I must admit to a regrettable tone-deafness when it comes to poetry, especially Tibetan poetry of the classical kind. But some days ago the web-chowkidar of rangzen.net sent over a poem about the self-immolations in Tibet, and asked me to go over the English translation. Just the title hit me, hard, with its incredible implacability: “I Will Burn Myself Again And Again“.
Quite a few of us have written on these tragic events in Tibet and have tried to explain, or at least guess at the underlying motives of those men and women who gave up their lives in such a totally courageous and compassionate fashion. But I think this one poem does a better job of providing the deeper emotional and cultural meaning of the protests than the writings of experts evaluating things from political or socio/economic perspectives. But I’m not going to say any more. The reader should experience the poem for him or herself, preferably in the Tibetan language original. I just want to apologize, especially to the poet herself and the translator, Om Gangthik, if my editing has in any way detracted from the power and directness of such lines:
All my brothers and sisters, young and old, living in misery and sorrow
All people throughout the world who love freedom and peace
And to you tyrants of violence, oppression and torture.
What I want is lasting peace and freedom
What I am searching for is an existence of equality and caring
Until I accomplish this
I will burn myself again and again.
I met the poet Sungchuk Kyi in Dharamshala in the summer of 2009. She came to see me at my house and gave me three volumes of her poems and essays, which she kindly signed for me. She wrote her first poem back in Amdo in 1993, and has written many hundreds since, her debut collection of poems being the first published volume of poems by a Tibetan women. She left Amdo in 2002 and now lives and works in Dharamshala. Her books can be obtained at Multi Education Editing Center, Bhagsu Road,, McLeod Ganj 176219, Dharamshala, HP. India.