- I’m OK, I’m Pig!
Tr. Don Mee Choi 2014160pp.
I first heard Kim Hyesoon at Poetry Parnassus, the global festival of poetry which took place in London’s Olympic year. Kim Hyesoon shared the stage with Seamus Heaney. It was the last time I heard Seamus Heaney read in public and the first time I heard Kim Hyesoon, and even at the time it felt momentous. Heaney read some of his best-known poems. graceful, lyrical, and contemplative. The birdlike Kim Hyesoon wove a pattern of poems, so strangely compelling and curious, and utterly unlike anything I had heard before.
In April 2014, Kim returned to the Southbank Centre to read from the poems published in I’m OK, I’m Pig! and Modern Poetry in Translation.
Kim Hyesoon has a following in London despite her rare appearances there, and the reading sold out very quickly. As editor of Modern Poetry in Translation I was particularly interested to notice that the crowd that gathered at the Poetry Library was not the usual poetry audience; they were younger, they knew Kim Hyesoon, and they wanted to hear her read.
Perhaps this cult status is due to the fact that Kim Hyesoon, in Don Mee Choi’s translation, really does bear little resemblance to anything else in contemporary world poetry. In one of a number of fascinating prose pieces accompanying the poetry selection, Choi describes Kim writing out of the blackened space of state censorship. There is a strong sense of a poetics bursting out of nothing, creating itself out of nightmares and grotesque horrors and coming from a dark place where all is forbidden, and therefore all is allowed.