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Anxiety of Words: Contemporary Poetry by Korean Women

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Anxiety of Words focuses on the work of three contemporary Korean women poets whose fierce poetic voices display a critical consciousness of women’s lives under patriarchy, capitalism, and neocolonialism. Each poet is represented, in bilingual format, by approximately twenty poems and a biographical introduction. The volume also contains a detailed introduction to the Kore Anxiety of Words focuses on the work of three contemporary Korean women poets whose fierce poetic voices display a critical consciousness of women’s lives under patriarchy, capitalism, and neocolonialism. Each poet is represented, in bilingual format, by approximately twenty poems and a biographical introduction. The volume also contains a detailed introduction to the Korean poetry scene by translator Don Mee Choi, with a focus on the historical and contemporary role of women poets in Korea. The poetry of Ch’oe Sung-ja, Kim Hyesoon, and Yi Yon-ju consistently violates the literary expectations of gentle and subservient yoryu (female) poetry through innovative language and depictions of Korean women’s identities and struggles. Ch’oe employs a confessional device that opposes and resists her outside world—the patriarchy. Kim employs conversational schemes that involve dialogues between multiple selves within a woman to discover her own identity, and Yi, before her suicide, embraced the language of decay and death, while her stark and powerful language was created in relation to the lives of economically and socially marginalized women in Korean society. By challenging literary and gender expectations, Ch’oe, Kim, and Yi occupy a marginalized position in Korean society as women and poets. In the context of South Korea’s highly patriarchal and structured society, their poetry is defiant and revolutionary.


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Anxiety of Words focuses on the work of three contemporary Korean women poets whose fierce poetic voices display a critical consciousness of women’s lives under patriarchy, capitalism, and neocolonialism. Each poet is represented, in bilingual format, by approximately twenty poems and a biographical introduction. The volume also contains a detailed introduction to the Kore Anxiety of Words focuses on the work of three contemporary Korean women poets whose fierce poetic voices display a critical consciousness of women’s lives under patriarchy, capitalism, and neocolonialism. Each poet is represented, in bilingual format, by approximately twenty poems and a biographical introduction. The volume also contains a detailed introduction to the Korean poetry scene by translator Don Mee Choi, with a focus on the historical and contemporary role of women poets in Korea. The poetry of Ch’oe Sung-ja, Kim Hyesoon, and Yi Yon-ju consistently violates the literary expectations of gentle and subservient yoryu (female) poetry through innovative language and depictions of Korean women’s identities and struggles. Ch’oe employs a confessional device that opposes and resists her outside world—the patriarchy. Kim employs conversational schemes that involve dialogues between multiple selves within a woman to discover her own identity, and Yi, before her suicide, embraced the language of decay and death, while her stark and powerful language was created in relation to the lives of economically and socially marginalized women in Korean society. By challenging literary and gender expectations, Ch’oe, Kim, and Yi occupy a marginalized position in Korean society as women and poets. In the context of South Korea’s highly patriarchal and structured society, their poetry is defiant and revolutionary.

30 review for Anxiety of Words: Contemporary Poetry by Korean Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris Drew

    I first discovered the poetry of Kim Hyesoon a few years ago, then translator/poet Don Mee Choi and contemporary Korean women fiction writers like Han Kang and Ha Seong-nan. This collection was a great next step in this reading journey, and I think there is some really unique and special work to be found in the world of contemporary Korean Women's literature, consistently tight and beautiful use of language with grotesque and gothic but brutally honest themes and images. This book features thre I first discovered the poetry of Kim Hyesoon a few years ago, then translator/poet Don Mee Choi and contemporary Korean women fiction writers like Han Kang and Ha Seong-nan. This collection was a great next step in this reading journey, and I think there is some really unique and special work to be found in the world of contemporary Korean Women's literature, consistently tight and beautiful use of language with grotesque and gothic but brutally honest themes and images. This book features three poets, two of which I hadn't read before. It has a good introduction and intros for each author, and the original korean text published side by side. I only speak/read english and was only familiar with Kim's work, but felt the translations were great, as Don Mee Choi's always are, and the selections were well made. Each piece held its own and served to help demonstrate or exemplify an aspect of the author's work or the collective "movement".

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    Me entristece no poder invocar un holograma de mis profesores de Tendencias Literarias de la Universidad para que me expliquen todos los libros que me gustarían más de lo que ya me gustan si los entendiera

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I appreciated the bilingual presentation. The English was a pretty direct translation of the Korean, but I felt like the tenor of the original poems got muddled/stunted at times, perhaps because of the Korean language's grammatical structure. Having the poems side-by-side definitely helped bridge that gap. In any case, I loved the project and applaud the effort. The poems themselves weren't always exactly my style, but the ones that landed, well, they hit hard. In particular, I enjoyed Yi Yon Ju I appreciated the bilingual presentation. The English was a pretty direct translation of the Korean, but I felt like the tenor of the original poems got muddled/stunted at times, perhaps because of the Korean language's grammatical structure. Having the poems side-by-side definitely helped bridge that gap. In any case, I loved the project and applaud the effort. The poems themselves weren't always exactly my style, but the ones that landed, well, they hit hard. In particular, I enjoyed Yi Yon Ju's poems; her writing exhibited the same bare-faced 'vulgarity' and a refusal to write in a traditionally feminine style as the other poems, but I think she managed to do it with a more measured hand. Her writing also felt more infused with a very ingrained sense of despair at living, at the idea of giving life to another, at what being a 'woman' or a mother entails.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    A set of voices here that range from documentary-cool to violent, prophetic, fairy-talish, anatomical, kitschy. Poetry in resistance: the voices of the marginalized, softened, denied, turned-down of a society suddenly exploding. Ch'oe Sung-ja's work is my favorite. The most striking volume of international poetry I've read this year. Buy it and eat it. A set of voices here that range from documentary-cool to violent, prophetic, fairy-talish, anatomical, kitschy. Poetry in resistance: the voices of the marginalized, softened, denied, turned-down of a society suddenly exploding. Ch'oe Sung-ja's work is my favorite. The most striking volume of international poetry I've read this year. Buy it and eat it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julene

    This book of three contemporary Korean poets is extradinary. They have lived and wrote in an oppressed government. I believe only one of them is still alive today. This is poetry that is bone deep in experience of the urge for freedom.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Greg Bem

    Pivotal in understanding late-20th century female poets in Korea, and South Korean feminist poetry more generally. Don Mee Choi's translations are fantastically accessible. This work slices open the concept of poetry. The eviscerated result is both beautiful and startling. Pivotal in understanding late-20th century female poets in Korea, and South Korean feminist poetry more generally. Don Mee Choi's translations are fantastically accessible. This work slices open the concept of poetry. The eviscerated result is both beautiful and startling.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    I really liked how this collection was only 3 poets so I could get a good sampling of their work. I thought all the poetry was really good, but Kim Hyesoon stood out to me. I liked her poems the best. They were the most surreal. I liked how the women poets defied what a Korean woman poet was "supposed to write about" (according to the intro, they should be "gentle and subservient") To me these poems feel absolutely open, and unafraid. They wrote about rapes, abortions, family, suicide, death. It I really liked how this collection was only 3 poets so I could get a good sampling of their work. I thought all the poetry was really good, but Kim Hyesoon stood out to me. I liked her poems the best. They were the most surreal. I liked how the women poets defied what a Korean woman poet was "supposed to write about" (according to the intro, they should be "gentle and subservient") To me these poems feel absolutely open, and unafraid. They wrote about rapes, abortions, family, suicide, death. It felt like they didn't shy away from any subjects. I couldn't find any English translations of anyone's poetry except for Kim Hyesoon (I guess other people really like her too). I am going to pick up more of Hyesoon's work. All three poets vary in the quality of their titles and vary in the styles of their line breaks. I can find a lot of Hyesoon's work online (It is worth looking at!) I can't find any from the collection. The other two poets, I couldn't find their poetry at all online.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Barr

    This book was lent to me once, years ago and it holds one of my all time favourite poems, Memories of giving birth to a daughter, by Kim Hyesoon. Surreal, psychological, emotional and layered. I must own this book one day, if only to have my own copy of this poem.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Very intriguing. I loved the feeling that I was looking through a window into the culture of these Korean women. I absolutely fell in love with the poetic style and content of Yi Yon-ju's poems and want to read her two collections. Very intriguing. I loved the feeling that I was looking through a window into the culture of these Korean women. I absolutely fell in love with the poetic style and content of Yi Yon-ju's poems and want to read her two collections.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenni

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Isaacson

  12. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sharpe

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kayden Rose

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  15. 5 out of 5

    sidney

  16. 5 out of 5

    Daniell

  17. 5 out of 5

    OM

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tamara Aschenbrenner

  19. 5 out of 5

    Diane

  20. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

  21. 5 out of 5

    Margot

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leia Penina

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christina

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kris

  25. 5 out of 5

    A

  26. 4 out of 5

    Constanza

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paige

  28. 5 out of 5

    Meg

  29. 4 out of 5

    pianobadger

  30. 5 out of 5

    K.P. Kulski

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