Articles

'Languaging' the third space

Language as activity in the prosody of Myung Mi Kim

Myung Mi Kim. Photo courtesy of Norma Cole.

A way is open(ed), a hole is made
— Myung Mi Kim, Dura 

In an interview, the poet Myung Mi Kim explains her prosody as a temporal/spatial concept, existing in “the space between time and space”[1] that can be understood only through an experience of the “sensorium” — when “all your senses are involved in understanding.” There is clearly much that needs to be unpacked from such a statement. What does she mean by this inter-temporal/inter-spatial site where her poetry is located? Why is her prosody — her (mis/dis)use of meters, lines, rhythms, beats, sounds, poetic melodies — so “different” and “difficult” (two comments that Kim admits she has received most frequently), and what does this say about her concept of the nature of poetry?

Myung Mi Kim's performance of language

Myung Mi Kim at the Kelly Writers House, 2010. Photo by Arielle Brousse.

As she puts it in a 2008 interview with Lynn Keller, Myung Mi Kim approaches writing as a notational process, “working through accretion and sedimentation of material.”[1] Penury is a text (and language) of lived experience that emerges through the dynamic sequences of motion and change, thus providing a space for the (re)telling of multiple narratives.

Outer Event

Myung Mi Kim. Photo courtesy of Susan Gevirtz.

Three Desks

Myung Mi Kim said, “Let’s make lists of all of our discursive writing and look at those lists.” I began a list soon lost under piles. In the intervening years the bit of edification, the muzzle, gag and tethers of training that determined much of what fell to that list have remained of interest while the sign of the “discursive” under which the list accreted has become increasingly perplexing.

Epic silence

On Myung Mi Kim's 'Under Flag'

Myung Mi Kim at the Kelly Writers House, 2010. Photo by Arielle Brousse.

When the feminist poetry press Kelsey St. published Myung Mi Kim’s 1991 epic work Under Flag, a publicity blurb described it as a book that “documents” the “struggle to learn English,” an experience, the blurb goes on to say, that “resembles the experience of innumerable other US citizens in a century that has been shaped by wars and vast human migrations.”

'Reported ocean'

One or more voices out loud

Myung Mi Kim in New York City, 2006. Photo by Charles Bernstein.

There are so many ways for something to be unsayable. Reading a poem out loud is one of these ways. From this vantage, consider the prospect of the contemporary American poetry reading for poets who believe that “the text is not the text.” For poets who ask, as Myung Mi Kim is always asking in her work, “Who has authority?” and then are asked to appear at the front of the room and wear their author-ity by reading out loud.

“For which no pronunciation exists”[1]