Commons / Edition 1

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Overview


Myung Mi Kim's Commons weighs on the most sensitive of scales the minute grains of daily life in both peace and war, registering as very few works of literature have done our common burden of being subject to history. Abstracting colonization, war, immigration, disease, and first-language loss until only sparse phrases remain, Kim takes on the anguish and displacement of those whose lives are embedded in history.

Kim's blank spaces are loaded silences: openings through which readers enter the text and find their way. These silences reveal gaps in memory and articulate experiences that will not translate into language at all. Her words retrieve the past in much the same way the human mind does: an image sparks another image, a scent, the sound of bombs, or conversation. These silences and pauses give the poems their structure.

Commons's fragmented lyric pushes the reader to question the construction of the poem. Identity surfaces, sinks back, then rises again. On this shifting ground, Kim creates meaning through juxtaposed fragments. Her verse, with its stops and starts, its austere yet rich images, offers splinters of testimony and objection. It negotiates a constantly changing world, scavenging through scraps of experience, spaces around words, and remnants of emotion for a language that enfolds the enormity of what we cannot express.

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Editorial Reviews

Memphis Commercial Appeal
Extracts the sparest of reactions and reflections to global politics, colonization, immigration and other issues in fragmented form that takes the blank page as a kind of force field for splinters of language and images. The result is gnomic, austere and obliquely intense.
Publishers Weekly
While much poetry has been written out of the many diasporas that have U.S. outposts, few collections capture the cultural and linguistic displacement of immigration with as much poise and resonance as Kim's fourth book, her most outstanding. The poems here are attentive to, as she writes in the concluding note, what "the polyglot, porous, transcultural presence alters and what is around it." Composed of a series of aphoristic phrases or individual words scattered across the page, the three longish poems in Commons explore the relations between languages, using Korean and English as paradigms, and finding lyric play between the two. (Kim was born in Korea and immigrated to the U.S. when she was a child; the poems often include Hangul and Romanized Korean.) In the poem "Lamenta," one section juxtaposes testimony about life during military turmoil from Kwangju and Sarajevo, while another section has two people speaking to each other, or not, in two different languages: "Unendurable, said one/ cho-goph-dah, said one." "Works" begins with a child telling a story of a mother's soup then mutates to address the devastating consequences of colonialism: "It burn skin to bone/ Scar tissue on top of nerve ending/ Ugly power of military/ I scream too hot too hot/ Naked where clothes were a second before." Articulating our often hidden and difficult ties to each other without righteous indignation or fanfare, these poems are profoundly important and affecting. (Mar.) Forecast: Kim (Under Flag) has taught for years at San Francisco State University and has been part of the loose-knit Bay Area avant-garde community, which includes Lyn Hejinian, Kevin Killian and Nathaniel Mackey. Kim's books are often assigned on campus, and this, her title first with a larger house, should garner review attention within the academy as well as the poetry community. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520231443
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 3/4/2002
  • Series: New California Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 111
  • Sales rank: 1,224,651
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Myung Mi Kim is Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. Her three previous books of poetry are Under Flag, winner of the 1991 Multicultural Publishers Book Award, The Bounty (1996), and Dura (1998).
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments
Exordium
Lamenta
Works
Pollen Fossil Record
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2005

    very unique poetry

    I just finished the book, read it in one day. The poetry plays with spacing and line breaks a lot. It's different and keeps you thinking. Sometimes I found myself confused, or just lost. But if you get past that, the images are often vivid, and dream-like. And as if you are dreaming it, you see various scenes which don't connect until you have seen the whole dream. In all, I really enjoyed it.

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