Don Mee Choi

A child's history of conflict

A review of 'Hardly War' by Don Mee Choi

Photo of Don Mee Choi (left) by Jay Weaver, courtesy of Don Mee Choi.

Before we reach the table of contents of Hardly War, Don Mee Choi’s concerns are clear. The epigraphs set three boundaries. Choi sets up Gertrude Stein as a foremother, whose style she will adapt and whose words she will intersperse with the other voices of the text — “It is funny about wars, they ought to be different but they are not.” 

Before we reach the table of contents of Hardly War, Don Mee Choi’s concerns are clear. The epigraphs set three boundaries. Choi sets up Gertrude Stein as a foremother, whose style she will adapt and whose words she will intersperse with the other voices of the text — “It is funny about wars, they ought to be different but they are not.” Roland Barthes’s discourse on photography as “a shared hallucination […] a mad image” prefigures the text’s discourse on photography, its interweaving of treatises on photography, and the reality/unreality of war. Lastly, C. D.

Saying inequality in another language

Translation and multilingualism

Daniel Borzutzky
Daniel Borzutzky

After taking a bit of a hiatus from this column over the holidays, my encounter with this essay by Daniel Borzutsky, a Chicago-based poet and translator, has coaxed me back to work. Before reading the essay (I’m embarrassed to admit), I didn’t know Borzutsky’s work well, although I had read some excerpts and his statement of poetics in the wonderful new Counterpath anthology Angels of the Americlypse: New Latin@ Writing.

I was first attracted to Borzutzky’s essay because it opens with an incredible quote by Don Mee Choi, a friend of mine who is herself a poet and translator.

'Meme is a lone tree that got planted in a bed'

Towards a surrealism of old age: Kim Hyesoon's 'An Old Woman' & 'Princess Abandoned'

Kim Hyesoon & Don Mee Choi, February, 2009, Chicago AWP bookfair

Among recent notices on my Facebook feed was one for the new issue of Big Bridge, in particular a feature on “Neo-surrealism,” edited by Adam Cornford.  Cornford’s expansive introduction to the feature, which looks back to the history of surrealism and forward to his selection of living poets, includes this definition of his subject: “What defines a Surrealist poetry today, then, is what has defined it from the outset . . . Surrealist poetry can only be ‘a cry of the mind determined to break apart its fetters.’ It must contribute, intentionally or otherwise, to the liberation of the mind ‘and all that resembles it.’” I’m not here to argue against the mind’s liberation, rather to suggest that newer forms of surrealism can be used effectively to record what occurs before the imagined line break in Cornford’s phrase, “the mind determined to break apart / its fetters.” The breaking apart of a mind, most familiar to me as a product (or anti-product) of dementia and Alzheimer’s, can be tracked through what I’ve elsewhere called “documentary surrealism.

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