May 10, 2010

Myung Mi Kim :: Into the Whole Space :: Mark At The Margin | Tamiko Beyer

Myung Mi Kim’s urgent concerns include language and who says what; who learns what language how; what is home, what is war, what is destroyed; what is body as woman, as human.

She peels away utter[ance],to arrive, somehow, placed. In her work, body and location are vulnerable, taken to the precipice where language is at once a tether and a new form of entering.

Kim’s poetry is grounded in the processes of language and silences: “Each sound trace, each demonstration of the line, each formal enunciation: aperture: conduit: coming into articulation, into the Imaginary – the lyric as it embodies the processural” (Commons, 111)

The last line of Kim’s Dura reads: “Experiment is each scroll of white pages joined together” (102). In other words, her experiment is the individual joined to the collective, is the space on the page, is – not the setting down, not the fixed fact – but that moment of potential, that moment of possibility.

And so, her work is full. Of space. Space between words and punctuation. Space between lines and stanzas. Page-long spaces. These I read as “aperture: conduit.”

She states without equivocation: “Conjunction used with abandon is lethargy of the idea.” (Dura, 96)

And so, silence. Space.

Over which I, reader, feel invited to leap and leap into. Read as more than, less than, equal to in the associative nonconjunction. Don’t read and/or/but/… simply—silence—the quiet between two words. How they float on the page and in the mind. Then, my mind becomes less than tranquil reaching towards some kind of impossible equilibrium.

This invitation to energized participation via a charged silence feels like a distinctly feminist strategy, and one I’ve not come across before in quite this way.

Instead of conjunction, there is counterpoint and juxtaposition. Instead of lethargy, fierce energy of gaps to hold. Kim’s eye/mouth/ear is always on devastation and trauma (cultural, societal personal), but these cannot be explained, they cannot be conjoined without warp. Process is what allows her to somehow articulate this: process over time and space/page, process voiced and vocalized.

She instructs: “Open a page What does it look like” (Dura, 96)

To answer this question is how I find my way into her work.

I notate, I scribble, I enter into the energies of her space, the invitation of the page and how it looks. I feel welcomed to participate in the making of sense-meaning, in forming my own utterance, arriving at the lyric through a collaborative process that spans time and (white)space. In response, I offer my process and sense-making triggered by the words, and the spaces between the words, of Kim’s Commons.

What a feminist poetics looks like.

common connection :: our artifact

   after MMK

a firm account of birthing

barely terrifying

pregnancy & war
spiral & domesticity
suspicion & circular

form as relationship

to say what
needs to be said
(bodily gesture)
disaster narrative & gender delineation
to stand
to speak well
body as shelter, as a body speaking towards

:: ::

enemies surround
we consume

:: ::

if violence via language
is plague is infestation
colonizing nature (to occupy)
(hidden transgression)
what is the body dissected? (penury)

:: ::

discovery of a different kind of pleasure
signal shifts | body | march |
| death | earth |
| place |

violence to body
not done

:: ::

map to daily ritual
see first line

dictated invasion
what story here?

human & animal
the question the unknowing


attempted circle
attempted closure

what is function without relationship?

Works Cited
Kim, Myung Mi. Commons. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

---. Dura. New York: Nightboat Books, 2008.
Tamiko Beyer has studied with Kundiman faculty Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Myung Mi Kim, Prageeta Sharma, and Staceyann Chin. Her poetry has appeared The Collagist, Sonora Review, OCHO, Copper Nickel,and elsewhere. She is an Olin and Chancellor’s Fellow at WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis where she is pursing her M.F.A. She serves as the poetry editor of Drunken Boat, and is a founding member of Agent 409: a queer, multi-racial writing collective in New York City. Find her online at and blogging at

Photo by Kian Goh.

1 comment:

Josef Horáček said...

"This invitation to energized participation via a charged silence feels like a distinctly feminist strategy": I'd like to see a more detailed explanation of this. I don't know Kim's work, but paratactic writing full of silences and white space (not necessarily the same thing) has been with us for quite a while (Stephane Mallarme's _A Throw of the Dice_ is an early example). As so many formal strategies, "charged silence" can be used to different ends. It can be feminist, to be sure, but is it exclusively or "distinctly" feminist?