Kim Hye-Sun’s poems first appeared in the early 1980’s as Korea began to emerge from decades of authoritarian rule. In a Korean tradition of poetry in which women are expected to be non-controversial, soft-spoken, and gentle, Kim Hye-Sun’s work is a shocking deviation. Her words are harsh, radical, and shouted from a shifting ground of what Kim calls women’s “diasporic identity.”

Kim belongs to the group Another Culture, which emerged in the 80s and has played a critical role in feminist literary research and publication, including development of women’s studies in South Korea. She resists conventional literary forms long defined by men, exploring women’s multiple and simultaneous existence as grandmothers, mother, daughters, and lovers, and speaks of the creation of a new language for women—a language untouched by the powerful male presences that dominate Korean Literature.

Whereas male Korean poetry replies on the manipulation of nature, on what one decides to see, Kim theorizes that women recognize nature’s independent existence, and understand how to bring forth a poem and let it go its own way, as they must do with a child. She speaks in a recent interview of the forces men impose on their subjects, either by cutting away from nature only the parts they want or by splicing in convenient metaphors. Women impose their existence not over nature, but beside it, she claims; their language is internal, and their resistance forges a language that is surreal, defiant, revolutionary.

Whether in spite of, or because of, her rebelliousness, Kim was one of the first women poets to be published in the prestigious journal Literature and Intellect. The recipient of several major literary awards in Korea, she has published seven collections of poetry, and, most recently, a collection of critical essays about women and writing. Kim’s work has been translated into both German and Spanish, and poems in English translation have appeared here in Arts & Letters, Prairie Schooner, and the Literary Review.

Married to playwright Yi Kang-baek, Kim teaches at Seoul Arts University, where she is Dean of Creative Writing.



Poems by Kim Hye-sun


Regarding Love

A Song




Poetry Center Reading:

      Fall 2003