“Turbulence in Dockworkers Union Negotiations: Local Representatives
with Differing Positions… No Conclusion in Sight.”
Donga News Report, 11th May 2003
“International Adoption Report: 143,000 Korean children sent abroad;
71.3% of adoptions are international.”
National Report, 2001
I’m cargo, a shipping container dripping with fetid water.
I’m hastily packed and transported, then shipped over.
I put all kinds of crap into my mouth, I’m a food disposal,
an astronaut suit with busted seams, made at a hole-in-the-wall sweatshop
and likely to be abandoned on a church doormat.
The close people study my record, the vaguer my origins become.
If it weren’t for its infant epileptic fits, this bothersome parcel
would have been exported to the U.S. or Canada.
The backroom is so messy that it’s hard to tell where I’m being shipped.
I’m tied up in a bundle so I can easily be shoved in the corner.
In the middle of the night, I am transported
through the whorehouse container yard,
before finally arriving at the distribution center.
What the hell did this use to be? What a piece of junk.
No need for a processing fee, because nobody will claim this package.
This flotsam, which used to be some sort of organism, is quite political…
~ Kim Yideum, trans. from Korean by Ji Yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi and Johannes Göransson
Kim Yideum (1969 – present) is a good example of Korean women’s poetry burgeoning after a period of taboos and stereotyping of women’s bodies and poetic diction. Influenced by feminist writers such as Sylvia Plath and Kim Hyesoon, and avant-garde writer Yi Sang, Kim Yideum writes confessional and surreal poetry, breaks out of the box of contemporary Korean society, brings out its shadows, its margins, its abandoned and dead. She also touches upon the themes of media, society, and the individual, and even Korean poetry as an institution.
Don Mee Choi is the author of ‘Hardly War’ (Wave Books, 2016) and ‘The Morning News Is Exciting’ (Action Books, 2010), and a translator of contemporary Korean women poets. Her most recent translation is Kim Hyesoon’s ‘Poor Love Machine’ (Action Books, 2016).
Johannes Göransson is the author of six books, including most recently ‘The Sugar Book’ (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2015), and has translated a number of poets from Swedish to English. He has also written criticism about translation theory, and is currently working on a book on the subject. Born outside of Lund, Sweden, Göransson has lived in the U.S. for many years, and currently teaches at the University of Notre Dame. Together with Joyelle McSweeney, he edits Action Books.
Ji Yoon Lee is the author of ‘Foreigner’s Folly’ (Coconut Books, 2014), ‘Funsize/Bitesize’ (Birds of Lace, 2013), and ‘IMMA’ (Radioactive Moat, 2012). She is the winner of the Joanna Cargill prize (2014), and her manuscript was a finalist for the 1913 First Book Prize (2012).She was born in South Korea and came to the United States as a teen. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame.
This translation of ‘Distribution Center’ originally appeared in ‘Cheer Up, Femme Fatale’ (Action Books, 2016). The editors wish to thank Action Books for generously granting permission to republish the translation here.