Brian Reed, a scholar based at the University of Washington, wrote up a study of my poetry regarding spatial imaginations. His essay, titled “To Venture Outwards: Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s ‘Korea'” might be one of the closest readings of my work anyone has yet offered. The essay is public and posted at Arcade, a digital salon hosted by Stanford University.
Sometimes research is a lifeline, a beautiful kaleidoscope that unveils a myriad horizon. At other times, it is the haunted umbilical cord that pulls at your center. Such pain.
I’m researching into cultural trauma. It is “funny” to read into something that feels so intimate to me. The traumas of war, displacement, domestic abuse,”the nation,” racial logics — these have left black fingerprints all over my family’s portraits. It ate my marriage. And still I sing! I am known for my sunny disposition!
I think about this term, “postmemory.” The psychological multi-generational fallout of trauma. A cultural violence, distilled into our bodies. KOЯEANs know it so well. We call it 한. I know HAN by a sort of native birthright, I suppose. It courses through me. It is not all of me, but it is mine. HAN. A deep sorrow, anguish, bitterness. Where are its roots? A heartrending sound, it pierces. It has an elemental depth. It hurts, it is familiar. Is this how continents are born? This beautiful folk singer, 김영임, has it coursing through her voice.
I’ve described it a bit previously in my review of Kim Hye-Soon’s poetry. I’ve written to and from it in so many places.
HAN is not just a feeling or a sound. It is also a gesture, a feeling inside your body. I have been working to release it through movements. I hesitate to call it dance. I meditate. I become filled with a mood. This mood moves me. I give into it.
Can I climb this thorny rope that reaches from my guts, out of my throat, and into the sky? Can I climb this thorny rope into a new element, a new figure, a new light? Without ambition. Without hope. How may I climb.
Tell me the story / Of all of these things. / Beginning wherever you wish, tell even us.
So the news has blown up all over the internet since yesterday that Kim Jong Il (KJI) has passed away.
As many of you know, I have a longstanding fascination with KJI. As a public figure shrouded in such propaganda he was, and will remain, beyond any stable understanding. So, I’ve spent the day thinking of how best to respond to the news of his death. I’m not a policy pundit, and I can’t claim to have any insight into the man or what can/should happen in Korea now. I’m a spectator from a different shore, but I’m pained and concerned.
The only thing I could think to do was share this poem I wrote about 4 years ago about him. It’s from my first book, That Gorgeous Feeling. Unfortunately, I’m not able to get the formatting quite right. I’m just not savvy enough. So, this piece appears mostly left justified.
For all those who have been cut apart, split, cast away, and somehow survived the same forces that pushed even this man into being.
Kim Jong Il: A Reader
He is the great teacher who teaches them what the true life is, a father who teaches them with the greatest political integrity and a tender-hearted benefactor who brings their worthwhile life into full bloom.
—from an official North Korean release
We don’t want our own native dogs to die out.
We must make sure that Pungsan and Jindo dogs prosper and propagate.
if it dies then bring it over
bring it over before it dies
this is my piano
I have studied it for years
“isolated but not uninformed”
heralded by a bright star and double rainbows
a crown prince of sorts in the world’s most isolated state
“we have not been able to give them the kind of reassurance”
a crippling famine.
fruit; a nut.
a young radish.
come to fruition.
You may have received letters from your relatives living here about the food shortage.
The situation is not as bad as it may appear.
this and that. between you and me; between both sides.
make a fire ((in the stove))
smoke. lifelong. one’s lifework.
necessary articles; necessaries. necessities.
daily necessaries; the necessities of life.
driven by. a requirement.
be indescribable. be [beyond] description.
avert people’s eyes. avoid [keep away] from bad company.
do not touch me. dodge [duck]. from disaster.
avoid. flee from ((a war))
suck on our fingers to kill the hunger pains
a member of the Central Committee
reported to have concentrated a great
deal of effort on the performing arts
good fortune in love; a lady’s man.
she allegedly held his hand
have ((something)) snatched away.
become. be [exhausted] impoverished. stained.
a. a limit. limits; bounds. “Human desire knows no limits.” as [so] far as. as far
[much, soon]. as much as one can. as much as possible.
b. one. a single. a [one] man. some; nearly. in the same house. the same.
c. big; large; great. a (main) street. the most. the very; in the middle of the night.
d. a bitter grudge. rancour; hatred. bear malice ((toward)). vent one’s grudge. an
regrettable. deplorable. a lasting regret; a matter of great regret.
a life full of regrets.
no barriers in heart
one place. the same place. one mind. one accord.
our wisdom. our will. our strength.
Iran, Iraq and North Korea
a new bond of brotherhood
in the mouth of the American president
a passionate love
be eager [anxious] for
(after, to do); long for
“we long [are eager] for peace”
“his brinksmanship does work”
the years gone by.
a large eyed person.
of what was said and done.
(be) light; pale
light colored; faint
I am an object of criticism in the world