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?

Originally Published: November 15th, 2008

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...

  1. November 15, 2008
     Carol Peters

    All the links are broken.

  2. November 15, 2008

    It's fixed! I'm a luddite.

  3. November 15, 2008

    Is there any reasonable way to get a hold of Christopher Smart's "Jubilate Agno"?
    I'm tempted to steal my library's copy--but I'm worried that that will just make this gem more esoteric--
    Though everyone seems to have read "For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffrey"--
    For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
    Maybe it's hidden in a readily available Collected--I'll feel happy, and kind of dumb for not having noticed it, to know--

  4. November 16, 2008
     Don Share
  5. November 16, 2008
     Stephen Hong Sohn

    I would love it if there was a reissue of Lotion Bullwhip Giraffe! Let's find a way =).

  6. November 16, 2008

    Jack Gilbert's older books are out of print and incredibly expensive and it's a horrible shame.

  7. November 16, 2008
     Kazim Ali

    Stephen Hong Sohn you trouble-maker!!!
    Hey everyone, get your copy of DURA here: www.nightboat.org

  8. November 16, 2008
     Barbara Jane Reyes

    I think Walter Lew's anthology Premonitions has been out of print. I'd love to see that again.

  9. November 17, 2008
     Ken Chen

    I'm glad you've posted about this. One of the things we've been trying to do at The Asian American Writers' Workshop has been to bring attention to writers that the general readership might not have otherwise heard of. As you and I have discussed, I've been trying to bring in writers with more avant-garde sensibilities (or at least writers that might not normally be thought of as Asian American, not that these two classifications are synonymous), such as you, Myung and Tan, John Yau, Shanxing Wang, Brenda Shaugnessy, Tao Lin, and others. I hope these readings start to expose more people to their work.
    Stephen - in my intro, I referred to you as one of the most intelligent young literature professors in the country!
    To slip off my organization-suit a second, what struck me when hearing Myung reading from DURA was its similarities to Inger Christensen's IT and it occurred to me that, while most works of experimental poetics seek to unsettle language at the expense of diluting subject matter, IT and DURA both avail themselves of both a highly traditional but dispersed form (cosmography--cf., genesis, etc.) that is at once intrinsically world-full while also lacking in the obligation to focus on the world, say, in the way that a conventional anecdotal narrative poem would. In other words, DURA is a poem at once narratively opaque but still being "about" an engagement with the world.

  10. November 17, 2008

    Why is Brigit Pegeen Kelly's Yale prize book so scarce?