Poet Kim So Yeon (Korea) and Dan Disney (Australia), participants of the 2014 Seoul International Writer’s Festival (SIWF), ask questions about each other’s poems.
Kim So Yeon was born in 1967 in Gyeongju. She was educated at the Catholic University of Korea (BA, MA, Korean Literature). In 1993, she published her first poem "We Praise" in the quarterly Hyundae Poetry and Thought . She has published the poetry collections Pushed to the Limit, The Exhaustion of Stars Pulls the Night, Bones Called Tears, A Mathematician's Morning, and the essay collections Heart Dictionary, The World of Siot. She is the recipient of the Nojak Literary Award (2010) and the Hyundae Literary Award (2011).
Dan Disney Alongside poems, Dan Disney’s great love is wandering, which often leads to places of sublime strangeness—the docks of Casablanca, where he felt like a morsel in a lair; drinking ‘til sunrise with the king of a wind-bitten, northwestern Irish island; collectively seasick with 300 Russian pilgrims on their way across the White Sea. He was arrested in Prague when it was the capital of Czechoslovakia, and has been interrogated by border guards in Turkey, Belarus, and Laos. He has stood at the foot of Immanuel Kant’s statue and watched an undercover drug bust, and sat on the doorstep of Martin Heidegger’s Black Forest hütte in the rain. Disney grew up in the mountains in Australia; he has worked in paddocks, warehouses, and psychiatric institutions. Currently, he teaches 20th century poetry at Sogang University.
Dan Disney: What happened in these places to precipitate this poem?
Kim So Yeon: I was in Bangkok as a tourist when I saw the news about the revolution in Tunisia on TV. The name of the revolution, “Jasmine Revolution,” inspired me to write this poem. When I was traveling in Okinawa, I picked up a hermit crab that was carrying a jasmine leaf like a backpack. I brought it back to the hotel with me, thinking it was just an empty shell, and played with it for a while. When I woke up the next morning, the conch shell had disappeared. I searched for it and found it on the edge of the terrace. There was a live hermit crab hiding inside it. I think it tried to make a run for it, and in the process lost a leg I found lying on another part of the terrace. I felt guilty, so I ran back to the beach with the hermit crab and set it free. The word “jasmine” reminded me of the incident. Because of that I was in Bangkok, but also in Okinawa, and formed a link with the developments in Tunisia.
Dan: How do you typify what are trying to do with a poem? Are you trying to find the sublime in the mundane? The universal in the particular?
Kim: I like to look for the sublime in the mundane, and return to the fact that the sublime is nothing extraordinary but common and down-to-earth instead. U hope to reinterpret the mundane as sublime, and transform the sublime back to the mundane.
Kim: I enjoyed this poem. It seemed like a bird’s-eye view of a structure with a courtyard. Perhaps a historic site, maybe a temple, and I imagined a sculpture of a deity placed in the center. If you would humor my imagination, which temple in which city and country would you say this place was, and why?
Dan: Wonderful—I had no idea someone might read thi...