• Book
  • English(English)

뜻밖의 바닐라

  • Author
  • Country
    Republic of Korea
  • Publisher
  • Published Year
  • Genre
    Contemporary poetry - Anthology of Contemporary Poetry - Contemporary fiction



    Title: Unexpected Vanilla Rights Sold

    Author: Lee Hyemi

    Genre: Contemporary Peotry


    LTI Korea staff: Alex Baek ( / +82-2-6919-7741)


    The copyright of this title has been sold. (Translation and publication supported by LTI Korea)


  • About the book

    About the Collection

    Lee Hyemi’s poetry is characterized by fluidity and wetness, with subjects moving about and soaking in each other through curious means. The titular “vanilla”—indeed meant as the antonym of “kinky”—is unexpected for Lee, who subverts the vanilla norm without denying its pleasures.


    In the preface to Unexpected Vanilla, Lee writes: “There is always an exchange of fluids / at the critical moment when a relationship deepens. / Holding the fish jar in which alphabet letters swim / I step into the world of the second person.” This exchange of liquids often involves sex, but intercourse can be nonsexual: drinking tea or alcohol, going to the beach, sitting in the same tub, crying, feeling your lover’s sweat on your palm, and so forth. In this way, Lee explores a wide variety of relationships, attractions, and sensations. Her erotically charged, surrealist sensibility can be traced back to the paintings of Leonor Fini, a bisexual Argentinian artist whom she admires.


    Lee details various intimacies in her “world of the second person,” which still feels clandestine but safe from the threat of exposure. And because Korean is a pro-drop language, the subjects of her poems can be ambiguously gendered. The task of the queer translator, then, is to feel out the subtleties with respect, as one does in life, and not presume heterosexuality. Just as Lee spoke out during #문단_내_성폭력 (the hashtag movement that began calling out sexual violence within South Korean literary circles in October 2016) and the more recent global #MeToo movement, her poems recreate and hold space for agency and queerness in female sexuality.

    About the author

    About the Poet

    Lee Hyemi (b. 1988) is the author of Ultraviolet (Changbi Publishers, 2011) and Unexpected Vanilla (Moonji Publications, 2016). In 2006, she became the youngest winner of the JoongAng Literary Newcomer’s Prize after novelist Choi In-ho won in 1963. Her mother, Jeong Yonghwa, is also a poet with four published collections. Lee is currently a PhD student in Korean literature at Korea University and enjoys deep-sea diving.

    Media Response/Awards Received

    Book Review

    • “After reading this collection, it occurred to me that the title Unexpected Vanilla passes through all the poems included in this collection. The sweet, strong fragrance and unexpected sensation might strike the back of your head or pierce your heart. This collection is really comprised of poems that merges such sensations and feelings… While Lee’s second collection is closely connected with her first, it’s filled with poetic language that presents her feelings even more fearlessly and dynamically. Once you encounter Lee Hyemi’s language, you will see vanilla—what seems soft and sweet—differently.” - Literary critic Heo Hui


    • Sensuality, much less explicit discussion of sex, is relatively rare in Korean literature. This may contribute to the modest reception that Unexpected Vanilla has had in Korea, but I do think that Lee will appeal to readers interested in surrealism, especially as portrayed through a queer feminist lens. English translations of Lee have already appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation and are forthcoming in Words Without Borders. (None of the poems in this sample have been published.) Uplifting a young, contemporary voice like Lee’s would help represent experiences that are marginalized even within Korea.

Translated Books (1)