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I was excited to find Don Mee Choi's poetry book The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010) on the University of Minnesota's library shelves because though I'd never heard of the poet, I saw that both Craig Santos Perez and Minnie Bruce Pratt blurbed it.

A note on the last page of the book, About the Cover, explains that the image of multicolored stripes on the cover was created by the designer through a process of inserting lines from one of the poems into a jpeg file of a photograph of a chrysanthemum. There is something startlingly simple yet mysterious about the resulting image. Without the note, I would never have thought that the cover stripes were generated through this kind of digital manipulation, but once I know that fact, it carries far more intrigue. The lines of the poem inserted into the digital file are:
Dandelions may not be weeds. They are related to chrysanthemums. Girls should.
May all weeds dislocate themselves. Girls should. I clench my fist and watch the morning news. Dandelion leaves are bitter yet tender. Girls should. Chrysanthemums are admired. Beware. The early morning news is exciting.
There is something about collected images of the flower, the weed, and the girl in relation to the colored lines that seems so fruitful....

As the quoted lines above suggest, there is quite a bit of exploring gender expectations in this collection. The poems also experiment with the limits of words in creating meaning, in a way that reminds me of Myung Mi Kim's poetry. Like Kim, Choi also addresses the complexities of Korea's colonial history and neocolonial present, examining the layers of cultural meaning and power that inhere in language and imagery.

Many of the poems in this collection come with brief explanatory notes. The notes explain where borrowed lines come from (sources range from other poets like Emily Dickinson to theorists like Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Fanon, Pheng Cheah, Spivak, and Freud). As you might imagine with those sources, Choi's poems are enmeshed in some heady intellectual discourse. It will take many more passes through these poems for me to begin unpacking the layers of ideas in them....
Current Mood: okayokay
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