In memory of poet K Za Win (1982-2021)

Volume #2, Issue #1


A poet’s death is his life” / “a letter from a jail cell” (note by Ko Ko Thett, and poem by K Za Win)

Hate them all, Father.” Another coup is denounced, but when will Burma have peace? (note by Lital Khaikin)

How does one respectfully mourn the death and honour the life of a poet? Most naturally, by sharing their work. But, where the poet’s voice is now silent, perhaps it is also by pollinating those unnatural voids with the materials they most resonated with — ideas.

The printing of this special, combined edition of The Green Violin and The Sparkplug was prompted by the killing of a poet, K Za Win — a friend of Green Violin author Ko Ko Thett — in protest in Monywa, Burma (Myanmar) on March 3. K Za Win’s poem “a letter from a jail cell” captures the bitterness of betrayal felt by all whose labour and bodies are made to serve absolute power. It is the poet’s blessing and curse, to reveal the nature of violence that underlies the essential human experience. K Za Win was a 38-year-old poet whose life was made bright through his words, amid a period inflamed by conflict in a beautiful country that has not been given rest.

He was arrested on March 10, 2015, and held in Tharrawaddy Prison for over a year, for participating in the student protests. So in these past heavy weeks, he — along with many others who had taken to the streets in those years in their early twenties — found himself back, full circle.

But while western governments have rushed to condemn this latest military coup, there is little nuanced information made available in Canadian press about Myanmar more generally, the circumstances leading up to to February, and the riptide of the New Cold War, in this case between the US and its allies, and China —  through which NATO’s think-tanks and allied NGOs co-opt internal struggles for democracy and even the very language around ‘democratic governance’. Numerous videos are circulating of police shooting civilians like K Za Win in the streets, yet there is little coverage of this brutality that does not come from establishment media ready to parry and co-opt critique of Myanmar’s state violence into another “democratic reform” or stabilization campaign.

“A poet’s death is his life” is the title of a poem by Khalil Gibran. “Hate them all, Father” is a line from K Za Win’s poem “a letter from a jail cell”. Tagline of this issue (“For the dead are always heroes…”) is from Roger Hodgson’s song “House on the Corner”.