kim hyesoon


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…”


Comments Off on 25 Points: Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream
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



swallowed pendant


In “Poetry of Hearing,” Kim Hyesoon has this to say regarding the spirit: “Does it stay “outside” and take over someone (a woman in particular) ….. Or is the spirit something that gushes out from someone’s insides— someone who is ill and in severe pain, ….. like a virus, like love, or something that is called a ghost because it is nameless?” (Princess Abandoned)

Hyesoon’s poetry and poetics have mainly been discussed in terms of the grotesque, but they also hover around questions regarding the experience and performance of spirit. I see the ek-static as the experience of spirit, and ek-stasis to be its performance. Ekstasis seems to be a necessary bridge between Kim Hyesoon’s atavistic discussion of spirit in her poetics and the violence it informs, experiences, and envisions in her poetry, in that the symbolic and its identification with the grotesque is also the ekstatic or, in Norman O. Brown’s sense, the telepathic, a merging of bodies, or, the spirit’s experience.

September 18th, 2013 / 11:24 am


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 New from Action Books: Burning City, Cronk, Hyesoon

If you don’t own every title Action Books puts out, I’d say you’re slipping. Here are three new just released units for that library of teeth:

Burning City: Poems of Metropolitan Modernity ed. by Jed Rasula & Tim Conley [like 400 pp full of insane shit discoveries]

Skin Horse by Olivia Cronk [I’ve already read this twice, it’s wow]

All the Garbage of the World, Unite! by Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi [Which after Hyesoon’s first book, Mommy Must Be A Mountain of Feathers, also from Action, I’m ready to be killed again]


Presses / 5 Comments
March 6th, 2012 / 3:20 pm