- Poems of Kim Yideum, Kim Haengsook & Kim Min Jeong
Tr. Don Mee Choi 201788pp.
Here’s a book that’s fascinating from the onset. Simply titled Poems of Kim Yideum, Kim Haengsook & Kim Min Jeong, there’s no representative metaphorical label, no guiding vision for the reader, no attempt to mince together the work of these three Korean poets. This straightforward title is fitting of a slender anthology of Miraepa, or Future-Wave, poetry, which is, according to Jake Levine, “widely believed to be an incongruous movement.” In the book’s introduction, Levine provides a brief history of the sociopolitical factors leading up to Future-Wave, including the Seoul Olympics, rise of K-pop, and IMF bailout. Levine also parses out the problematic nature of viewing art as an act of capturing or responding; “from this point of view poetry is an artifact for gaining historical knowledge, not a force of historical change.” This scholar writes of how Korean women’s poetry has “always been pushed to the margins.” Because it “is written outside the historical lens of male ‘authenticity,’ it best embodies the chaos of contemporary life,” which this stunning, and raucous, collection demonstrates superbly.
The first section of poems is by Kim Yideum as translated from the Korean by Jiyoon Lee, Johannes Göransson, and Don Mee Choi. In the first line of the poem “The May of Goya and Me,” for instance, the poet dissociates from herself, or at least her name, writing: “Kim Yideum and Francisco Goya talk about The Second / of May, they stitch themselves together and pour water / into their ears, Mother whines and cries, ‘Help me’ / inside my ear.” Kim Yideum is a master of compression. In these few lines alone, through the juxtapositions created via the inclusion of Goya, the late deaf Spanish painter, numerous motifs are explored including blurred lines between cause and effect, points of view, East and West, self versus another, past versus present, and agency and lack thereof. Later in this same poem, the poet writes, “All these things are completely unrelated. Do you want / me to yoke them together?” This allows the work, and the reader, to draw conclusions without ever actually settling into them.