Crying for No Reason
Kim Kyung Ju
Making his debut in England with Clinic Press, these poems come from his 2014 book Whale and Vapor.
If you take aim at life
the arrow tapers off the years.
If you aim at death
the blood of the target dims.
– ‘Contemporary Literature’
28pp. 148 x 210mm. First edition run of 250.
Poems of Kim Yideum, Kim Haengsook, and Kim Min Jeong
This collection brings together three of the most exciting voices in contemporary Korean poetry to the English language in translation. These three women poets shock and delight, entertain and de-familiarize, corrupt and contaminate traditional readings and stereotypical definitions of Asian women, Asian poetry, Asian-ness. While K-pop girl groups sell cuteness, marketing the female body as an object to be consumed by the male gaze, poems by these three women reveal how that manufactured cuteness is a state of acute deformity. If the male gaze strips the female body of significant social agency through a loss of authenticity or aura, these poets give us a world that shuts down the power behind that gaze.
I AM A SEASON THAT DOES NOT EXIST IN THE WORLD
Kim Kyung Ju
Exploring the grotesque, shame, and alienation, Kim’s often anti-lyrical poetry has been called “both a blessing and a curse to Korean literature.” Often borrowing the voices of several nomadic speakers, his poems speak to a transcendental homelessness where “the living are born in the dead people’s world, and the dead are born in the living”, where existence is heightened by the apocalyptic narrative of an impending extinction. Although the future of the contemporary world appears bleak, Kim, like the philosophers he pays homage to in the book, celebrates the often banal, quasi-messianic interruptions that can be found within the disjunctive logic of everyday life. As Kim writes, “While I masturbate, I age thousands of years. / While I masturbate, I am a sad civilization called myself.” The title of his book, I Am a Season that Does Not Exist in the World perfectly captures the emotional sensibility of a generation who is often portrayed as lacking emotional sensibility. While this paradox perfectly captures post-millennium Korean counter-culture, it is not a psychological condition limited to just the Korean peninsula. In an era of unprecedented contingency, increased precarity and mass ecological extinction, the anxiety of contemporary life is palpable no matter where you live. And yet, however dark the present may appear, Kim’s poems remind us that within this chaos, a singular kernel may crystalize the past, present and future in a messianic image of redemption. He writes, “Although one by one snowflakes disguise the lights of a town / there is love, love, on the side of the planet we can see / here, undiscovered, infinity. We divvy up our shares.” While the seasons of the world become more unpredictable to the extent that the only predictable thing is their increasing unpredictability, a season that doesn’t exist in the world might be another way to say utopia. It might be another way to say hope.
Black Ocean 2015 144 pps.