Big Presses allow titles to gently fade out. Small presses go belly up (which brings me to another question—will the recession affect poetry? Perhaps this will be a boon—no longer able to afford the luxuries of hardcover fiction or spend triple digits at the hippest tapas restaurant, stressed out Americans will turn to economically undemanding poetry collections for solace after the glazed remains of their Spam dinner-- but I will save this for another post). So with these two factors, thousands of remarkable titles are lost in the ether—if it’s not for the library, one must troll the used bins or cough up an eye-popping amount for a collector’s item on Amazon (currently, I covet Jed Rasula’s Imagining Languages which is going for $125.00). Stephen Sohn had similar thoughts about Myung Mi Kim’s Dura:
Imagine my surprise when I started my internet search and discovered not only that the collection was already out of print, but that the only used copies I could find were priced well over seventy five dollars. Dura had become a “collector’s item.” And while the price might have seemed high at the time, when I think about the incredibly rich critical terrain that has already emerged in relation to Kim’s oeuvre and even more specifically, Dura, I am not surprised that what used copies were left so difficult to obtain.
Well, the fabulous press Nightboat Books has just reissued Dura.
I am very excited about the reissue of Myung Mi Kim’s third collection Dura which could be defined as her transitional collection. Dura is a spare and stirring collection that emphasizes the struggles of enunciation and address and how capital affects migration, labor and empire building. The book tracks the threads – and let me emphasize not as a narrative arc but more as textual striations, fragmentary prose blocks, propulsive paratactic imperatives – of Western migration and progress, from the discovery of the New World to its deteriorations such as the LA Riots.
Last night, Nightboat Books and Asian American Writers Workshop hosted a reading and panel discussion for Myung Mi Kim and I was happy to be part of the discussion. It was an interesting reunion for me considering that Kim was my poetry professor when I was a grubby, angsty 19 year old. It was she who implanted the seeds about language/politics/poetics in me which has obsessed me ever since. Kazim Ali and Tan Lin were also part of the event as well—Kazim read from his beautiful latest collection, The Fortieth Day, and Tan Lin cogently talked about the notion of geopolitical systems in Kim’s work. (By the way, I just looked up Tan Lin’s book, Lotion Bullwhip Giraffe, which is also out of print. Sun and Moon Press has left a huge vacuum with its demise. A call to current presses: Reissue Lotion Bullwhip Giraffe!)
Kim is a brilliant poet. Read her, write essays about her. I will guarantee that in generations to come, she will be considered one of the more influential poets of her generation.
and on another side note: what poetry books would you like to see reissued?
Cathy Park Hong is the author of Translating Mo'um, (Hanging Loose Press, 2002); Dance Dance Revolution (W.W. Norton, 2007), winner of the Barnard New Women Poets Prize; and Engine Empire (W.W. Norton, 2012). She is the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the NEA, and the New York Foundation for the...