Kim Yideum - As poetry, it's polyphonic, and as prose, it's defiant. Her poetry is the theater of multiple personality. You hear the voices of hundreds of people, hundreds of things. These naked living things become her poetic subjects

Kim Yideum, Cheer Up, Femme Fatal, Trans. by Ji yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi and Johannes Göransson, Action Books, 2016.

"Kim Yi-Deum's poetry is the landscape of confession. The confession flows inside the landscape and the landscape soars inside the confession. These two elements of her poetry are interconnected in the way eros gets pulled up to the divine place. Her poetry appears as poetry, it also appears as prose. As poetry, it's polyphonic, and as prose, it's defiant. Her poetry is the theater of multiple personality. You hear the voices of hundreds of people, hundreds of things. These naked living things become her poetic subjects. In each poem, the different sensations of each body are invented. She punishes herself and accepts her own unsightly, gutless face. Her poetry is engaged in the difficult process of discovering the other inside her. Her rhythm, which emerges from the fishnet of interconnections, bites power and sets her free."—Kim Hyesoon

This book struck me in a very physical way. As if so many of these actions were happening inside my gut, bowels, heart twisting and stretching in the shadows of contradiction, loss, resentment, conjuration, desire.
The poetry in this book is so much about seeking out those grotesque and creepy spaces where, despite the filth and shame, we still must reside. I think of the woman in Lee Chang Dong’s film Poetry, crying in the shower as she seeks to write a single poem as she struggles to hold on to her memory and with an unspeakable act committed by her grandson. The trauma, though not entirely hers, affects her, wraps her forcefully and though she can’t articulate why, the possibility within poetry seems like the only ghost that may save her.
Here too, I want to ask along with the writing, why poetry? And of course this question is impossible and necessary. Why sadness? Why regret? Why forgotten? Why pain? -

Closing Credits

About the time when this especially appealing song is ending
I sluggishly emerge from the dark room and write its lyrics on the wall.
The lyrics I wrote last time are tangled up like vines on the wall.
I was suckling a woman's scanty breasts, drunk with the song,
Don't leave me, don't abandon me.
The lovers are grilling fish in the hay-smelling wall,
And the woman who abandoned me won't come looking for me.
The unknowable lyrics in the language of a foreign country are being written,
Smoothly untangled into my mother tongue,
As if they went through an automatic translator.
Every time I exhale, the tender young leaves and twigs of consonants and vowels fall.
I have to breathe in the blackish whirlwind and hold the breath.
In a confused dream I am transcribing the lyrics with my eyes closed, and suddenly
The sound of the song fades out into rain and snow and scatters.

I pull my ear.
I hurriedly push the wall open and take a step beyond the sound.
A woman, with deep-seated eyes that can barely see, wields her thin and bright arms.
The only hand that can cover your mouth is your hand, please stop, sweet baby.
This rotten foreign tongue, this song that calls for us, this depressing song is eating
                                                                                                                          through you.
Listen to the chorus of the dead who sing along every night, drunk with the spices
                                                                                                                          of your song.
Let me leave now.
If I knew the woman would be this sad, I would have started sooner.
I start off the song on a whim; my questionable remains will fill in the chorus.
Like sleet, which falls in the doubts of water,
When the wall smells like dried hay and a tender sound caresses my cheek,
I, asleep, rise, as if someone is leading me, and lick the wall
And slowly descend the old staircase in the wall.

The Guitarist on the Street
                              —"Don't come back," Mother

          A woman on the street holds a guitar tightly. It's as if she would push her breast into it. She needs to sound the guitar and beg for dimes by any means necessary. She gets even more anxious when it starts raining. Since a guitar's genitals are its sound, she starts kicking her daughter.
          Raindrops, clumsy in their landing, break their ankles as they touch the sidewalk. Rain crawls through the underpass. Is dragged on the ground. The guitar dangles on the violent woman's arm. There is a reason it cannot walk.
          Pausing before putting a cigarette in her mouth, the woman plays with its sound. The guitar despises the woman and thus allows her. The guitar's genitals neither grow nor tremble; they have knots and strings.
          There are twenty pages of newspaper and twenty-one pieces of rebar lying around in the basement. Eight hundred nautical miles of sadness, eight hundred nautical miles of hunger, and even a million miles of cockroaches are aware that growing is a sin.
          The guitarist holds her daughter. As I look again, they are in the form of a guitar holding the woman. The guitar tightens its grip on the guitarist's neck. Its wrist is the wrist of an underdeveloped daughter who feels indecisive about whether to drop dead or not.
          Jane Avril's mother forced her daughter to prostitute herself, and just like with guitars, there are many types of maternal instinct. The woman had the guitar by accident. The woman, together with the guitar, rolls down the staircase, falls over the guardrail, and plunges with the world. Surprisingly, some maternal instincts are just a cruel form of megalomania.
          The guitar pushes the guitarist into the guitar case.

A Sealed Woman

The panties, soaked in menses, which started—earlier than the usual time of the month—while I was walking on the street. Wearing the panties that I took off from a Venus mannequin, I met up with him. Patterns of red tomatoes, the squishy seeds trickled down the crotch. The seaside motel, soaked in the smell of mudflats. The rooms' salty moaning, curses rolling on the creaking beds, curses. Vomiting the spermbugs that I struggled to swallow, I need to be plugged, even during my period, like a mannequin that finally stops feeling depressed only when sealed with a cock.

A waterbed, the billowing sea. A black whale, panting, swallows a mannequin, no, in the black stomach the mannequin is mincing the whale's heart with her plastic teeth.

In the casket of a white bathtub: through the red hole with a broken mesh strainer, jelly-like eyeballs, four of them, drain out before the bubbles. They go to the ocean, infiltrating a mammal's body, now sleek from a thousand years of erosion. The Mother that clings like tangled hair in a drainpipe is the source of the wailing that appears whenever I want to live. I want to go to the Urticate coast to follow the whales. You can go after killing me. Inside the Mother, who is already sprayed into the sea, there are hundreds, thousands of mothers in the midst of their water burial; if she lets me go, the dinner table under the sea will become amicable. So as not to surface again, I must be sealed deep in the sea bottom, like a casket. 
translated from the Korean by Jiyoon Lee

One day, a woman neither old nor young appears in this very place.
The woman doesn’t have anything to say. If she opens her mouth, a mole-like drivel pops out and digs holes all over the lawn. She isn’t hungry, just tired. The official events take place at midnight. Nobody care about anybody.
There is a bathtub in the backyard. A curtain with a drawing of a small bird drapes the tub.
A woman starts lathering up the washcloth with soap. A dried-up piece of soap. The sequence is off. Stretching her arms backward, she slowly undoes her blouse buttons. I shouldn’t have bought this just for its lovely color. It’s hard to pull off the wet jeans that cling to her legs. Trying to shake off the panties wrapped around her ankles, she ends up kicking a rock. She grabs her toe, flops down and takes a deep breath. The ground is cold and the edge of the tub is also cold. To find a rubber plug for the tub, she grabs a fat giant spider’s leg and walks around beneath the flowering trees. There are no grapes or gooseberries. Then she struggles to lift the manhole-cover-sized plug and plug the drain. She lies down with her legs spread. She’s lonesome. She slowly turns on the faucet.
No water comes out.
She lies in the dry tub and writes a poem.

The abandoned daughter seeks out her mother for the same reason that a star rises in the sky.
Then what would be the reason for writing a poem?
She stores away many questions about the world, setting aside her ambition to be a writer. Her life isn’t something that needs to be solved; her life just exists, somewhere beyond….Actually, she doesn’t really know.

Kim Yideum has published five books of poetry in Korean—A Stain in the Shape of a Star (2005), Cheer up, Femme Fatale (2007), The Unspeakable Lover (2011), Song of Berlin, Dahlem (2013), and Hysteria (2014)—and the novel Blood Sisters (2011). Her work has been adapted into a play (The Metamorphosis, 2014) and a film (After School, 2015). She has received numerous awards for her poetry, including the Poetry & the World Literary Award (2010), the Kim Daljin Changwon Award (2011), the 22nd Century Literary Award (2015) and the Kim Chunsoo Award (2015). Kim is currently finalizing her book of interviews with homeless people in Paris, as well as writing a new book of poems and essays, while in residence at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.