When poet Kim Seung-hee’s most recent volume, Pots Bobbing, was awarded the poetry prize in Korea’s 2006 “This Year’s Art Awards,” I decided that I ought to translate it. I had already translated a few of her earlier poems, and admired her work for its originality and vitality. She suggested adding a few poems from a previous volume and also gave me some poems she had not yet published. The resulting book was published earlier this year in the Cornell East Asia Series. It is very difficult to find a publisher for translated Korean poetry, or for Korean literature in general, and we are immensely grateful to this series for accepting translations from Korea. The most important characteristic of Kim Seung-hee’s work is that it is written by a woman and is almost entirely about being a woman. Korean male literary critics have notoriously been inclined to belittle women’s literary ability; their insistence that they should always be called “women poets” to distinguish them from “real” (male) poets, and should invariably write pretty little verses in a delicate, “feminine” style, derives from deeply-rooted paternalistic, Confucian attitudes that to a westerner seem positively pre-Victorian. The most appealing aspect of Kim Seung-hee’s writing is her toughness. Her work has often been termed “feminist, surrealistic” and this is hardly surprising given her interest in feminist literary theories. In addition, she has long been an admirer of the work of Sylvia Plath.



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