Translators’ Note

Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello and E. J. Koh

In the United States, Don Mee Choi has pioneered the translation of Korean women’s poetry, shifting attention to the work of Kim Hyesoon and Kim Yi-deum. Kim Hyesoon’s dearest colleague and successor Yi Won belongs to South Korea’s foremost contemporary women poets. In collaboration with Don Mee Choi under the ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship, we are completing the translations of Yi Won’s two collections: When They Ruled the Earth (1996) and The Lightest Motorcycle in the World (2007) where Yi Won recalls an ancient past juxtaposed with the current technological and Korean Wave immersion, merging the sixteenth and twenty-second centuries, using the gap to strike down political disillusionment and materiality of identity. Yi Won enlivens word-play on texts dating back to Buddhist lore, a route that encompasses China, Japan, and Korea, a far-reaching scope of lesser documented history. Yi Won’s poetry thrives in the unique struggles of Korea’s neglected past and present. In April 2016, Ae Hee Lee and Emily Jungmin Yoon co-curated a feature called “Modern and Contemporary Korean Women Poets” for The Missing Slate. Lee argues that in the 1970s, Korean poetry began to inform modern poetry where Korean women resisted expectations of delicate styles in favor of sharper expressions of their reality, neocolonialism, and more. “By the act of writing, they were practicing a revolution, challenging Korea’s male-dominated field of poetry by constantly publishing their work, asserting their existence and talent through their poems.” As translators and Korean American women poets, we strive relentlessly for future translations of Korean women poets, a movement expanding across the country with generosity and wonder.


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