Current Issue Interviews Interviews Spring 2018

An Interview with Che Ho-ki

1. I’m curious why you’ve written poems about an LGBT+ individual. This could have been motivated by a personal reason or by social activism. I’m especially struck by the year in which these works were written, since the LGBT+ community wasn’t that visible in 1994. Can you tell us a bit more about the background of writing these poems?

Che Ho-ki: I was approaching LGBT+ issues from an aesthetic perspective, not a political one. Ever since I embarked on putting my first anthology together, I’ve been interested in issues pertaining to bodies, and I imagined a life where one lives in another person’s body as an extension of this interest. You would know if you’ve read the entire anthology [Sad Gay], but the narrator lives the remaining life of a loved one after they pass away. By living on behalf of another person, the narrator doesn’t simply live as if he is the loved one. Rather, he lives entirely as the other person, giving up his own body to live in the dead person’s body. In other words, nullifying the death of his loved one and extending his life became the narrator’s life. Hence, I specifically focused on transgender identities in my poems, even more so than other LGBT+ identities.

2. I noticed that eyes frequently appear in your imageries. Moreover, sadness and love (especially same-sex love) are embedded in these imageries. I wonder, in your opinion, how eyes, sadness, and homosexuality are tied together.

I didn’t consciously bring eyes into focus, so I can only make an inference as to why that happened. I think it must be because eyes, compared to other organs, appear to be on the dividing line between mind and body. Likewise, eyes can function as a transmitter, a window, and a passage between the internal and external world. I realized this only after reading your question, but this might explain why eyes, sadness, and love (especially homosexuality) seem to be deeply related. Also, it recently came to me that my eyes have been the weakest part of my body. So maybe this also had an effect, albeit an unconscious one. And as a side note, I think my interest in eyes has persisted in my later anthologies, too.

3. You expressed homosexuality as living the life of a dead person, yet a living person can never become the owner of death. Moreover, in “Gay 2,” the narrator wants to become a woman, so I don’t think male homosexuality is defined simply as “a man loving another man” in your anthology. That being said, what does being “gay” mean in Sad Gay?

I think a part of this question was answered in my first answer. Just to add to that, it would be more precise to say that these poems are about transgender identities, not gay identities. And this is kind of a tangent, but I think that deep inside I have a desire to become a woman, too. A long time ago, someone who read my anthology wrote a short article saying how they could sense a feminine identity in my poems. I wasn’t aware of it at that time, but I’ve been thinking about my identity a lot lately.

4. You unravel the impossible union of one and another by connecting a series of poems. As you wrote and put them together, you must have considered many different things, such as the order of different poems and the gaps between them. Do you mind elaborating on this?

People often asked me the same question when this poetry anthology was first released. Starting from the time I compiled poems for the first anthology up until now, I’ve put a lot of effort into making the entire anthology an organic entity. Especially because the guiding imagery of this book was based on the collection of smaller imageries and stories of individual poems, I arranged the poems according to how the imageries flow, rather than following the order of when they were written. And whenever there was a gap between the poems, I added a newly written poem as I put them together into an anthology. 

5. What will your next novel’s venture be like?

I gathered my manuscripts for a new poetry anthology and sent them to the publisher Munhakdongne. My works are going to be published around April 2018. In addition, I’ve been working on a series of poems to publish them as an anthology, but since the topic isn’t something that can be leisurely written and takes up a lot of time, I’m trying to finish as soon as possible.

 

Read Che Ho-ki’s
“Sad Gay” and Four Poems here

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