Can I call my death “I”?
The following excerpt from Autobiography of Death by Kim Hyesoon with translation by Don Mee Choi is the third installment in The Pronoun folio of the Transpacific Literary Project. Find the rest of the folio here.
누가 네 몸속에서 물을 길어 올리나
누가 네 몸속에서 섹스를 하고 있나
창밖에서 남자와 여자의 구두가
후두둑 후두둑 떨어진다
(넌 알고 있었니?
우리가 흐느끼는 소리로 뭉쳐진 존재라는 걸)
누가 네 속에서 풍금을 치나
누가 네 속의 진흙속에서 푸들거리나
누가 네 속의 몇 개의 지층 아래서 벌떡벌떡 물을 토하나
(몇 세기의 지붕을 소리없이 걸어가던 여자가
임신한 배를 껴안고
잠시 쉬는 테라스
눈물로 만든 렌즈들이 유리창을 쓰다듬고 있네)
Originally published by 문학실험실 || Experimental Literature Lab (2016)
Who’s drawing up the water inside your body?
Who’s having sex inside your body?
Outside the window a man’s and a woman’s shoes
plop plop plop plop down
(Did you know that
our existence is lumped together by the sound of our weeping?)
Who’s playing the pipe organ inside you?
Who’s shivering in the mud inside you?
Who’s heaving up water beneath the rock layers inside you?
(The woman silently walking on the roof of a certain century
cradles her pregnant belly
and rests for a moment on the terrace
The lenses made of tears caress the window)
December 5, 2017, Seoul
DMC: Why the relentless use of “you” in Autobiography?
KH: Which individual narrates my death? Can I call my death “I”? As I began to speak through my death, my death became “you.” My death made the I into “not I.” As I’ve mentioned before, poetry awaits where “I” is killed. I came to think that the you in Autobiography was not I or you or he/she. That is to say, the you (death) lacked any person-narrator. I kept wondering which person-narrator death might be. I thought that perhaps it was a sixth or seventh person-narrator. The “you” in Autobiography is neither I, you, nor she—it’s “my death.” I couldn’t have heard the sound of death without killing the I. The I endlessly sought after “you” through my language and death, and in order for my sensations to enter the world of poetry where “you” resides, it had to charm, declare my death, and confess its love for “you”. Love is an abnormal connection between the I and you. I want to die inside you—that’s love. That’s why the only ethical practice of poetry is to practice the death of “I”—to fit perfectly with your body and soul. Ultimately, the I that has the eyes, nose, and mouth of death wants to become you.
Heart’s Exile, Day 47 By Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi, and excerpt from interview, from AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF DEATH, copyright © 2016 by Kim Hyesoon, translation copyright © 2018 by Don Mee Choi. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.