Paradoxing the Paradox
- onSeptember 4, 2018
- Vol.41 Autumn 2018
- byKim Hyesoon
Oh, actually, Mister Kim Su-Young, he already did it all and ran off 44 years ago.
— Kim Min Jeong, “A Certain Despair”
Some poets push the boundaries of poetry as a genre. They pioneer new territories for the country of poetry. Some poems open the door to a new territory by defamiliarizing everyday language while other poems, paradoxically, open a door by using naked, everyday language. Though the former case has been more prevalent in South Korea, Kim Su-Young provides an example of the latter. In the 1960s, he proved that the everyday language of the era was no different from poetic language, promoting a revolutionary language experiment that no one had attempted at the time. He proved, to use Heidegger’s terminology, that chatter (Gerede) can express the highest form of poetry. Everyday language is not an object to transcend for poetry, but a source of emancipation and creativity. Kim Su-Young described this attempt as “the immigration of language,” claiming that the new territory he discovered within his poetry writing through voluntary immigration was “the speech [he] learned from Mother and the language of current events.” He emphasized that his poetic language was the language of decolonization and criticized other Korean poems, asking “Has aging taught you nothing?”
The day I paid to open my legs for the first time in my life since hair grew out my head, Precious You Gynecology Clinic just had two female doctors. Thank God.
— “Ruse Named Pubes”
Kim Min Jeong’s poetry has been received as “poetry unselfconscious of its genre, obscuring its boundary against prose.” However, I believe that Kim Min Jeong’s poetry has instead been expanding the territory of poetry as a genre by challenging its conventional characteristics. At this point, five decades since Kim Su-Young’s death, I believe Kim Min Jeong’s attempt at a poetic language is the everyday language of women. In particular, it is the language of women who, because they live in South Korea, are defenselessly exposed to sexual humiliation and shame and oppression; it is their language of chatter. I believe this language has shattered the boundaries of Korean poetry once again.