Spotlight series #86 : Maw Shein Win

rob mclennan
3 min readJun 5


Curated by Canadian writer, editor and publisher rob mclennan, the “spotlight” series appears the first Monday of every month.


Since 2020, I have been working towards a full-length hybrid manuscript of poetry and some prose. These two poems are from this work-in-progress. One ongoing exploration is considering the perspectives of interiors versus exteriors.

In addition, I have been inventing forms and rules for different series of poems. For example, in “The Thinking Jar,” each tercet has a color, a living creature, and a verb in present tense. The less than and greater than symbols “<>” are included in each stanza as a visual pause. These rules channel the influx of images and language that enter my mind, body, and consciousness into the structure of poems.

The impetus for “Tumbling” arose from the personal. As I was recovering from surgery in winter of 2021, a family moved into the apartment above us. When I’d occasionally bump into them in the elevator or outside our building, their tiny toddler would hide behind her parents’ legs and turn her head away. But throughout the day and evening, I’d hear and feel her stomp and run and fall on the floor above my head in the bedroom or the dining area where I work. After weeks of experiencing irritation, one day I decided to change my attitude to view her as positive pure life energy which led to this piece. I thought about how walls, floors, ceilings can contain yet connect us.

Thank you for reading.


The Thinking Jar

an antelope asleep in the wood
I shop for peanut brittle online
violet strings <> a muscle prediction

an airport therapy session a clue
to find tadpoles in the beau blue
ether <> I draw with blood these days

a pile of shells charm pink <> I
am a dram of neurotic fixes
hatchling in the parlor

fingerling in the hot oil
fire ant eyes <> drop a shock
of wicked white hair to floor

a blackbird in the thinking jar
think I can swim from the
isle of elderberry <>

“This poem appears in the great weather for MEDIA anthology, A Shape Produced by a Curve.”


A friend tells me she wants to live in a house with no light. Only rooms with walls she must touch to find the door that leads to the dirt path beneath invisible trees. Growing from a break in the brick.

A breakdown we live inside
Our eye-cell skin-cell finger-nail
They tell you to take a break

The child who lives upstairs runs. Sometimes she falls. She rarely cries. She doesn’t stop. I lie in bed recovering. Tears on my ears.

My eye had a breakdown
Of the take-a-break cell
eye, eye, eye

We live inside our skin
Mirrors hang on walls

Look up
The floors have ears
Photo of a hand in Braille

I’m on medical leave
Specialist says to stare at a spot
I blur

A spot on the wall observes actions in the room. Moving glasses of water from one location to another. Night, fall. Hands move together, make shadows. My ceiling is their floor. A door made of bricks.

Child running, tumbling.

Maw Shein Win’s most recent poetry collection is Storage Unit for the Spirit House (Omnidawn) which was nominated for the Northern California Book Award in Poetry, longlisted for the PEN America Open Book Award, and shortlisted for CALIBA’s Golden Poppy Award for Poetry. Win’s previous collections include Invisible Gifts (Manic D Press) and two chapbooks Ruins of a glittering palace (SPA) and Score and Bone (Nomadic Press). Win’s Process Note Series at periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics features poets and their process. She is the inaugural poet laureate of El Cerrito, CA and teaches poetry in the MFA Program at the University of San Francisco. Win often collaborates with visual artists, musicians, and other writers and was recently selected as a 2023 YBCA 100 Honoree. Along with Dawn Angelicca Barcelona and Mary Volmer, she is a co-founder of Maker, Mentor, Muse, a new literary community.



rob mclennan

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