[KS] Korea Society event

SusanKKim at cs.com SusanKKim at cs.com
Thu Apr 29 16:20:14 EDT 2004

The Korea Society Presents:

A Poetry Reading by Suji Kwock Kim

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 at 6:30PM
The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue,  8th Floor (entrance on SW corner of 57th Street)
New York, NY
Info:  Grace Chon at 212-759-7525 x301 grace.ny at koreasociety.org

Winner of the 2003 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets,  
selected by Yusef Komunyakaa

Winner of the 2004 Bay Area Book Reviewers Award

Finalist,  2004 Griffin International Poetry Prize,  selected by Billy 
Collins (winner announced June 3)

Notable Book,  2004 Kiriyama Pacific Rim Awards




"I wish I had space in which to consider at length the important debut of 
NOTES FOM THE DIVIDED COUNTRY by Suji Kwock Kim. It seems to me that this first 
book (already acknowledged by the Walt Whitman Award) deserves close and 
celebratory attention.

Suji Kwock Kim has written a book of unforgettable poems; she has found a 
way, through the medium of language, to allow readers into a double consciousness 
that is, finally, the poet's undivided mind. She writes of the "old country" 
reborn in the New World, of her ancestors in Korea during the Japanese 
occupation and her immediate family in America: the Trees of Unknowing and Knowledge. 

In one of the most inspired and brilliant poems, she considers sparrows and 
their symbology: "How to stay faithful / to earth, how to keep from betraying / 
its music " she wonders --- as she writes of the Earth that both divides us 
and brings us together." --- Carol Muske-Dukes



"I've been struck by the rich and complicated way that many young 
Asian-American poets,  especially women,  have been dealing with their ancestry and 
engaging the past.  These poets are creating an art that looks forward by turning 
back.  Their work confronts history and comes to terms with a wide range of 
cultural influences,  a complex and divided inheritance.

I am deeply moved and instructed by Suji Kwock Kim's brilliant debut 
collection, which moves fluently between the living and the dead, the Korean past and 
the Asian American present.  NOTES FROM THE DIVIDED COUNTRY is a heartfelt, 
blood-soaked work of flights and explorations, of personal probings and 
historical exposures, of suffering and responsibility, of tribute and witness, of 
American soul-making."

Her work is shadowed by the question of what is passed on through a long 
history.  She tracks the generations through strong poems for her 
great-grandparents,  her grandmother,  her father and,  especially,  her mother.  She also 
traces the tormented,  catastrophic history of countless others,  many of them 
nameless,  who figured in the making of more than half-a-million new Americans." 
--- Edward Hirsch 



"The four parts of Ms. Kim's impressive first collection contain poems of 
family, history, love, and vision, respectively. The first part is 
punch-in-the-guts powerful. After opening with the virtuosic "Generation," tracing the 
poet's journey from before conception to implantation in the womb, the poems lay 
out a painful familial scenario, the soul-searing climax of which comes in "ST 
RAGE," in which sadistic boys torment the poet's handicapped brother. Anguish 
also pervades the second section's preoccupation with the half-century of 
horror Ms. Kim's ancestral homeland, Korea, endured, first under Japanese 
occupation, then in the Korean War; members of Ms. Kim's family played historic roles 
then, and they figure as actors and dedicatees here. The third section's poems 
on love are analytic, personal, and sensual, though seldom all at once; 
whereas pain predominated in the first two sections, emotional intensity preoccupies 
these poems. In the last section, Ms. Kim applies that intensity to 
observation of art and nature, so strikingly that, for instance, having read "On 
Sparrows," you may never regard those common birds as commonplace again." --- Ray 



"Suji Kwock Kim's title NOTES FROM THE DIVIDED COUNTRY refers not only to the 
Koreas North and South and to all the Americas,  but also to the countries of 
the mind.  Travelling between past and present,  Kim's powerful fictive 
imagination creates almost unbearably realistic enactments of war-zones once 
inhabited by her parents,  grandparents,  and even her great-grandparents.  If 
"death is no remedy for having been born",  as she says in "The Tree of Knowledge", 
 then perhaps poetry is:  poetry as expiation,  history,  memory treasure 
trove.  In highly sophisticated verse,  with lines long and lean or short and 
subtle,  an exorcism seems to take place through the precision and music of her 
language.  In poems about the couple next door in San Francisco,  or the poet 
on the road to Skye in Scotland,  or in the streets of Seoul on the Buddha's 
birthday,  Suji Kwock Kim celebrates being alive and well in the complexities of 
the present moment." --- Billy Collins,  Bill Manhire,  Phyllis Webb



"Suji Kwock Kim's Whitman Award-winning collection arrives at a moment when 
many Asian American poets bristle at the ghettoization of ethnic poetries in 
American letters. Kim's NOTES FROM THE DIVIDED COUNTRY opens with an almost 
mythic retelling of the poet's conception in the "labyrinth of mother's body." 
After this surreal, prenatal fugue, the book shifts gears and launches into a 
series of first-person accounts of political atrocities perpetrated by the 
Japanese during the forced colonial assimilation of Korea and later by the Americans 
during the Korean War.  An epigraph by Brecht alerts us to the fact that 
these imaginary perspectives are a deliberate attempt to flunk the ethnic litmus 
test of "authenticity." Citizens from Kim's home village are "blown to 
hieroglyphs of viscera" --- a piercing, uncanny image that doubles as a critique of 
the aestheticization of historical trauma." --- Chris Chen


from the back cover:

"This is a brilliant, unerasable book.  It begins with the descent of the 
soul into flesh, which is also the descent into the catastrophic, tormenting 
history of family and nation.  Kim does not turn away from this history but takes 
it into herself, making poems that give it indelible voice.  The poems as a 
whole surprise not only by their ambition and ferocity but by their delicacy, 
their sudden reserves of stillness and contemplation.  If there is justice, the 
future will look back on this book as a major event." 



"NOTES FROM THE DIVIDED COUNTRY springs out of a civil war in the soul. . . 
.[Its] revelation of horror is so explicit, so necessary; a facing up to 
history that frees the speaker. . . .[She] seem[s] to know that only an 
approximation of the truth can make [her] whole again, that even in the negative there's 
nobility.  To understand the gift of the senses is a blessing.  It is a 
graceful, powerful trope. . . .There's love and sadness at the root of these poems.  
There is also a bridge, a language that mends."  

--- Yusef Komunyakaa,  winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for poetry 

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