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poetry Myanmar Military in Pursuit of Poetry

As the generals imprison over 30 poets, California poet Phyllis Klein attacks the killers of poetry in Myanmar, the futility of trying to erase words with bullets.

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Myanmar Military in Pursuit of Poetry 

— Including two excerpts of incriminating lines

By Phyllis Klein

They shoot down hands filled with artilleries

of verse, beat up feet filing into lines

of protest. They shoot at heads

but they do not know that revolution 

lives in the heart. In darkness, in daylight,

minds and hearts bulleted, to make them 

stop. But no silence. Poetry sharpens its quills, 

aims arrows into its targets. They began to burn 

the poets when the smoke of burned books could

no longer choke the lungs heavy with dissent. 

Now their smoke is everywhere as poets are doused

and matched. And still they write. Scratch words 

into cell walls with rocks, or with metal on plastic— 

bitter-cold vinyl ballads. Or memorized signposts

of the mind, indelible. Troubadours of protest 

in waves of heat. In monsoons on horizons. 

On every street in the world. Pursued by silver-ribboned 

militias climbing up a tyrannical ladder. Nibs filled 

with poison-to-the-wicked-ink. Fingerprints cupping my

face, your face, walls of alarms clanging 

against silence, revolutions of clocks’ hands.

Phyllis Klein’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is a finalist in the Sweet Poetry Contest, 2017, the Carolyn Forche Humanitarian Poetry Contest, 2019, and the Fischer Prize, 2019. She was nominated for a Pushcart prize in 2018 and again in 2020. She has a new book, The Full Moon Herald, from Grayson Books that just won honorable mention for poetry from the Eric Hoffer Book Award, 2021.