Author Archive

Specter, Mirror, Melancholia, Zero: Poetry/Translation as placeholder, double, regurgitation, and excess

by on Oct.15, 2012

(*I’ll get back to this print later, I promise)

Lately I’ve been preoccupied with translating Korean poems, and the recent posts on transfiguration and zero got me thinking about the idea of zero in relation to art, poetry, and translation.


Spirit Calling

O the name that shattered into pieces!

O the name that dissolved into air!

O the name without a holder despite the calling!

O the name which I will die calling!


The one word remaining in the heart

Was never spoken even till the end

O the one that I loved!

O the one that I loved!


The red sun is hanging on the tip of the west-mountain

The herds of deer are crying out of sorrow

From the top of the mountain that is fallen off and landed

I call out your name


Overwhelmed with sorrow I call out

Overwhelmed with sorrow I call out

The calling sound may glide across

But the gap between the sky and the land is too wide


Even if I will turn into a rock fixated on this spot

O the name I will be calling until that moment!

O the one that I loved!

O the one that I loved!


Above is my translation of 초혼(招魂) Spirit Calling by Kim Sowol. This poem may seem like a simple (and a little melodramatic) eulogy for the loved one, but what makes this poem haunting is the ritual of number involved in this poem.

To give some context for this poem: Spirit calling,초혼(招魂) is a Korean shamanistic ritual that starts from deathbed right after the one expected to die ceases to breathe. The person that is considered closest to the dying person then alone climbs to the top of the roof on which he/she holds a piece of clothing that belongs to the dying in the left hand, grabs his/her own waist with the right hand, and calls out the name of the dying three times facing north, hoping that the dying person’s spirit in the air/limbo will come back to the dying body in the room.

From the first two lines of this poem that tell us that the name is now “shattered into pieces” and “dissolved into air” we can tell that this poem starts from the moment of zero, after the spirit calling has failed, the signified is no more, and the name/signifier is nothing more than air/breath wasted. Yet the speaker of the poem goes on to cry out the broken name and its brokenness—signified-lessness—three times and one more, ending with fourth time— which is an excess beyond the three times, the number of completion, the number the ritual asks for. Not only the fourth time of calling out is excess on its own, the fourth call speaks of the speaker him/herself dying, the unnecessary death, excess. However, the excess strangely invites absence back into the poem: The act of spirit calling becomes a prophecy of another death, the death of the speaker, returning the poem to death/lack/zero.

(continue reading…)

2 Comments more...

Semen, Film, and Story-telling: History as Media in Reactions in Bolaño’s “Prefiguration of Lalo Cura”

by on Oct.01, 2012



I wrote a draft of this post a while ago, didn’t publish it, and forgot about it; but  Johannes’ post, “The Violent Pollution”:  Carl-Michael Edenborg’s Parapornography  made me decide to bring the draft back to life, to get it involved in this conversation I’m excited about.

The following passage from Edenborg’s essay is where I saw the connection between Parapornography and my reading of “Prefiguration of Lalo Cura” by Roberto Bolaño.

“The moving images of bodies that rubbed against bodies broke away from the games of identification and projection and moved into a new productivity. It was no longer his penis, her vagina, his sperm, her sighs, her breasts, his buttocks. There were anemones, surfaces without inside, uneven condensations of information and time…they were more real than the homogeneous phantasms that usually accompanies the bloating of the sexual organs, the materials of pornography.”

What I find interesting in this passage and another sentence Johannes quoted– it [Parapornography] can “extract endless excitement from the same skin flap” — is the recognition that there are “more” than the materials/ elements that compose a pornography in Parapornography.  However this sense of “more” is different from  transcendence in the sense of “the sculpture of Madonna is more than  a block of marble” ; what creates this sense of “more” is not that there is something sublime that cannot be fully represented above the materials, but that these materials/elements are in undulation, or if I am to put it in the word I used for my original draft “motions of reaction”. (continue reading…)

10 Comments :, , , , , , more...

Re: "torn-apart/sewn apart woman’s body" as Contagion

by on Jul.13, 2012

(this post is a reply to Johannes’ previous post on Leif Holmstrand )

Speaking of The Ring and “torn-apart/sewn apart woman’s body”:
It is interesting that in Ringu (リング ) the original Japanese version of The Ring, Sadako’s body is a twisted, creaking body,  moving in a way that looks like it was badly put together, like a puppet with mismatching joints (watch from 1:00

(continue reading…)

7 Comments more...


by on Jul.02, 2012

ASSIMILATION IS SINCERITY: foreigners, maids, & Love…


1. In order to be sincere you have to have interiority; You have my heart, my darling; You see right through me; You see who I really am inside, etc etc, your eyes are beautiful, eyes are the window to the soul, blah blah roses kisses put babies in me, forever future, never ending love.

2. Even in the cheapest romantic comedy there is this one absolute Rule that needs to be obeyed: The Rule of Sincerity. You HAVE to arrive sincerity at the end; reveal who you really are, accept who he/she really is; pour your heart out, fall in love, roses kisses put babies in me, forever future, never ending love.

3. Why is it that forwarded “cute” emails are filled with annoying pictures non-human love?


(continue reading…)

5 Comments more...