More News from Korea: Kim Ki Taek

by on Nov.13, 2012

One of the fascinating writers I hung out with in Korea was Kim Ki Taek. He grew up as an orphan in Korea in the 1960s (a student of Kim Hyesoon’s, she said it is highly unusual for orphans to go on to college). What I remember most about him was this amazing story he told about being a kid and finding a dead rabbit in the street and cooking and eating it. It was supposed to be a tale to demonstrate the need to keep some things hidden in poems (because he got in trouble for revealing this experience in a poem).

Anyway, there’s a great interview with him over on Cordiate Poetry Review.


I think ‘Physical and psychological violence’ is common for all the people and the living things. However I agree that my poems are very sensitive to find the ‘mark’ of physical and psychological violence of all the bodies of humans and animals. (I regret for foreign readers not to find it in my poems because of no English version of collected poems.)

In my poetry, I have observed how violence carves marks on the body, and I am interested in this process and in these wounds. The body appears in various forms including all human and living things with their words, actions, habits, and instincts. These powerfully provoke my curiosity. I have been pleased to watch and to describe them in my poems. I think that they are related to my question — what am I who lives in the body?
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"A pile up of murmurings": A Few More Takes on Laura Mullen's Murmur

by on Oct.11, 2012

[I’ll just post one or two more excerpt from the grad student discussion of Laura Mullen’s Murmur]

Megan Komorowski:

Laura Mullen’s Murmur was a pile-up of murmurings (of course, it should) for me as well. The repetition of certain words and the text’s dense layout created a container of white noise. I do agree with Thade’s idea that these “murmurs” are competing voices… the speakers cannot override each other because they all have the same weight / airiness, the same weak / strong tones, etc. I also agree with the idea of “wound culture” at play here, as Mullen bandages fashion with domesticity, and an undercurrent of identity bubbles up. One of my favorite moments is in “Demonstrating Bodies,” where the pile-up of landscape is allegorical to identity. These are murmurs too.

1. One clutch purse of water-stained quilted green silk stitched with seed pearls, (continue reading…)

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"The murderer wanted to know the truth": Thade Correa and Beth Towle on Laura Mullen's Murmur

by on Oct.10, 2012

[More excerpts from my grad students’ discussion of Laura Mullen’s Murmur.]

Thade Correa:
This is great, Drew–thank you! I felt the same way about Murmur at first. I couldn’t “enter” the text (i.e., make some kind of coherent sense of objective ‘truth’ out of it) at first, but then I too relaxed, and suddenly realized that this is a pretty brilliant book.

What attracted me most at first were the simple, atmospheric descriptions of the sea and the beach on which the murder-mystery (or one of them) partially plays out. It made me think of what I love most about the best film-noir / detective / horror films: not the big reveal, not finally figuring out the mystery, but the atmospheric sense of mystery itself. (That’s what I love about Twin Peaks, and in general, about the rest of David Lynch’s work–the sense of indecipherability, the sense of something that lies beyond the clutches of “truth” multiplies rather than resolves itself the deeper you go into his work.) Finally, I understood that Mullen’s beach-side moments in the text were “clues” in themselves–the seaside beach is a “real”place that is endlessly mutable, constantly shifting, and thus “illegible” just as the personal, subjective experience of “truth” itself is.
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"The sheer number of corpses which pile up": Drew Kalbach on Laura Mullen's Murmur

by on Oct.09, 2012

[Laura Mullen is coming to read at Notre Dame tomorrow (Oct 10). My workshop read her book Murmur his past week and discussed it on the class blog. There were lots of interesting takes, so I thought I would post a few of them to suggest readings of this fascinating book.]

In Murmur, voices compete. Like the title suggests, the speakers speak beneath their breath, in breathy whispers which are hard to hear. They are Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic and washed up on the beach trying to speak through old film footage, through her diary, through dreams. The voices begin to speak toward something coherent and abruptly stop: the end, the wound.

Mark Seltzer calls American culture a “wound culture.” (continue reading…)

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"The White Space" of Olivia Cronk's "Skin Horse" and Gunnar Björling's "Where I Know That You"

by on Sep.10, 2012

One of the cliches of contemporary poetry is to talk about “the white space” of the page that surrounds the poem’s words as a kind of “silence.” I thought about this for the first time in forever when I re-read Olivia Cronk’s Skin Horse last night.

In Olivia’s book, there are a lot of poems with “you” erased:

Is there a worm in [blank] wound? When [blank] bring it up to [blank] mouth, it is so natural. It slips so nicely in. It is now

some aways off
in some town

[Note: I put in “[blank]”to show where there’s a blank space, but in the book there are just plain blank spaces.]

I love how the blanked out yous bleed into the linebreaks, so that I get this vertigo of “you” all over the page. Suddenly that “white space” is incredibly loudly “you.” Everywhere. The erased becomes overpowering, hidden behind every part of the page.


It is something similar to what happens in Finland Swedish modernist Gunnar Björling’s erasure-based poems.

From the second section of “Where I know that you” (from 1935!) (for the whole thing go here):

O sure there are,
and every human.

– you
and have a face.

I – and until I lie down
I – that one word
I – that with your features.

Never saw I
as in the morning

Here I have always been amazed at the way “saw” becomes transformed into white space, as if seeing become this act that totally eradicated the possibility of language, as if the I-you relationship has to be represented by “I/you.” But more importantly, how the blank looking then kind of goes all over the page, as in Cronk’s poem, looking looks back at us in some way.

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Minor literature and the virtual (or, the infinitive of Kafka)

by on Aug.07, 2012

Because of the interesting and at times heated discussion on Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of a minor literature that has been going on the past few days, I’ve been thinking about how minor literature might relate to the Deleuzian concept of the virtual, the incorporeal. As I mentioned in the previous discussion, I have mixed thoughts on the concept of minor literature — and less because of the anything D & G wrote about it (I agree with a great deal of what they argue in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature), but more in terms of 1) the dominance it seems to have in anthologies about literary theory (and therefore the way it gets taken out of context of their larger work), and 2) the way it is occasionally misread, I would argue, as an essentialist argument (which would be quite a feat for two such anti-Platonic philosophers).

I largely agree with the way Michael and Johannes have been discussing it. But I thought it might be interesting to try to link minor literature to the virtual in order to argue why D&G are not making essentialist claims, nor letting in a Rousseau-ian cultural authenticity through the back door.

In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze writes about a distinction the Stoics made about phenomena: somata (material bodies, the way they mix, clash, retreat from one another) and asomata (virtual events, the incorporeal). He argues that causality creates the mixing and clashing of the somata domain, and this is the world of Hume, of an inductive logic premised on the shaking ground that the future will be like the past (the sun will rise tomorrow because the sun has risen every other day). But he also claims the virtual, though it rises from the realm of somata, is not bound by the same causal laws, and instead has its own ways of mixing, clashing, retreating, what he calls “quasi-causality.” And yet Deleuze is not a mystic: the incorporeal is not a theological-sounding re-conception of Sartre’s lack.
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More on "Sincerity": Old, New, Noisy and Perverted

by on Jun.11, 2012

Many good comments to the last sincerity post. In his comment I think Seth Oelbaum nails why it’s actually an interesting word/concept/model to discuss:

JG: “Another thing I dislike about the Sincerity discussions is that they seem to be kind of normative. People are sincere when they write poetry about a certain – acceptable – range of emotions. Ie you’re sincere when you’re kind of sad, or kind of funny, or kind of you know indie rock. But the second you get too intense, perverse, ludicrous etc you become somehow insincere (or worse ‘coercive’!)”

I don’t think it’s sincere to discuss human feelings or to constantly criticize MFA programs or to be self-deprecating. If sincerity is used to denote a down-to-earth, detached milieu then I want nothing to do with it. Whenever people “get real” it seems very phony, like they’re acting like a “person,” a “person” being a role one plays. There’s much more thrilling roles to espouse, like that of a monster.

But sincerity is intriguing when used to mark writers who don’t distance themselves from their work but are immersed in it. Sincerity as a signifier for those who are excited and enthused about their art. I like this definition — one that leads toward extremism. In this context, sincerity can include a whole range writers from Steve Roggenbuck to, as JG mentioned, Reines. Both these poets seem to be entwined with their poetry. Their status is directly related to the status of their work. It envelopes them. Sincerity as a way to discuss authors who allow art to become them.

I think here is where “sincerity” gets interesting: because it refuses to allow the poem to be – as in AD Jameson’s posts – merely about a series of techniques, it refuses to allow the artwork to be distinct from author and context, it challenges the still all-pervasive scholarly model of “persona” as separate from author. In this way, it makes things messy and interesting, and it allow art to overflow both people and the artwork proper.

This type of “sincerity” can of course be contrasted with “the old sincerity,” poetry that seeks to contain the affect, the art within a very normative idea of selfhood. FOr example, C.Dale Young’s quote that Lucas found in connection with “Beautygate”:
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"… a kind of looping movement": Bersani, Aase Berg, Karl Smuts and Torture/Art

by on May.24, 2012

I’ve been reading Leo Bersani’s more recent writings, where he moves from the more anti-social idea of art to the idea that art – and by art he means something pretty Montevidayian, something very crossmedial, very wide-ranigng, not something isolated in the proper “artwork” – as creating these “correspondences”, not just between people but between people and the world. At the heart of his thinking about art is still the “shattering” experience,” art generates a kind of excess that is impossible for a traditional notion of identity to contain. It is not

“… a subject-object dualism nor a fusion of subject and object; there is rather a kind of looping movement between the two. The world finds itself in the subject and the subject finds itself in the world.” (from “Psychoanalysis and the Aesthetic Subject)

This made me think about my recent post about “The Girl and the Raven (or Crow)”. In this song the violence – the convulsive spasms of the bleeding crow – creates for me what I called a “blurred anatomy.” This is Art. It creates a kind of movement by which the identities of the three four people involved in the song are connected: girl, crow, dreamer/speaker and singer (Mikael Wiehe) are all the same. Wiehe over-interprets his dream, repeatedly emphasizing that “the child” represents him and that the crow is his “hope.” He tries really hard to assign identities to all of the characters, but it seems to me that he fails and that his over-attempt suggests this failure. The characters enter into a “looping movement” where “the subject” is profoundly troubled by the excess of art, art which “blurs” with its shattering violence. The crow has been shot it seems before the song/dream starts; we’re just supposed to assumed that there are hunters or whoever running around; but isn’t it really the song that shoots the raven? The song is a kind of wounding, of which the crow is both emblem and medium.

This sense of looping movement reminds me of Aase Berg’s infamous guinea pig poems: (continue reading…)

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Saints of S&M, or the Art of Torture and its Contagions (featuring Potatoes, Abu Ghraib, and Derek Jarman's Sebastiane)

by on May.23, 2012

At some point in our ongoing study of the potatoesque, Feng Sun Chen and I learned about the alarming existence of potato torture chambers.  The electrocution of a potato in these chambers, as scientists have discovered, ends up nearly doubling its production of antioxidants.  As this article puts it, “Antioxidant levels rose in a natural reaction usually used to survive stressful events such as droughts.”

If the potato, as we have argued, is the model par excellence for the ‘mushy body of the contemporary’ (a phrase I’m stealing from this blog’s ‘About’ page!) what are we to make of its material self-conversion under such extreme duress?  What might the potato torture chamber tell us about the shocks and convulsions we, as a culture, both suffer and inflict?

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"Tonårs Jesus": Blurry X-Ray Bodies of Paul Cunningham, Francis Bacon, Pablo Gonzales Trejo

by on May.16, 2012

In response to my last post (about the blurry CROW), Paul Cunningham sent me the following image by Pablo Gonzales Trejo:

[This remind me of The Ring’s crossed-out faces and the “swarm media” of those movies: replication of pale bodies, of dying horses, with insects coming out of the video tape. But that will be the next post, about Brandi Wells’ Poisonhorse.]

Paul has just published a wonderful Internet-book called Foamghast, which is teeming with swarmy, blurry bodies:

“…an x-rayed wound in an x-rayed mouth:
salted gasp, bloodestablished
a meat of violent plum

an x-rayed wound in an
an x-rayed cavernous mouth:
one of those tastes you’re
forced to taste”

The first thing I thought about when I read this was Francis Bacon’s paintings of his lover, George Dyer, one of which was based on X-rays of the lover’s skull (I don’t know if this is it):

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The Art of Blurry Bodies: Mikael Wiehe's "The Girl and the Raven"

by on May.15, 2012

So I’m writing this memoir which is about emigration but it’s also a critical book about aesthetics and it’s also about the body, especially the body under duress, coming apart, being tortured, and the aesthetics and erotics of such images.


My recent writing about Thåström and Imperiet obviously comes out of my writing of this memoir. And I’m going to be even more embarrassing today and write about one of my favorite songs from childhood, Mikael Wiehe’s “The Girl and the Raven” (1981).

I sat the other day and read my newspaper
a day like so many before.
And I thought about all the dreams I’ve dreamt
that have all ended one after the other.

Then I saw an image of a girl
with a bullet-wounded raven in her arms
she runs through the forest
as fast as she can

She runs with fluttering locks of hair
she runs on scrawny (“taniga”) legs
and she begs and pleads and she hopes and believes
that it’s not too late

The girls is so small and her hair is so light
and her cheeks are so flickering red
the raven is clumsy and cawing (“kraxande”) black
and in a moment it will be totally dead
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Love makes Real, Velve-teen Rabbits

by on May.07, 2012

Hi everyone, I haven’t posted in a long while because I have been feeling dead inside, but the conversation about Skin Horse and the Velveteen Rabbit, which I just read for the first time today, has made something come alive in me… or I should say, is helping me become Real.

This is more about the Velveteen Rabbit’s Skin Horse because my Skin Horse is still in the mail, on its way to me.

I’ve got a very soft spot for robots and puppets and all manner of the uncanny, almost-human, probably because I personally feel only almost-human most of the time, in terms of “legitimacy” or whatever it is that makes people inflated and not deflated. On the other hand, the monstrous and the rejected, while not quite human, are just as often, if not simultaneously, too human. They feel too much pain. Not enough thickness to the skin.

Re-quoting the Velveteen Rabbit from the comments:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”


In order to be Real, one can’t be too fragile (break easily) or too offensive (sharp edges). Is the Young Girl a velveteen animal too fragile and offensive to be Real? I’m thinking about Kate Durbin’s performance as Girl, Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl, and the innumerable tumblr girls who bleed their wrists and glitter gifs.

The ever expanding period of pubescence (when will it end?) seems like a waiting-to-become… the offensive gaudiness of girl plus kitsch plus desire for love, “excessive beauty” that sheds, regenerates, and sheds is a continual skinning under the Gaze, some kind of Gaze which will not make her real, (because it is an objectifying or restrictive one), adult or patriarchal or tumblr-al, I don’t know.


“love might be real”

When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.
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Sueyeun Juliette Lee on Kim Hyesoon

by on Apr.25, 2012

Here’s a review of Kim Hyesoon’s All The Garbage of the World Unite! (Action Books, 2012) written by Sueyeun Juliette Lee. It’s an interesting attempt to grapple with an important issue of translation – how much to emphasize the translatedness (cultural context) and how much to bring the text into a US context. This goes right along with my post about reviews from a couple of days ago. I have a lot of feelings about this review, but I’ll hold off and hear what the rest of you have to say about it.

She talks quite a bit about Korean-American writers and Kim Hyesoon’s relationship/lack of relationship to said writers:

Action Books recently released a new collection of work by South Korean poet Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi. Titled All the Garbage of the World, Unite! the collection is indeed a cry for us to struggle against—while also dwelling and finding glory in—the minor corridors, abjected detritus, and mundanely overlooked interstices of life. In Kim’s vigorous hands, these spaces are ferocious, strange and gaspingly alive.

I turned to this collection with a highly motivated curiosity. I wanted to see what a contemporary Korean female poet might be interested in, with the assumption that race and immigration—key preoccupations in a lot of contemporary diasporic Korean writing—would not be of central concern for a native author. Perhaps I hoped to see a version of what someone a bit like me might have become had my parents never immigrated. As gratifying as it is to see numerous Korean American poets getting published (Myung Mi Kim, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Lee Herrick, Ishle Park, Cathy Park Hong, Sunyoung Shin, Ed Bok Lee, to name a few) I’ve found that many Korean American writers working today, myself included, have been primarily interested in wrestling with the psychological fallout of inheriting a cultural legacy structured by the Korean War, displacement, and racialization processes at work upon us here in the colonial center. (continue reading…)

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