Only the rarest of poets could possibly have the ability to revel in the motion lines and reverse Doppler of the fleeing kid who has vandalized his or her house. Perhaps only the greatest wandering poets of classical China and Japan, the ancient Roman civic poets of highest virtue and acclaim, or the most aware and accomplished of the Modern Imagists were in this world so sensorily and socially engaged. Yet it must be an even more remarkable poet who can feel and express genuine admiration for the aspiring juvenile graffiti artist’s literary power and subtlety of expression:
The kid had really been putting all his strength into writing. I bend over and smear my fingers
with the powder. Asshole. Mi-yeong’s mine.… Such gentle hatred. (“Escape Route”)
Only a poet who puts all his own strength into his writing—Shim Bo-Seon, a one-of-a-kind poet-critic trained in sociology—could perceive, appreciate and inscribe it all so wonderfully.
Shim, who earned his doctorate from Columbia University, is, like Lorca, at least an honorary member of the New York School of poets, and one can detect their presence in him. The conceptual wittiness (Ron Padgett), everyday ecstasy (Frank O’Hara), humor and pleasure in play of language (Kenneth Koch) are evident in “A Poem in –ing”:
God is a DJ mixing into an infinite version every kind of human feeling. And we human
beings just dance as the rhythm’s dictating.…That’s a blessing. How are you doing? I have
recently once again taken up poetry writing. The fact is, I just call it a poem whenever
I write anything. The other day, I attached a photo to an application form and claimed
it was a poem, not an application form, or something.
That said, Shim’s closest New York affinity—in method if not sensibility—is Ted Berrigan, who above all aimed to proceed line by line:
As a poet, I try to keep going on, straight ahead, without thinking of the end. Poetry
helps me to keep going forward without retreating backward…I get some comfort
and energy from the process of making newness. (“Translators’ Preface”)
The method of linear progression they share is fundamentally one of opposition, often achieved through inversion:
Passing many times through the same confession,
life produces colorful spectra.
Boredom is my rainbow.
My shadow is the exact opposite of light.
My language is the exact opposite of the exact opposite. (“Delusion Bus”)
There is great joy in such a method, for with it the poet’s progress is never impeded. The steady accretion of such lines—...