Envelopes with Myanmar Poems
By San Lin Tun
An envelope can be much more than just a cover for a letter; it can be an artwork in itself, unlike a normal mail envelope that has only a few dotted lines on the front.
In ancient times in Myanmar, lovers liked to compose romantic poems for their loved one during long absences. The poems are tender, conveying nostalgia and longing. The writers often used a parrot or a pet bird to send messages to their lovers. They liked to write on palm leaves called Pay Phoo Lywarbecause paper was not available at that time.
Around the 1970s, three-line poems were popular among young poets who thought that this short form communicated meaning directly to their readers. One good example of a three-line poem is Sayar Tin Moe’s E The Gyi(‘The Great Guest’):
Say Leit Le To
Nay Le Nyo
Nga Ko Ein Pyan Po Kya ParTo.
The cheroot became short,
the twilight came,
bring me back home.
Another writer famous for writing short poems is Maung Pan Hmway. He is known for his descriptive writings and poems, which are lucid, adorable and charming.
When manufacturers produced envelopes including poems, they often featured collaborations between poets and illustrators or cartoonists in which the artists illustrated the concepts of the poems.
One famous duo who collaborated in that way were poet Maung Pan Hmway and illustrator San Tun:
Bal Lout Chit Chit
Min Htet Chit Tal
Min Htet Tit Kalay Po Thay Tel
No matter how much you love me,
I love more than you.
There is an extra for that.
Illustrator/cartoonist San Tun also illustrated Tint Naing’s poem:
Myit Tar A Yay
Hlint Khar May To
Chit Tar Lay Twe Pyo Pya Mel.
If you want to ask about romance,
I will tell you about love.
The artist Pan Chi Kyi Thein drew illustrations for poet Phyar Pon Maung Inn Gyin, as in:
Mone Tar Me Tar
Khwel Khwar Tar Ko
Khoung Lone Htoe Pyee Hluu Lait Mel.
Hatred or getting rid of mind,
sharing them with striking bells.
As well as illustrator Pan Chi Kyi Thein and cartoonist/illustrator San Tun, other illustrators drew artworks for romance poems by Maung Pan Hmway, Phyar Pon Maung Inn Gyin, Tint Naing and Ko Zaw (Kambawza).
These envelopes with poems convey the youth culture of Myanmar in the 1970s and are charming and adorable.
San Lin Tun is a freelance writer of essays, poetry, short stories and novels in Myanmar and English language. His previous books include; Reading a George Orwell Novel in a Myanmar Teashop and Other Essays, The Enigma of Big Bunny’s Arrival and Other Short Stories, and his most recent work An English Writer. He lives in Yangon with his wife and two sons.