On Myung Mi Kim

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

In a discussion with Divya Victor included as part of this feature, Myung Mi Kim quickly arrives at the following problem: “I can’t quite imagine a relationship with a poem, the fact of writing or reading a poem, that would be permanently inscribed.” The sentence reads like an aphorism. It’s portable enough to invite reuse as a doctrine of reading or an imperative of process. As advice, it’s even sound. At this sentence, I experience a familiar sensation in my reading of Kim’s work: like a good (ex-) Baptist, I memorize the verse; I want it on a post-it note above my computer, and I wonder if I shouldn’t forward it to a friend or two. But to resist the urge to pry this instigation, this challenge to poetics, apart from Kim’s work at large is to prepare for an encounter with that work. Kim’s is an effort to inhabit the change, to resist the permanent inscription of — and yet to continually pursue, grow, and foster — relation(s).

So it’s fitting that this collection of materials ranges and doesn’t attempt a comprehensive account of Kim’s thought and her practice as poet. It makes sense that the feature even touches back on a previous gathering of writing on Kim’s work. The pieces here engage Kim’s page work and her voice work, they close read, close listen, and even light out with Kim’s thought as instigation elsewhere. They mark an accretion (over at least the last couple of years) of new responses to Kim’s writing, and as such, they also attest to the continued urgency of that writing — but they needn’t be read as indelible. Later in the same interview with Victor, Kim offers a musical analogy for the performed or published residue of writing: “One ‘publishes’ and that’s the recital. But [the moment of performance] is never cut off from all the other permutations, all the other possibilities, all the other iterations, and all the ways in which I could hear, or could process, or could place this passage next to that passage. It is perpetual, even while there is the thing called the recital or the thing called the book.”

So, too, the pieces assembled here.