Maw Shein Win was born in 1964. She is an artist of many types, including a poet, musician, interpretive dancer, performance artist, and a combination of those. She has been described as the place where poetry meets punk. Her works include collaborations, and she enjoys taking risks: once, she even had a dream inspire a performance.

Maw was born on the East Coast and grew up in Massachusetts. Her parents emigrated from Burma in the ‘60s. Maw’s launch as an artist, and more specifically, as a musical artist or musician, can be traced back to being a percussionist in a post-punk rock band Pearls Before Swine in the ‘80s. Music came into Maw’s life organically as she was introduced to it through collecting records and seeing bands and her father’s love of music. She was also inspired by Yoko Ono’s various arts. In undergrad, she learned more about music as well as performance art and poetry. One of her early performance art pieces was going to collaborate with friends for the heck of it, even though the kids in the park were the only audience.

Maw often visited the Bay Area, going to readings at a local bookstore. It was a dream of hers to move to the Bay as she was drawn to its rich literary history. In the ‘90s, she decided to make that dream a reality, and she has been in the Bay Area since then. She was an artist in residence at Headlands Center for the Arts and she was a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley in 2019. She is currently a member of the SF Writers Grotto.

Over the years, Maw has seen the Bay Area changing, with artists struggling to afford living in the area. But she is hopeful that artists will be able to stay. The arts community is still very much active: poetry readings and galleries still thrive.

Maw currently lives in El Cerrito and is completing a book of poetry to be published by Omnidawn.

Here is a song on Vimeo by the band Pearls Before Swine that she played in:

Here is one of the experimental spoken word duos that she collaborated on:


  • The BART. Oakland is a small place. It’s not uncommon to catch someone on the BART or at one of the stations both inside and outside of Oakland such as one of the many local artists, writers, and organizers. You never know, you may see Maw on your next train ride like any other local!
  • Nomadic Press, 111 Fairmount Ave, Oakland, CA 94611. In 2016 Maw published with Nomadic Press Score and Bone, a chapbook of poetry exploring film and perception, and body and memory. This small publisher is based out of the Oakland Peace Center at 111 Fairmount Ave. There are also Nomadic Press workspace locations in Fruitvale and Uptown that work as a space for all kinds of arts.
  • Maw is also a board member of PEN Oakland, which is a branch of PEN that started in 1989. PEN is a literary and human rights association that works to protect the rights of writers as well as foster a sense of community with each other. PEN Oakland sponsors the Josephine Miles Literary Award to honor excellence in multicultural literature in emerging and well-known Bay Area and international authors. Maw gets to help give input as to which emerging or established artists may receive the award. The award reception is often held in a local venue such as the Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library (5366 College Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618).

~ by Natalie Jue ~

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