Woven from poems, prose, photographs, and drawings, Don Mee Choi's DMZ Colony is a tour de force of personal and political reckoning set over eight acts. Evincing the power of translation as a poetic device to navigate historical and linguistic borders, it explores Edward Said's notion of "the intertwined and overlapping histories" in regards to South Korea and the United States through innovative deployments of voice, story, and poetics. Like its sister book, Hardly War, it holds history accountable, its very presence a resistance to empire and a hope in humankind.
Hardly War, Don Mee Choi's major second collection, defies history, national identity, and militarism. Using artifacts from Choi's father, a professional photographer during the Korean and Vietnam wars, she combines memoir, image, and opera to explore her paternal relationship and heritage. Here poetry and geopolitics are inseparable twin sisters, conjoined to the belly of a warring empire.
"Deliberately and excitingly difficult in both its style and its subject matter, Don Mee Choi’s second collection, “Hardly War,” sees its author operating as an archaeologist as much as a poet. Choi’s use of hybrid forms — poetry, memoir, opera libretto, images and artifacts from her father’s career as a photojournalist in the Korean and Vietnam Wars — lets her explore themes of injustice and empire, history and identity, sifting through the detritus of family, translation, propaganda and dislocation." -- by Kathleen Rooney in NYTIMES Book Review
“Choi layers the photographs with headlines, posters, political speeches, military emblems, songs, and drawings from this period. This makes Hardly War a distinctly visual document, in which the images merge with text to form fields of marks. This method gestures to the work of Yi Sang, an experimental poet from Korea’s colonial period who used wordplay and abstraction to obliquely critique and insult Japanese rule.” —by Sukjong Hong The Margins
"Language is no longer in service to communication, and Choi releases control of it, willingly becoming hardly author. Fitting a language of race=nation, it is impossible for Hardly War to create boundaries and impossible for it to be whole." -- Michelle Lewis in Drunken Boat
"Hardly War animates what typically remains untold: “the faintly remembered, the faintly imagined, the faintly discarded.” --Mary-Kim Arnold in Hyperallergic
"Choi’s process of dealing with personal and global words and ideas are extraordinarily relevant in the 2016. Of particular note is the trauma that such tragedy brings, and asking how do humans manage trauma, both in the present and lifetimes beyond?" -- Greg Bem in Berfrois
...if one were to look for the most innovative and challenging uses of photography in literature today, I would point to a handful of contemporary poets who are finding ways to turn visual images into poetic vocabulary, notably Anne Carson, Christian Hawkey, Susan Howe, and Leslie Scalapino.” Today, I would add a number of names to that list, one of which is Don Mee Choi, whose new book of poems and photographs Hardly War (Seattle & NY: Wave Books, 2016) I have been reading and rereading for a week now. Choi pulls off quote a feat by blending several languages, photographs, and drawings into a unified whole. --Terry Pitts, 3/31/2016, Vertigo
In “trying to fold race into geopolitics and geopolitics into poetry,” Choi succeeds mightily. The book, divided into three sections—“Hardly War,” “Purely Illustrative,” and “Hardly Opera”—is a collage of reproduced photographs, musical scales, and formally innovative poems. PW
"is refreshingly strange" by Alex Gallo-Brown in CityArts
"...is challenging but powerful political poetry" by Rich Smith in The Stranger
"Don Mee Choi details the interior of the life of a young girl in the middle of war. This is no mere reduction or retelling. The metaphor stands that we are all hardly adults. Perhaps hardly human…If Hardly War can teach us anything, it is that perspective is everything." Benjamin Champagne, New Pages
Book page image provided by Wave Books. Photos of my reading by Laura Parker (lauraparker.com).
"Cameraman, run to my twin twin zone. A girl's exile excels beyond excess. Essence excels exile. Something happens to the wanted girl. Nothing happens to the unwanted girl. The morning news is exciting." A debut volume from poet, translator, artist and activist Don Mee Choi. Here translation, aberration, mobility and movement corrupt the would-be verities of the world's hegemonic codes.
Paul Cunningham made a film of my poem: "Twin Flower, Master, Emily," read by poet Valerie Mejer Caso, translated by Valerie Mejer Caso and Josefa Gonzalez.
“The Morning News is Excitingblends provocative politics with urgent writing.” – Lily Hoang, HTMLGIANT, July 2010
“The various forms throughout the different sections are woven with many disparate sources, including books regarding South Korea/ U.S. relations, and quotes from Spivak, Deleuze and Guattari, Fanon, Dickinson and Freud. The author herself slides skillfully out of one guise and into another. This variation presents an oblique solution to the problem of Empire as the one. Its welcome antithesis is here in shape-shifting multiples.” – Caitie Moore, Cutbank Reviews, Nov 2010
Don Mee Choi’s first book of poetry, The Morning News Is Exciting, is a seriously inventive manipulation of language, line, and sentence, grappling with divisions created by war and imperial conquest. Choi delves deeply into questions of translation, violence, and the potential for beauty in a gruesome world. – John Pluecker, The Quarterly Conversation, June 2011
“Choi translates feminist politics into an experimental poetry that demilitarizes, deconstructs, and decolonizes any master narrative.” – Craig Santos Perez
"In this book, Choi transits and translates the doubleness of self, kin, home and nation shattered by past colonialism and by continuing imperialism and capitalist predation." - Minnie Bruce Pratt
"‘Follow orderly obsessions’, one of Choi’s poems commands: these obsessions are war, language, translation, dislocation." - Dougal McNeill, Overland
"In The Morning News, language’s loaded relationships with empire, discourse, and gender can never be broken, only twisted and subverted." - Joel Scott, Cordite
Twin Flower, Master, Emily by Don Mee Choi (Trans. by Valerie Mejer Caso & Josefa Gonzalez)
Poem is from The Morning News Is Exciting
Film by poet & translator Paul Cunningham. Read by poet-artist-translator Valerie Mejer Caso.
Petite Manifesto (chapbook)
Published by Vagabond Press (2014), dB series 1 edited by Pam Brown, designed by Chris Edwards.
Petite Manifesto consists of poems about grammar, translation, immigration, debt, Gulliver, and Betty, including an explanation on Betty’s home.
"Poetry is many things, depending on the poet. It is, in the case of this book, an act of decolonisation. But can a manifesto also be a poem?" - Elena Gomez, Overland, Feb 2016
"Petite Manifestoalone is worth the purchase of the entire chapbook series. A fascinating, insightful exploration of the theme of the economic and conceptual exploitation of Korean women during and after the Cold War, Choi’s poems are direct interventions in the representations of Asianness and femininity and their economic and political consequences." –Ali Alizadeh, Overland, Jan 2015
“From the outset, the author delivers an associative and punning, politicised, carnival-esque prose style.” – Dan Disney, Cordite, March 2015
"Brown turned me on to poets like Don Mee Choi whose scorching, and often very funny, Petite Manifesto was anything but in its harangue of capitalism, gender and colonialism." - Liam Ferney, Southerly, January 2016
Freely Frayed,ᄏ=q, & Race=Nation were three talks given by poet Don Mee Choi at the Race & Creative Writing Conference 2014 at the University of Montana, Missoula, and at the 2014 AWP conference in Seattle, related to her translation work, especially with Korean poet Kim Hyesoon.
“Don Mee Choi’s new pamphlet of talks on translation, race, and politics is a radical text... [she] configures a counter-colonial co-body, an unknown zone, a zone made of ghost-twinship, translation, decomposition, trash and sound.” Reviewed by Joyelle McSweeney in Fanzine, 2015
“Ahn Hak-sŏp #4 is an experiment in translation outside of language. In this experimental fragment, author Don Mee Choi combines the emotionally charged testimony of Mr. Ahn Hak-sŏp with her own imaginative interpretation of his words. Don Mee Choi relates a real account of detainment and torture, while using abstraction to point towards the unspoken. What becomes eliminated in the act of translating testimony?” The Green Violin
Translation is a Mode = Translation is an Anti-neocolonial Mode
Publication date: March 2020, Ugly Duckling Press
Translation is a Mode=Translation is an Anti-neocolonial Mode explores translation and language in the context of US imperialism—through the eyes of a “foreigner,” a translator, a child from Ingmar Bergman’s Timoka, a child from a neocolony.