Doctor turned Poetess Daw Myint Myint Khin released her first poetry collection in English on March 12.
“Daw Myint Myint Khin retired from her job as professor at the Institute of Medicine in Mandalay in 1985. In the same year she was devastated by the death of her husband of more than 30 years, as well as by the incarceration of her son by the government for political reasons.
“These contemporaneous ordeals threw me into a turmoil,” the 88-year-old poet said at the launch of her book, which is titled Poetry For Me.
At the launch, held at the headquarters of the Myanmar Medical Association, she said her love of poetry began as a child but the feeling intensified when she travelled abroad in 1985 to find solace for her series of losses.
At that time she worked as a visiting professor of medicine at the National University of Malaysia.
“I had never expressed my fondness for poetry because I didn’t have confidence in my ability to write, even though snippets of rhymes sometimes flooded my mind,” Daw Myint Myint Khin said.
“Even my husband and son didn’t know about my love for poetry.”
She said her imagination and courage to write poetry developed soon after death of her husband, and for the first time she started putting her poems on paper.
“I wrote poems because I could not bear not to write them,” she said.
From Malaysia she moved to New Delhi, where she worked from 1985 to 1991 as a consultant at the World Health Organisation’s Southeast Asia Regional Office. When there she had the opportunity to visit Sri Lanka, whose beauty inspired her to write more poetry.
Daw Myint Myint Khin also said writing poetry has helped her tap into a long-suppressed side of her personality.
“I attended an educational psychology course in Yangon while working as a professor, where I was asked many questions aimed at evaluating my personality. The result was that I am very sentimental and emotive,” she said.
“My students would never believe it because I was very aggressive and abrasive when I was teaching at university.”
She said the results of the psychological evaluation led her to wonder why she needed to hide her emotions beneath a veneer of aggression.
“My life has not been paved with flowers. Especially, I suffered anguish at the deaths of my brother and mother, loss of property, and fears and insecurities in the aftermath of World War II,” she said.
“I have had to overcome tremendous adversity, and I think I might not have survived if I had not suppressed the positive side of my personality at those times. But those sentimentalities and emotions that I have concealed came out in this poetry book.”
Before pursuing medicine Daw Myint Myint Khin studied English language and literature at the University of Yangon, during which time she was obsessed by the works of metaphysical poet John Donne.
“I thought my love of English poetry must stem from the fact that I was raised in colonial times, although there aren’t many others from that time who long for English poetry,” she said.
“But I’ve met young people, one who said he admired Robert Browning and another who told me he loved the poetry of William Wordsworth. I was amazed by their partiality for poetry. In fact, there are no frontiers or boundaries for lovers of poetry.”
Since 1996 Daw Myint Myint Khin has published 11 books in Myanmar language and two in English, mostly about the medical field. Poetry for Me is her first poetry collection.”