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2022 Derek Walcott Poetry Prize Finalist


One of Burma’s foremost poets, Ko Ko Thett writes daring, experimental poems that combine light-hearted word play with deadly serious subjects in Bamboophobia, his second collection in English. Readers will find oddball lists, linguistic inventiveness, and sardonic humor applied at times to the quotidian (chairs, metaphors, potatoes), but also to a strangulating bureaucracy and the horrific treatment of prisoners. The book explores the brutal contradictions of life inside and outside of Burma. Thett writes in English and Burmese; thirteen poems in Bamboophobia are presented bilingually.


Thett is widely credited with introducing contemporary Burmese poetry to the English-speaking world with the acclaimed 2013 anthology, Bones Will Crow, which he translated and co-edited with James Byrne. His first book of his own poetry, The Burden of Being Burmese (Zephyr Press, 2015) was the first full collection by a major contemporary Burmese poet ever to be published in English.


How do you write history

in a language that has no 

past tense?

— ko ko thett


Click here for more information about Ko Ko Thett and his collection The Burden of Being Burmese.


The publication of Bamboophobia was made possible with support from the Amazon Literary Partnership Poetry Fund and the Academy of American Poets, and the National Endowment for the Arts.


  • Bamboophobia
    Ko Ko Thett
    ISBN 978-1-938890-85-7 (paper) 
    104 pages

  • "When reading thett, one can see poetry as a force of liberation." — Sean Wang Zi-Ming, Harvard Crimson


    "A collection of new and selected poetry, Bamboophobia coalesces Ko Ko Thett’s sensual, playful, and scalding grip on language to pierce the reverberating humanitarian crisis in Myanmar." — Orchid Tierney, Jacket2


    Drawing together sorrow and humor, thett reminds us that “[h]uman language is simply inadequate for human pain,” and that laughter might bring us closer to truth." — Layla Benitez-James, Poetry Foundation

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