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Close Listening: Ko Ko Thett

ko ko thett is poet, editor and translator from Burma/Myanmar. He writes in English and his first book The Burden of Being Burmese was published in 2015 by Zephyr Press. It was hailed by John Ashbery as “brilliantly off-kilter.” With James Byrne, he is the editor of Bones Will Crow, an anthology of contemporary Burmese poetry and he is a translator of the speeches of Aung San Suu Kyi. A student activist during the military dictatorship in Burma, ko ko thett spent many years living in exile in Finland, Austria, and the U.S.. He has recently returned to Yangon. 

ko ko thett talks to Charles Bernstein about his decision to write in English; his 19 years in exile and the experience of returning home; the political situation in Burma at the time of his exile compared to the present; his sense of the futility of the student protests; and the international context of the poets he anthologized in Bones Will Crow. In the course of the show ko ko thett reads a recent poem in Burmese and offers a spontaneous translation. You can listen to ko ko thett’s reading, recorded at the University of Pennsylvania just before the Close Listening show, at PennSound’s Burma page <>. 



Close Listening


Conversations and readings with poets and artists, produced in cooperation with PennSound and hosted by Charles Bernstein, the American poet, theorist, editor, and literary scholar. Bernstein was born in New York City in 1950. He is a foundational member and leading practitioner of Language poetry. Bernstein was educated at the Bronx High School of Science and at Harvard University, where he studied philosophy with Stanley Cavell and wrote his final thesis on Gertrude Stein and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

In the mid-1970s Bernstein became active in the experimental poetry scenes in New York and San Francisco, not only as a poet, but also as an editor, publisher, and theorist. With visual artist and wife Susan Bee, Bernstein published several now well-known poets whose work is associated with Language writing.

Art Unfiltered


Art conversations with working curators, artists, and musicians on topical issues.