Saturday, July 30, 2011

Don Mee Choi

Heard Don Mee read last night at Hedreen Gallery and realized that in lieu of a full review (sorry!) of The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010), I should post this old introduction to a reading in mid-2009.  My response to the earlier reading was a strong sense of how her translation work was interwined with her own poems, how they feed off each other.  It felt like a demonstration of how all writing is translation.

Perhaps I am more excited by her poems (than by her translations of poems of others) since they are less constrained by the external fact of the prior poem?  To the extent that one has specific duties to a "prior" poem, one is constrained to be true to its intentions.  Translations are in that sense constraint based writing.  Without the duty to the specific (yet ultimately unknowable) other, one can more directly engage the arrival [sic?] of what for Don Mee is never merely subjective expression.

Here's the old introduction:

I first heard Don Mee Choi read translations at Gallery 1412 and was very impressed, especially by a theater piece by Yi Kang-baek that she read that had no spoken parts, just stage direction.  It had great literary and political power.

The poems I've seen from The Morning News Is Exciting seem to be formal experiments loaded with pointed content.  To me that's very refreshing.

The peculiar constructions and repetitions across sections of her title poem remind me of Oulipo (ala Queneaux exercises in style—tho I’m not sure how constrained they really are), but with a more foreboding content.  No one talks much about the poverty of politics in Oulipo.  For Choi, the politics of gender and of exile seem just below the surface, and to me they’re keenly felt.

 “She was a visitor” as Robert Ashley famously said, and here (with enough repetitions) she becomes an “errorist.” 

Choi presents billboard-sized ironies that narrate objects. This is playing with fire, and this work demonstrates that potential narrative is power.  Subjectivity is at risk here.

The excited news is of dear narration – of dear nation.  This text shoulds on itself.  The gravity of the past and of “duty” traps the subject which can’t quite shake itself loose.  The morning news is near narration and that is exciting.  Especially when turned back on itself.  The image is a twin with many titles. 
To demonstrate a collaged animus. 

As my elocution lessons,
Breed easy dear ones
The monograph wants to emerge as an icon an ism
Really on the occasion of the sequence
One’s ass hangs out – can’t get to the front of the class in our travels across the boundaries.

These goods stick to us – the rice and beaning bags under the eyelid – the swallow arising directly into the wind.  The sun will meet us in 15 minutes.  I am not here then. These mean red conclusions wrap us in real conjecture.