Maung Chaw Nwe was born in Rangoon in 1949. From an early age he lived in Pyay, formerly known as Prome, a port town on the Irrawaddy bank, 160 miles northwest of the capital. At twenty, a year after his first poem appeared in The Thriller magazine in Rangoon, he told his father, ‘Dad, there isn’t any world-famous landowner, there isn’t any world-famous district commissioner, there are only world-famous poets and writers’. In the 1970s, he travelled to Rangoon ‘a million times’ to mingle with poets.
The same decade saw his formative books, Cruel Music on Dead Leaves (1974), with Aung Chemit and Phaw Way; The Whining of the Inner Truth (1976); and The Day Maung Chaw Nwe Was Had (1979); then followed by Upper Class Water (1980), Maung Chaw Nwe, the Fake (1994) and Train (1994), a collection of five long poems.
Notorious as a flamboyant, troubadour-like poet, Maung Chaw Nwe once famously declared: ‘I’ve never thought of living life in moderation’. To him, poetry is ‘a karmic disorder and a leprosy of retribution’. His untimely death in 2002 was one of the most tragic events of the decade for his contemporaries and fans. He is survived by his wife, Myint Myint Sein, and three children. His work remains extremely popular and can be seen to have had a great influence in developing a new generation of readers and writers of Burmese poetry.
Included in Bones Will Crow, edited and translated by ko ko thett and James Byrne, Arc Publications, Lancs, 2012
‘The spoiled rice of hope’, ‘The flowers of truth in May’ and ‘After my dinner with the blue star’, translated by Kenneth Wong, Eleven Eleven: Journal of Literature and Art
Video of Zeyar Lynn reading Maung Chaw Nwe’s ‘Unpopular Chap’