don mee choi


25 Points: Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream

Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream
by Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi
Action Books, 2014
106 pages / $12.00 buy from Action Books or Amazon

1. I requested a review copy of this book because I loved Don Mee Choi’s previous translation of Kim Hyesoon’s All the Garbage of the World Unite.

2. I loved it so much that I would read one of her poems at my own poetry readings (not as my own of course, but yeah I wish I’d written them).

3. Secretly, I want to brush my teeth with sorrowtoothpaste. Doesn’t seem like it’d be overly minty. And if I used mirrorcream, I’d wonder if I’d see myself as others see me.

4. The first great phrase in this book is “clammed up like a cavity-ridden piano.” We are introduced to to characters, Melan and Choly. They are my friends too.

5. I feel these poems the way I feel seaweed in my teeth: uncomfortable but familiar.

6. The poem, “Glasses Say” might be some re-imagining of Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the wreck.” I said might:

“…A vacant place. Only fan shells, a hook, an oxygen tube, a pair of goggles.
And a lady behind the goggles.
I shave a large piece of ice to make lenses.
I put the lenses in my mouth.
It’s raining in the sea.”

7. Umbrellas, ocean, water, ice. Nipples, milk, clouds, spit.

8. As I read, I’m not sure if what I’m seeing is what I’m really seeing, or if what I’m feeling is really feeling what I’m feeling. The sadness doesn’t overwhelm me. It sits in my chest like an orb, just sort of just glowing. I remember what this feels like. I have been this sad. I don’t think my sad was this beautiful.

9. “…I’m filled with all the screams of the world / that there is nothing else but that…”


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August 5th, 2014 / 12:08 pm

video trailer for
A collection of poems from Kim Hyesoon.
Translated by Don Mee Choi.

(video by The Viper, Paul Cunningham)

and “Filthy filthy filthy I’m so filthy” reminds me I’ve been dreaming Ron Silliman again



25 Points: All the Garbage of the World Unite!

All the Garbage of the World Unite!
by Kim Hyesoon
translated by Don Mee Choi
Action Books, 2010
156 pages / $16  Buy from Actions Books, SPD, or Amazon







1. To be clear, this book, and all of Kim Hyesoon’s books, are tainted by my mother’s death.

2. This of course is not the fault of the author. Simply, I first discovered Kim Hyesoon when Action Books published Mommy Must Be A Mountain of Feathers. I was excited by the images of rats, of devouring, crushed bodies, the somehow endearing repulsion. And I was excited to share these poems with my mother. I bought as many of her books in the original Korean as I could order online, and my mother and I were going to read them in Korean together. We hadn’t read together since I was very young so this was a very special prospect for me.

3. My mother passed away suddenly before we were able to read together.

4. I still have the books, but my Korean isn’t good enough to get through them myself. When I can, I like to look at the poems side-by-side, but mostly, they just sit on my shelf.

5. In an interview, Kim Hyesoon says: “Mothers live somewhere after giving birth to us. Our mothers who have gone are buried in our bodies. It can be said that we were born with dead mothers in our body.” This deeply resonates with me.

6. Still, I couldn’t resist when Action Books put out a second collection of her poems in English.

7. In these poems, everything is both filthy and holy, repulsive and affectionate, present and disconnected.

8. As the text often describes a disconnect between heart and head and body, while reading, the visceral reactions I had seemed to separate my own self into multiple feeling selves, each reaching out over gaps looking for fingertips to grab a hold of, connected by this commonality of loss and distance, yet constantly searching, observing, and unsatiated.

9. In the preface, Kim Hyesoon writes, “I am many inside poetry. ‘I’ as a subject, the cognizant ‘I’ is deconstructed. I have never once lived as a single ‘I’ inside poetry. The confusion of the multiple ‘I’ is what makes me write poetry.”

10. The poem “Lady Phantom,” begins with “There is a corpse in the room / I killed someone,” and then later, “Maybe no one here has left a corpse behind / Everyone’s boisterous as if they have no bodies to hide.” Though there is a penetrance of being singular in this kind of guilt, of course we all have killed. At least I have. I choose to forget, but there are the many bodies stacked up in my closet. Will you find them? READ MORE >

November 14th, 2012 / 9:09 am

3 Books I Loved Recently

1. Families Are Formed Through Copulation by Jacob Wren

Self styled as “a book designed to convince the reader not to have children,” this is a beautiful collage of dialogue, tract, ideas, parables, monolgues, and the like from Canadian director, writer, and filmmaker Wren. Like all the books Pedlar Press has released that I’ve read (notably Ken Sparling), this book is singular for its sound and mannerisms: there is no other object you could want to have like it. It is it. And it sticks. The book worries over its sales rank on Amazon, mourns dead music, contains telephone correspondence with lost relatives, mourns more: “Some days there are a few things to do and those days are a little bit better than the others. Every once in a while I faintly remember just how ambitious I used to be.” And yet the sum is not morbid, more than a true haunt, a neon-colored wow box, a fun and frightening object of tricks and mannequin talk. Highly recommended.

2. The Morning News is Exciting by Don Mee Choi

Like every new Action Books title, I clamored for this until I had it, and rubbed it on my face. I read the book while on a stationary bike, it took me 343 calories of riding. There are a variety of voices crammed exquisitely into one mouth here, some in translation, in mourning, some snagged, many mothers, ecstatic or hammered. The trouble speech together, and in calmer moments selved, all seemed to me in the gym room in a circuit of what seems to be a lid of skin between making a child and a child leaving the body to walk in humans, bodies on bodies for continents under confluences of Nation, methods of moving among and through and around it, gross and wet and big and small. “No one is alarmed. After the experiment, I wipe. Mother has mishandled meat again. Bitch. The door has to be wiped again.” It, like the above, contains a variety of forms, letters, collages, quiet, instructions, news, diarists, fear bleat. If you like bodies and being in pretend burn trauma, you’re gonna go bajoinkers for this. I did, and had the sweat all over me.

3. Souls of the Labadie Tract by Susan Howe

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May 26th, 2010 / 10:20 am