate when boiled
Mind is vapour, easily lifted by the breeze
The residue of grief is tears
The residue of summer is sweat
Cut, copy and paste the world’s dull and disappointing sirens
When you first catch sight of someone
You groan a greeting, as if you were dying
I’m woken by the heavy metal of summer’s heat
The wind that stirs the dust is a taxi
My schizo mind is less changeable than the weather
Brutality makes the harshest music
Every being is its own instrument
Don’t overplay melancholy
Every contest between tears and laughter ends in a draw
Those of you who wish to shine by being truthful
Don’t let your blood thicken in the weather
Don’t let your blood thin in the weather
We need heat
Just as we need cold
The mind finds many places to shelter
The sea is a mass of liquid but is swallowed by the heat
An eye is a sword
Cutting through hatred with so many strokes
Don’t let your soul sleep even in pitch darkness
I will drink a glass of summer, neat, lift my head and keep walking.
— “A Glass of Summer, Neat” by Nge Nge (Kyaukse), co-translated from the Burmese by Pandora and Olivia McCannon
Nge Nge (Kyaukse) (b.1984) is a government school teacher, currently teaching Grade 7 students, and lives in Kyaukse, outside Yangon and the metropolis. Her first printed poems appeared in local magazines in 2001 and several poems were featured in local anthologies. So far, she has one collection of poems locally published in 2012. Her poems are full of sensitivity to the natural environment.
Pandora (b. 1974) compiled and published two anthologies of Myanmar women poets (2012 and 2016). Her poems appeared in local magazines and many anthologies in Myanmar. Her works were also translated in several international magazines. Pandora’s one story book (2015) and two poetry collections (2019) were published by local publication houses. She is an alumna of the University of Iowa International Writing Program (Fall 2012). These days, Pandora’s poems are more towards the inner self.
Olivia McCannon‘s poetry collection Exactly My Own Length (Carcanet, 2011) won the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize. Her translations from French include Renaissance to contemporary poetry, drama and fiction, and she co-judged the Stephen Spender Prize 2017-19. Her doctoral research (Newcastle/Northern Bridge) explores the worldmaking of poetry, translation and feminist Science Fiction.
Video art by Hyujin Kim