2016 Lucien Stryk Shortlist: I am a Season that Does Not Exist in the World, by Kim Kyung Ju, trans. by Jake Levine

kkjcover_1I Am a Season that Does Not Exist in the World
By Kim Kyung Ju
Translated from the Korean by Jake Levine
(Black Ocean)

Kim Kyung Ju is clearly a major literary figure who has emerged the last few years as an unofficial but immensely popular spoke-person for the disaffected youth of Korea’s post-industrial digital society. Although his often grotesquely surrealistic descriptions of alienation, anomie, and social exclusion can verge on the pornographic, there are many passages that have a Kafkaesque vulnerability that can be quite moving, such as these lines from a prose poem inspired by Arnold Bocklin’s famous painting of the Isle of the Dead, “Heavy Snow, a Rental House, a Letter”:

lives that reached a critical state snowed heavily on the page.
Uncompleted letters turned to misery.
Like bottles emptied one by one . . .

This book debuts a very promising new translator, Jake Levine, a poet and former Fulbrighter who is currently pursuing his doctorate in comparative literature at Seoul National University, where he writes on contemporary American poetry for the Korean literary journal, Munjang.

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