Nyein Way is a contemporary (conceptual/post conceptual) poet, writer, performance artist, and educator. He has published four poetry books, including: Words and Tree (2004); Gaganana (2010); Anamataga (2011); and Pattalar: Xylophone (2013). Other books include the educational publication, Classroomology (1999), and poetry volumes of Conceptual Poetics and a Contemporary Poet (2008), and Nakanpadi – A Book of 21st Century New Poetics (2013). He is also a contributor to an encyclopedia of Asian Theatre, published by Greenwood Publishing House, New York, and edited byProfessor Sam Leiter.
Nyein Way was a resident artist of Mekong Art Project in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2004. He has collaborated on multi-media art and poetry-based performance projects with international artists and poets, and has given poetry workshops and readings in Cambodia, Thailand, USA, and Myanmar. Currently, he is a chief cultural advisor within the literary faculty of the New Yangon Theatre Institute.
Here, he connects with Peril Politics Editor and poet, RD Wood in the lead up to the WrICE program in Australia.
Could you please outline for us how you came to poetry?
Oh! Poetry out of life and the world around us! Poetry which never touches our life but construct reality marginalised and untouched and reconstructed and self-established-unestablished. I can’t understand how my life has been educating me but strangely and darkly I realize my poetry of my quotidian life as an alternative being towards alternative reality collaborating with five or six senses garden of life touches on body and mind. It is a ‘simplicity of life’ portrayed distinctively in my poems as a poetic voyage towards unknowingly known space, the uncreative manifesto. I wrote ‘The Uncreative Manifesto’ in 2005, expressing and telling the world that I have been running so as not to chase the intended, cruel and composed meanings around me with a sportsmanship mental mode. This is an outline of my life as poetry. Robert, I am having an unsaid say.
Central to your poetry as it is now is an understanding of conceptualism. What does conceptualism mean for you?
My poetry is my life is not my poetry is not my life is my poetry has been my world has not been my poetry is not a plane of ‘I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ourself, myself, they, them, themselves’ quotations.
Conceptualism for me has been practical and discovered and found to be true as:
- A variety of – isms around poetry, poems and the world
A working definition of the word ‘concept’ is as follows:
Area code (one): mind as mental formation when making poetry
Area code (two): ‘trans’ as trans-world, trans-experiences, trans-subjects, trans-aesthetics, trans-field, trans-zone, trans-poetry, trans-genre, trans-systems, trans-knowledge, trans-realisation, trans-language, trans-acts, etc.
[here the word ‘trans-‘ can be understood as ‘transformation’, ‘voyaging’, ‘hybridising’, ‘crossing border’, ‘dialogic of imagination’, ‘blurring genres’, ‘insight awareness on junctional reality’ and ‘the impossible transparency of simplicity as poetry’]
Area code (three): Wisdom as
- Awareness as movement of construction identity
- A powerful and insightful decision on making lines, sound, voice, concept and language of an existing and unestablished poem
Area code (four): knowledge as
- Strategies of a whole process of making poetry
- Political landscape
- Mindscaping for poetry
- Academic subjects
- Poetic studies
- Quotidian conversation
- Thinking zone
- Ways of thinking
- Learning potentials
- Understanding faculties
‘-isms’, here, is meant to be
- Ideologies practiced within societies
- Established ways of making poetry
- The end of philosophy
- Academic studies on poetry
- Controversial ways of thinking, acting, performing and making poetry, leading to a public forum poetic
- Social mechanisms around the poet
The above hiatus for poetry is what I conceptualise, practice, work, perform, make and realise conceptualism in every moment of life condition in the 21st century conceptual theatre on the run.
To that end, could you comment on the recent controversies involving Kenneth Goldsmith and Vanessa Place?
What I understand about Kenneth Goldsmith and Vanessa Place is that they are heartily trying to say the world again and again. That reality is made, seen, realised and constructed in a way that paradoxical nature of the world has been killing the moments of poetry and poetics and this humanity nature of poetry has been making the world alive. What a wonder! What a pity! For a poet or artist still having a chance to have a say that ‘I have still a chance to make poetry, see poetry, know poetry and finally accept the fact that having an awareness upon emptiness, nothingness, meaningfulness and meaninglessness, reflecting contextual mechanisms is still impossibly possible in the 21st century speedy world. That’s very interesting for me as all class and classical social capital of values of humanity can have a chance to return back to the ugly world, not as a superman stunt but as an impossible possibility of simplicity as poetry for public forum.
How do you see yourself in the history of the avant garde?
I have been talking about post-conceptual poetry with thirty characteristics or principles in 2009 (published on the website: www.poemhunter.com/nyein_way) as ‘Manifesto of Post-conceptual Poetry @ November, 2009’. I see myself as new avant garde, which is in the sense that I am beyond experimental plane of making poetry and I am in the unestablished ground of experimenting reality on sites and insights.
What does this demonstrate in political terms – in terms of place (periphery and metropole for example) as well as the political conditions of working in Myanmar at the moment? What in other words might poetry teach us about identity?
‘A contemporary identity’ is no identities at all. It’s beyond politics, politics of poetry for me. I am no identity. I am humanity. I am a poet. I am a person. I am a universe. I am a poem. I am just a mental composition.
For Australian readers, what is a good starting point for your work? And how is your poetry intended to be read, or thought about?
For Australian readers, a good starting point for my work is that ‘Don’t read poetry. Read reality.’ The question will be ‘How?’
The answer is ‘Read simply like an ordinary human being or a general public. Grasp the points you seem to be familiar with.’ That’s the way or the map to all my poems. ‘Time’ is ‘reading simply; for my poems of impossible simplicity as a post-conceptual map to light bearable.
Further links to explore Nyein Way: