Have You Been Feeling Blue These Days
Sung Gi Kim is an award-winning journalist and photographer who writes about Asian affairs with a focus on the Korean Peninsula. He is a Seoul correspondent and producer for Thomson Reuters. He was part of a team that produced a documentary on South Korea’s education system, which won silver at the 2016 New York Festivals. His work has been published in The Sunday Times, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Nikkei Asian Review and United Press International.
Eunsong Kim is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Northeastern University. Her book project in progress, The Politics of Collecting: Property, Race & Aesthetic Formations considers how legal conceptions of racialized property become foundational to avant-garde and modern understandings of innovation in the arts. She co-founded the arts forum, contemptorary, a platform supported by the Andy Warhol Art Writers Grant Program. Her essays have appeared in: Lateral: Journal of the Cultural Studies Association, Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, and in the book anthologies, Poetics of Social Engagement and Reading Modernism with Machines. Her poetry has appeared in the Brooklyn Magazine, The Iowa Review, Minnesota Review, and West Branch amongst others. Her first book of poetry, gospel of regicide, was published by Noemi Press in 2017.
In Have You Been Feeling Blue These Days? Kim Eon Hee writes compellingly against the grain of neocolonialist, neoliberal K-culture, producing a poetry that grapples towards weakness, the Korean undercommons, language’s and life’s true, failed becoming-in-the-world. Mirroring Kim’s practice, Sung Gi Kim and Eunsong Kim brilliantly record their own anxiety and impasse as and in translation, in the introduction and the body of the poems themselves: the result is a resonant and clarifying “semblance of feeling…we can witness only outside of language.”
Sung Gi Kim’s and Eunsong Kim’s deft, nuanced, and unmannered translations of Kim Eon Hee’s poems introduce a genuinely exciting poet to the English-speaking world, one whose work reveals for us the limitations of our conceptions of what poetry is and the colonial legacies that structure our basic concepts of poetry, such as the gendered and raced expectations of the poetic speaker and of what counts as “experimental” writing. Kim’s poetry, as the translators write, is “unafraid of graphic disappointment or the pits”: she brilliantly violates our idea of what is acceptable for an Asian female poet to say out loud.
The backdrop to Kim’s playful “absurdist” poetry is the neoliberal and neocolonial context of contemporary South Korea and its relationship to the United States, the two countries in the Kims’ words, “economic and political collaborators.” They rightly describe Kim Eon Hee’s poetry as “an unexpectedly politicized space,” as, equally so, are their translations—and, indeed, all poetry and all translations.