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Phantom Wing PainsKim Hye-soon

This book of poetry is not a book It is a process of bird-ing, A record of that process A record of the day when Stepping up to a railing barefoot With eyes closed and arms spread out Feathers floating out of my sleeves The bird within me crying out A record of the day Of stroking the bird’s cheek and bird-ing - Excerpt from “Bird’s Book of Poetry”

『Phantom Wing Pains』

Author : Kim Hye-soon
Publisher : Moonji
Publication date : March 31, 2019
Number of pages : 312
Format : 128x205mm
ISBN : 9788932035307

Kim Hye-soon

Kim Hye-soon is a poet born in 1955 in Uljin, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea. Her published poetry collections include: From Another Star; The Hell of A Certain Star; My Upanishad, Seoul; A Glass of Red Mirror; and Autobiography of Death. Her essays on poetics include What It Means for A Woman to Write (Lover, Patient, Poet and I) and Womanizing Poetry. She has received the following awards: the Kim Su-young Prize for Literature, Weolgan Contemporary Poetry Award, Sowol Poetry Prize, Literature Today Prize, Midang Literary Award, Daesan Literary Award, Lee Hyeong-gi Literary Award and Griffin Poetry Prize.

Bird-ing time 


Unstoppable Flow of Time

“I thought of a bird that would fall if I didn’t keep writing” (“A Community of Farewells.” p. 193).

This is why it cannot be stopped. The continuous flow of time is the duration of time spent on writing poetry, or in Kim Hye-soon’s own words, “poem-ing” time. The beat of this time occurs only in the present, its clockwork nonfunctioning when it comes to the very human and abstract business of reminiscing about the past or planning for the future. Only the “poem-ing” of the present moment takes the breath away, and the flapping wings of “bird-ing” deafens the ears. Birds do not flap their wings with regrets of yesterday’s movements, nor do they work up a sweat practicing tomorrow’s flights. One set of wing movements is a fully committed act in itself, with no before or after; there is only the present. The poet has experienced, only through the senses of the living moment, the living moment and the living moment, while poem-ing, poem-ing and poem-ing, as well as bird-ing, bird-ing and bird-ing, of being bound by the beating pulse of a dying person’s suffering. Such would be the prayer of Kim Hye-soon.

Unstoppable flow of time, the poem-ing time, is a time of rhythm. “Rhythm is a levitation camp that forbids feet touching the floor” (“Grief-stricken Guitar,” p. 42). Rhythm stirs up the birds. Rhythm is not a melody. It’s more like hearts beating, drums drumming and raindrops plopping. A melody befriends such things as men, anguish, mourning, spirit, speech, names and content. And rhythm makes neighbors of and mingles with women, pain, nerves, screams, anonymity and beat.

The grotesque sublim-ing of birds

“Now I will become birds flying in formation of a long line / And I will tightly bind this city” (“Double Ssangsiot,”p. 18).

Kim Hye-soon’s bird-ing is not about a person’s metamorphosis into a bird. It is not about an event that can be completed. The present progressive “ing” form is always in the middle of an ongoing process. Kim Hye-soon’s “bird-ing” conjures up infinity in the sense that it has an indescribable form and an indefinite end. It tells a story about how the infinite rises up from the finite. A story about how the infinite invades the finite.

The most powerful aesthetical inspiration for Kim Hye-soon’s poetry is the experience of the sublime. You’ll be overwhelmed with sensory stimuli and the expansion of space-time that your capacity — that is, your birdcage — cannot handle. That is the moment you come close to what the poet experienced through her senses. She is not a creator of the text who stands outside of it; rather, she is a presence inside who experiences it by moving and vibrating with it. If you were to enter deep inside the poetry collection, despite the surrounding turbulence and destruction, you can touch and feel for yourself the poet’s experience. Perhaps you may have entered “sublim-ing.”

The poet “stands by a window all day and plays a game where I grow” (“A Community of Farewells,” p. 184). She also wonders, “Why do I grow the more I become shattered to pieces?” (“Tyrannus Melancholicus,” p. 80). Kim Hye-soon’s body is her laboratory. The physical body is what a human entity is, she has always claimed. The body’s capacity for constant movement is what makes it a body. Without it, it is a corpse. This “movement” is a point of sensitive response and radical poetic intervention for Kim Hye-soon. The body breaks its own birdcage. It takes on a monster form that eludes all symbolism that exists in the world. It morphs into a huge formation of birds that points out the world’s hidden disasters and “tightly binds the city” we live in. Sublim-ing is heightened by the realism of events occurring in a body that is as bare as a slab of meat. It’s the middle of the night where Earth’s spinning wails like a siren, siren.
For Kim Hye-soon, both eyes go to work at the same time. The large eyes of a bird that can’t be sized up by human standards and your eyes. When facing one another, like two mirrors, create and trigger “the infinite.” Yisang’s mirror is “one”; Kim Hye-soon’s are “two.” Two mirrors lead to three, four, five … and the infinite. The formation of flying birds is long enough to wind around Earth. It’s the middle of the night where Earth’s spinning can be heard like thunder. It’s night where I’ve grown big enough “to row over and retrieve a pillow to get some shut-eye” (“A Community of Farewells,” p. 186).


By Kim Haeng-sook

Translated by