Zeyar Lynn is a poet, critic, writer, translator and language instructor who lives in Yangon/Rangoon. Having instigated a wider appreciation of postmodern and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry forms in Burmese since the 2000s, he is arguably the also most influential – certainly the most controversial – living poet in Myanmar today. To the dismay of many of his contemporaries, Zeyar Lynn has almost single-handedly propagated “poetry from the head” as opposed to that from the heart.
In 1994, while working as a the head of the department of English (as well as the only instructor of English) at a state university in the Irrawaddy Delta, Zeyar Lynn was roundly admonished by one of his superiors for sporting unkempt long hair, a fashion trend that was associated with "anti-state elements" in the repressive military-ruled Myanmar. There and then, Zeyar Lynn decided to leave his prestigious government job. Of that turn of his life, the poet muses, "Being an independent educator made me think outside the box, for a start. I had to be really creative in course design and methodology, which fed into my poetry engine, I guess."
After the publication of his 1982 debut, Smoke of Depression, where his poetics were not much distinguished from those of his peers, Zeyar Lynn's irrepressible urge for a new mode of expression resulted in a number of essays on poetics and translations of Western poets, as varied as Sylvia Plath, Wisława Szymborska, Donald Justice, John Ashbery and Charles Bernstein, until the early 2000s.
His second poetry collection, published in 2006, was language-oriented, and aptly named Distinguishing Features. It was followed closely by Real/Life: Prose Poems (2009) and Kilimanjaro (2010). Before Distinguishing Features, Burmese poetry had always been emotionally or politically laden.
As a master of doggerel, seriocomic verse composed in irregular rhythm, Zeyar Lynn may be the Burmese answer to Charles Bernstein. Having published more than twenty collections of poetry and essays, his influence is widely felt in the writings of the new generation of Burmese poets today. In his poem 'Telephone', he playfully muses: "Poetry is not by the language, not via the language from the language, not with the language without the language. It is written, made, composed, constructed, read, and felt in the language. Of course, sometimes it is not."
In 2013, Zeyar Lynn participated in the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa. After Iowa, Zeyar Lynn suffered poet's block again for a few years. "Astronauts who have spent months in space experience 're-entry shock' after they return to the earth […] My block is a re-entry shock (into Myanmar) after Iowa", the poet admitted in his 2017 memoir, Iowa Days.
As of 2018 Zeyar Lynn has taken, what I like to call oxymoronically, a language-lyric turn, where his poems display deep trouble both with language and life. In "Nothing, but just a will to live", Zeyar Lynn writes:
There's the will to survive. It doesn't matter how.
My regal female cat Yomiya, Queen of the Household,
having had a spat with her last breath, screams,
"I will live on"
before she makes peace with the world & herself.
There's no bottom line yet, but
it will be there
Depression meekhoe myar / Smoke of Depression (1982/2016)
Ahlapasone Sagar / The Most Beautiful Word (Essays) (2004)
L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=R=Y hnint achar kabya bayda myarr /Language Poetry and Other Poetics (2005)
Htinshar thaw ahmat athar myarr / Distinguishing Features (2006)
Kabya yayy thu ko htoe lope chin / Producing the Poetry Wtiter (Essays) (2007)
Kabya bawa shapontaw / In Search of Poetic Life (2009/2017)
Takal / bawa / Real/Life (Prose Poems) (2009)
Charles Bernstein interview and ayay athar myarr / Charles Bernstein Interviews/Writings (2009)
Kilimanjaro/ Kilimanjaro (2009)
Kabya so tar pyulope chin / Poetry is Making (2013)
Zeyar Lynn lat yway sin / Selected Poems by Zeyar Lynn, edited by Moe Way, Seikku Cho Cho Books, Yangon, (2016)
Iowa nayswemyarr / Iowa Days (2017)
Nobody Represents Me (a pamphlet of Zeyar Lynn poems tr. ko ko thett) Clinic Publishing, UK (2018)
[all published by The Eras Books, Yangon, unless otherwise noted]
Zeyar Lynn's homepage