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Wearing A Wet Tee ShirtKim Yi-deum

『Wearing A Wet Tee Shirt』

Author : Kim Yi-deum
Publisher : Hyundae Munhak
Publication date : August 31, 2019
Number of pages : 188
Format : 104x182mm
ISBN : 9788972751168

Kim Yi-deum

She was born in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do and debuted through a quarterly publication named Poésie in 2001. She published the poetry collections A Stain in the Shape of a Star and Drifting Black Hair and the English-translated poetry collections Cheer Up, Femme Fatale and Hysteria. She was awarded the Poetry & World Literature Award, Kim Chun-su Poetry Award, National Translation Award in Poetry, Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, among others.

On the Days that I Hate My Life


Kim Yi-deum has built her own vivid world with bold and frank words. In her poetry collection Wearing A Wet Tee Shirt, she sticks to prose poem format while using free-spirited speech with pure lyricism to expand her own poetry universe.

Her poems have been filled with various voices of different people. In particular, social minorities such as single mothers, prostitutes, divorced women, homosexuals, mentally-disordered people and impoverished elders frequently appeared in her works. In her words, they are inevitably human while living a life of some kind of deficiency. She calls out those who are standing with wobbly legs in a bold and honest way. She does not try to offer sympathy or kindness; she just accepts them as they are. She embraces them with intended misconception and weak-minded interpretation, not with a welcoming gesture.

Her poetry collection Wearing A Wet Tee Shirt also shares voices of various women in different environments. She shows the conversations of the weak and small through her own keen eyes in 38 poems. She also highlights how “love never perishes” (“The Heart of the Afternoon”) even in situations of misconception and conflict. The cry of this never-quitting attitude of the poet reaches readers in a beautiful way and touches them deeply. Sometimes, the poet frankly talks about her own episodes from running her own bookstore. Two years ago, she opened Yideum Books in Ilsan, Gyeonggi-do, and shared stories about this new life in her poems. For example, “The Aquarium” shows how she recommended a book for a heartbroken customer.

I still think. Even on the days that I hate my life, like today.

What kind of books can I recommend to a heartbroken person?

He asked me to recommend a book that he could read next to a blue sea turtle.


I am an enduring creature, who keeps on smiling on the days that I hate my life, like today

And who takes a firm stand on the days that money is desperately needed,

So I stare at the person who says his job is taking care of large-sized sea creatures.

He says he recently lost someone.

He asked me to recommend a book that he could read while feeding shark and black stingray, which are facing death.




People read next to me

And I do have some books that I still don’t sell, even on the days that money is desperately needed.

Destitute but bold,

I still grow even on the days that I hate my life.

– From “The Aquarium”


We understand why the poem was named “The Aquarium” after reading the poet’s comment about “feeling like a fish in an aquarium after spending a while inside the bookstore alone.” However, the poet’s mind is not confined to her loneliness and solitude; it reaches far beyond to the lives of those whom she meets by chance at a space called “a bookstore.”

Translated by