Kim, Myung Mi 1957-
KIM, Myung Mi 1957-
PERSONAL: Born December 6, 1957, in Seoul, Republic of Korea; immigrated to the United States; daughter of Yong Ok and Soo Bok Kim; married Kevin Magee, June 18, 1988; children: Malcolm Song-ok. Education: Oberlin College, B.A., 1979; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1981; University of Iowa, M.F. A., 1986.
CAREER: Poet and educator. Chinatown Manpower Project, New York, NY, English-as-a-second-language (ESL) teacher, 1981-82; Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY, English teacher, 1983-84; University of Iowa, teaching-writing fellow, 1984-86; Luther College, director of student support services, 1987-91; San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, assistant professor, 1991—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Faculty affirmative action awards, San Francisco State University, 1992, 1993; Djerassi resident artist, 1993; Gertrude Stein Award for innovative North American Poetry, Sun & Moon Press, 1993, 1994; Edelstein-Keller writer-in-residence, University of Minnesota; Fund for Poetry award.
Under Flag (poems), Kelsey Street Press (Berkeley, CA), 1991.
The Bounty (poems), Chax Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
Dura (poems), Sun ' Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1998.
Commons (poems), University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.
Contributor to anthologies, including Forbidden Stitch: An Asian American Women's Anthology, Calyx Press, 1989, and Anthology of Asian American Writing, 1994, and to literary journals, including Antioch Review, Ironwood, Hambone, Avec, Sulfur, and Conjunctions.
SIDELIGHTS: Korean-born poet Myung Mi Kim's first collection, Under Flag, reflects the memories of hunger, violence, loss of self-esteem, and displacement she experienced during the U.S. occupation of Korea. The book focuses on her life before she immigrated to the United States at the age of nine, "old enough," said Karl Young in American Book Review, "to have a good sense of her native language and culture and the modes of thinking they impose; young enough to become proficient in her new language, but never quite at home in it or its correlative mindset. This gives rise to the major technique of the book, a careful modulation between degrees of fluency and difficulty of articulation." A number of Kim's poems are set in the United States.
Minnesota Review contributor Patricia A. Sakurai wrote that Kim's poems "are often marked by powerful understatement and haunted by irrecoverable loss and grief. Rather than rely solely on graphic detail, she uses the subtle and unexpected image to convey the landscape of war and penetrate the reader's conscience. . . . Her poems are a telling, though the act of telling is itself subject to doubt, emphasizing further the themes of transience and a shaken sense of certainty."
In Multicultural Review, Joseph Donahue commented that throughout Under Flag "historically specific scenes are interwoven with hallucinatory fragments, reminding us of poetry's oldest concerns with destruction, diaspora, and the preservation of the human figure from oblivion."
Kim's other collections include The Bounty and Dura, the latter a long poem divided into parts titled "Cosmography," "Measure," "Labors," "Chart," "Thirty and Five Books," "Progress in Learning," and "Hummingbird." Portions of the book first appeared in literary journals. A Publishers Weekly reviewer said that in this experimental collection, Kim "finds ways to make her very personal relationship to issues of immigration and cultural severing inclusive."
"Some words strike this reader as unusual," commented Edgar C. Knowlton, Jr., in World Literature Today, "such as sept, trillium, burin, and motility, although they all are found in the English lexicon. One can only be favorably impressed by the eagerness with which this poet must have learned to control the mighty riches contained in English dictionaries."
Voice Literary Supplement contributor Ed Park, however, found the issue of language more problematic. "The anxiety of speech reaches near neurotic proportions in Kim's work," he wrote. "Her first book, Under Flag, charged the letters of her second language with doubt and possibility. . . . Commons begins with an 'Exordium,' a preparation for speech—but its relative order dissipates in the next section ('Lamenta'), a slow-motion explosion of mysterious numbers, anatomy lessons, and punctuation, unfolding in acres of white space." Park said that the final section, "Pollen Fossil Record," "shows Kim doing the critic's job of framing the fragments that have preceded it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Book Review, June, 1993, Karl Young, review of Under Flag, p. 21.
Minnesota Review, spring, 1992, Patricia A. Sakurai, review of Under Flag, pp. 97-101.
Multicultural Review, April, 1992, Joseph Donahue, review of Under Flag, p. 75.
Publishers Weekly, August 31, 1998, review of Dura, p. 69.
Voice Literary Supplement, May, 2002, Ed Park, review of Commons.
World Literature Today, spring, 1999, Edgar C. Knowlton, Jr., review of Dura, p. 389.*