Friday, 9 November 2012

Entertainer? Poet?

Burmese poet Thitsar Ni at the Scottish Poetry Library
The second and third weeks of the Arc Ventuers Tour overtook me in terms of neat bullet points on what I enjoyed and so have decided to share a few stories from my time with the various poets... Or in this case what information (once here) they shone on one of the more particular stressful logistics of the tour: getting a visa -

The highly regarded 66 year old Burmese (Buddhist) poet Thitsar Ni (one of the proponents of modernist poetry in Burma), applying for a visa to come to the UK, was asked if he had a bank account as proof of his address/identity/status ....
No, no bank account.
Did he own a house?
No, no house, he lived with his mother.
What about a car?
No, no car. I have nothing, he told the visa woman. Nothing. And it dawned on him for the first time in his life, he really did have nothing. Nothing at all.

The woman suggested he applied for a business visa instead.
He did not want to apply for a business visa. He had no bank account.

Off he went. Emailed me to say he had been refused his visa.
Try again! I say, and luckily having the email address for a former British Ambassador for Burma, I could ask her for help.
He gets himself a bank account and returns to the Visa Office for a visitor's visa.
What is the reason for his visit to the UK? asks the visa woman.
I am going for a week long poetry tour.
Are you a poet?
Can you prove it? Do you have a membership card?
No, I don't have a membership card.
How can you prove to me you are a poet?
I can write you a poem.

She does not want a poem, thank you. And she will give him an entertainer visitor's visa
But he is a poet. Not an entertainer. He does not want an entertainer visitors visa...

Fortunately the British Ambassador's husband made him accept an entertainer visitor's visa and he got his visa a week before the first reading on a week-long tour of UK. His first trip outside of Burma.

This story came via Ko Htike's interpretation, as did the photo. With thanks.

1 comment:

jane eagland said...

Funny...and awful, too. I'm glad he made it!