HomeSoutheast Asian Media Studiesvol. 1 no. 2 (2019)

Verses of Resistance: The Activist Poetry of Myanmar

John Charles Ryan



Since 2011, the liberalization of the media in Myanmar has prompted the rapid expansion of Internet-enabled mobile telephony and social media usage, which has made possible the global dissemination of media accounts of Myanmar’s repression of poets and other writers who critique the sociopolitical inequalities of the country. Poets active during the last decade continue to use a variety of formal strategies—namely, parody, satire, obscurity, acrostics, cultural imagery, and classical references—to disseminate messages of political dissent and promote the potential for creative freedom. Although these techniques are not new to Burmese poetry, the speed at which they function through social media is unprecedented. This article examines three case studies that demonstrate the influence of social media on the contemporary activist poetry of Myanmar. These three examples underscore the Janus-faced character of social media in Myanmar as both a tool of liberation and expression as well as a medium of repression and censorship under the current National League for Democracy administration.