In streets where soldiers open fire
on the people, I do not fear for your spirit.
Your people are strong, your spirit is strong,
you have been fighting for so long now,
beating pots and pans against soldiers shooting gas and guns.
The will of your people is a river
unstoppable at its source, taking its power
from sun and sea.
Is democracy a fruit to be tasted once each generation,
then the vine chopped down and burned?
No, I do not fear for your spirit, friend,
for you are a true poet.
The spirit of poetry cannot be destroyed.
It is lion-hearted, it roars righteousness.
I fear for your body, in a Burmese jail,
detained now by those who have no use for poetry,
only for power, who have no use for the people
beyond what they can extract.
I think of your body’s hunger. Your thirst.
Your teeth, my friend, in your bright smile
as we sat in a small room in Iowa sharing poems
about the past and not the unimaginable future
that shadowed us, still invisible.
Your teeth unbroken in your mouth
as you speak to the crowd that swells, that grows, that humbly
demands democracy, justice.
Will courage be your signature poem, never to be forgotten,
song of your body and spirit?
Already the Padauk trees are budding on the streets,
soon to cast their gold over
soldier and child, monk and student equally.
Be strong like this tree, dear poet.
Be radiant. Endure.
--Rachel Rose, IWP 2015
I wrote the above poem in support of poet Maung Yu Py, who has been arrested by the military regime in Burma while peacefully protesting. We were both fellows at Iowa together in 2015, and he is a fine poet and a kind, generous person.
Below is part of the post that IWP has shared about the situation. Please read and please circulate if you feel called to do so, and/or write poems of your own. The hope is that speaking out and publicizing this violence will help protect those who have been detained, and that they will be released. Please know that the regime has recently arrested a dozen poets and killed two.
We write today to share the terrible news that poet and fellow IWP '15 alum Maung Yu Py/Mg Yu Py/Mg Yu Pie has been arrested for peaceful protest and detained by Myanmar's military regime on charges of promoting public mischief; disobeying orders from a public servant; and joining an unlawful assembly—in short, politically motivated charges for exercising his basic human rights. We understand that IWP '98 alum Pe Myint/U Pe Myint was also detained earlier in the coup; we are gravely concerned about the safety of both individuals.
The IWP condemns in the strongest terms the decision of the military regime in Myanmar to detain civilians, including poets and writers, engaged in peaceful protests to restore their country's democratically elected government.
We encourage you to share and advocate about this situation, particularly with your elected officials around the world.
Here is IWP’s formal email (which you are welcome to share), sent yesterday, with much more information including articles from PEN about the situation: