Cheer Up, Femme Fatale

Kim Yideum, trans. from the Korean by Ji Yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi, and Johannes G%C3%B6ransson. Action (SPD, dist.), $16 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-9898048-9-9
Despite the claim that "poetry makes nothing happen," this polyphonic selection from three books by acclaimed Korean poet Kim unfolds at breakneck speed across a wild world of mutation. The background infrastructure, even in ruin, feels lived-in and corporeal: "our factory-home was warm,/ but then it went up in smoke." People and machines merge, as with a physically embedded biological clock or a gun-lipped person who exhales bullets "from every hole" like "frozen sherbet." Recurring mothers and children take strange shapes, including that of a guitarist who plays her instrument-daughter for dimes: "Surprisingly, some maternal instincts are just a cruel form of megalomania." Women form the text's backbone; the book's many instances of sex and violence range from quotidian to ghoulish, but the women remain in a kind of functional, routinely bleeding, observant depression: "give me something I don't have. Such as pain, despair, or meaninglessness." The text's political backdrop is elusive but present, and its narrators are calm witnesses to imbalances of power. "There is no synopsis, no rehearsals, everything just happens," one speaker remarks, unalarmed. In Kim's world, the ghosts never disappear, but instead linger to demand acknowledgement for poetry that justifies its own existence. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 07/04/2016
Release date: 02/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
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