Winged ventriloquy—a powerful new poetry collection channeling the language of birds by South Korea’s most innovative contemporary writer
An iconic figure in the emergence of feminist poetry in South Korea and now internationally renowned, Kim Hyesoon pushes the poetic envelope into the farthest reaches of the lyric universe. In her new collection, Kim depicts the memory of war trauma and the collective grief of parting through what she calls an “I-do-bird-sequence,” where “Bird-human is the ‘I.’” Her remarkable essay “Bird Rider” explains: “I came to write Phantom Pain Wings after Daddy passed away. I called out for birds endlessly. I wanted to become a translator of bird language. Bird language that flies to places I’ve never been.” What unfolds is an epic sequence of bird ventriloquy exploring the relentless physical and existential struggles against power and gendered violence in “the eternal void of grief” (Victoria Chang, The New York Times Magazine). Through intensely rhythmic lines marked by visual puns and words that crash together and then fly away as one, Kim mixes traditional folklore and mythology with contemporary psychodramatic realities as she taps into a cremation ceremony, the legacies of Rimbaud and Yi Sang, a film by Agnes Varda, Francis Bacon’s portrait of Pope Innocent X, cyclones, a princess trapped in a hospital, and more. A simultaneity of voices and identities rises and falls, existing and exiting on their delayed wings of pain.
About the Author
Kim Hyesoon is the author of several books of poetry and essays. She has received many awards for her poetry, including the 2019 International Griffin Poetry Prize for Autobiography of Death and the prestigious Samsung Ho-Am Prize in 2022.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Don Mee Choi is the author of the National Book Award winning collection DMZ Colony (Wave Books, 2020), Hardly War (Wave Books, 2016), The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010), and several chapbooks and pamphlets of poems and essays. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, MacArthur Fellowship, Whiting Award, Lannan Literary Fellowship, Lucien Stryk Translation Prize, and DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Fellowship. She has translated several collections of Kim Hyesoon's poetry, including Autobiography of Death (New Directions, 2018), which received the 2019 International Griffin Poetry Prize.
Through Don Mee Choi’s extraordinary translations, we hear the clamorous registers of Kim’s art—a transnational collision of shamanism, Modernism, and feminism—yield ‘a low note no one has ever sung before.’ — Citation for the Griffin Poetry Prize for Autobiography of Death
There is no thematic break or stylistic rupture in Kim’s poetry, despite the length of her career. The kitchen remains bloody and agonistic, demanding the preparation of yet another family meal. Knives and carcasses and dark orifices exist in otherworldly spaces. — E. Tammy Kim - The New Yorker
Kim Hyesoon’s poems create a seething, imaginative under- and over-world where myth and politics, the everyday and the fabulous, bleed into each other. — Sean O'Brien - The Independent
To portray the endless struggles against injustice, Kim combines her signature experimental language with elements inspired by Korea's folklore and legends, as well as cultural legacies from different parts of the world. — Park Han-sol - Korea Times
In these poems, the memory of war trauma and the collective grief of parting are depicted through what the poet calls an “I-do—bird sequence,” where “Bird-human is the ‘I.’” A simultaneity of voices and identities rise and fall, circling and exiting by their delayed wings of pain. — Alan Lau - The International Examiner
Kim Hyesoon continues to make her mark as a major figure in contemporary poetry with the physicality with which she enters her metaphors, breaking down separations of mind and body and of art and politics. — Rebecca Morgan Frank - LitHub
My estimation of this author and translator continues to grow with this new collection that also grapples with death, memory, and trauma but is even more deeply personal… Like its predecessor, one of the best parts of this collection is watching Hyesoon and Don Mee Choi’s fiercely intelligent minds at work. — Pierce Alquist - Book Riot
Grief, translation, reclamation. — Karla Strand - Ms.
An iconic figure from South Korea, the feminist poet Kim Hyesoon pushes the poetic envelope into the furthest reaches of the lyric universe in this powerful new poetry collection channeling the language of birds. — Poets.org
Every new book by Kim Hyesoon is a gift...these poems will remain inside me for a long time to come. — Alexa Frank - Words Without Borders
I love the way scale works here; both largeness and smallness can be forms of strength, the tiny and the epic. … In Kim’s metapoetics, the apparent futility of poetry is part of its surreptitious power. — Elisa Gabbert - New York Times