Poetry News

Eyeful: Kim Hyesoon's Poetics & Poetry Hinging the Spirit's Experience

By Harriet Staff

Kim Hyesson

Tim VanDyke writes about the poetics and work of Kim Hyesoon for HTMLGIANT, noting that her "poetry and poetics have mainly been discussed in terms of the grotesque, but they also hover around questions regarding the experience and performance of spirit." You had us at spirit. More:

I see the ek-static as the experience of spirit, and ek-stasis to be its performance. Ekstasis seems to be a necessary bridge between Kim Hyesoon’s atavistic discussion of spirit in her poetics and the violence it informs, experiences, and envisions in her poetry, in that the symbolic and its identification with the grotesque is also the ekstatic or, in Norman O. Brown’s sense, the telepathic, a merging of bodies, or, the spirit’s experience.

I would like to begin this essay with two quotes from Norman O. Brown’s Love’s Body, taken from the chapter titled “Boundary:”

“The “postural model” of the body consists of “lines of energy.” “Psychic streams,” Freud’s “libidinal cathexes,” which are, like electricity, action at a distance; flux, influx, reflux: connecting different erogenous points in the body (the psychosexual organizations); and connecting one body with other bodies. “…..The body image incorporates bodies or spreads itself in space.” “In an individual’s own postural image many postural images of others are melted together.” “We could describe the relation between the body-images of different persons under the metaphor of a magnetic field with stream lines going in all directions.” A Magnetic Field, or action at a distance; or a magical field; “magic action is an action which influences the body-image irrespective of the actual distance in space.” In magic action, there is a space connection between the most distant things” (pg. 156)**cf Herbert, “Man.” Schilder, Image and Appearance of the Human Body.


When it comes to incorporating Brown’s ideas with the idea of ekstasis: the hinge is identification. Ekstasis comes from the Greek; ek, meaning, “out of, beyond” and stasis: meaning, “the place one is standing.” Action at a distance takes the concept of ekstasis one step further by including the phenomenon of identification, so that subject and object are one, a merging of body with body. Stasis, then, is body, but also locus. To be ekstatic is to identify with another body regardless of distance. To experience or envision two bodies and two loci as one. Then, magic action is to affect other bodies in space over any distance, or to identify with and so experience an affect with another body, or, put another way, telepathy. This, then, is the ek-static principle, by way of Brown, where the allowance of one’s body-locus to dissolve and merge with other bodies at other loci makes it so that one’s body-image is stretched beyond the confines of any singular identity. It is, through the modalities of the body, a performance of the soul.

Hyesoon has four books that have been translated into English so far, all by Don Mee Choi: When the Plug Gets Unplugged (Tinfish 2005), Mommy Must Be A Fountain of Feathers (Action Books 2008), All the Garbage of the World Unite! (Action Books 2011), and a collection of essays— Princess Abandoned (Tinfish 2012). Many of the poems found therein open up the idea of the spirit to an array of nightmares oscillating in the guts of Seoul, nightmares that are the guts of Seoul. And out of this intestinal torpidity Hyesoon creates a poetic space that is womb and gut and glut and cave, a harrowing femininity abandoned at birth and left to fester until, as if by magic decree, a nameless spirit emerges. Like Clayton Eshleman’s caves, just as he engages with and transcribes what he takes as the invention of the soul, so Hyesoon creates a cave, a womb, guts a space within which to invent her self, to create her soul.

"But what kind of soul?" Find out here.

Originally Published: September 19th, 2013