1. I’m curious why you have written poems about the lives of LGBT+ people. This could have been motivated by a personal reason or by social activism. I think the latter is especially apparent in your works as you directly bring up political incidents like Park Geun-hye’s profession, a candlelight demonstration, and the Gil Ra-im controversy.
Kim Hyun: I didn’t intend to specifically use the lives of LGBT+ people as the theme of my poems. Rather, this naturally blended into my works because I write poems based on my own life. However, because there hasn’t been a Korean poem highlighting an LGBT+ person’s life as the main theme, I do try to write poems that can be representative.
And by rendering LGBT+ people’s lives along with political issues, I attempted to defy the erasure of LGBT+ people or the estrangement of them as “a very special existence.” I wanted to portray the lives of LGBT+ people as who they are: citizens who stand in the square holding candlelights, laborers who sweat in workplaces, and activists who rise against hatred, discrimination, and violence.
2. This might be a superficial question, but in your works you frequently use footnotes that are “written” by a narrator or by a “writer writing in accordance with footnotes from the narrator,” and so on. These footnotes not only break the rules, but also occupy a curious position in the poems—they are placed on the outside while at the same time being inside. I wonder, in what circumstances do you decide to use footnotes, and for what reason? Also, what kind of meaning do you project onto using footnotes?
I think it’s an artist’s responsibility to break the rules. For a long time, I wrote poems while asking if they can be entirely fictitious. If I actively impose fictionality to a poem, what would it become? Non-poetry? Can’t that make it even more poetic? These were the questions and anticipations I had. I thought I would compile elements considered non-poetic and make them into something poetic. And footnotes are one of the tools I used to realize this determination. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to consume the footnotes by turning them into direct quotations. So I conflated truth and falsity in the footnotes. In my second poetry anthology, I used these things that look like footnotes and called them “dissolves.” If the first poetry anthology uses footnotes to create poetic tension in the gap spanning truth and falsity, the second anthology uses “dissolves” in a way that demands several poetic moments to overlap, thereby expanding the horizon of the poem endlessly. In the bilingual Korean-English anthology, I called the things that look like footnotes “sounds” and tried to put a human voice into the poems.
3. Flesh, death, and gay identity are bound together in your poems. For example, death appears in “Budweiser…shoved in the asshole” and the penis of a person who died from AIDS is blue. How do you think these three elements—sexual identity, death, and flesh—are intertwined?
It’s not that I thought that these three elements are bound together in a special way. It would be more accurate to say that I was looking at the LGBT+ (movement) history and wondered how loneliness and the deaths of many individuals were entangled with history. Since I am a person in the present, it’s impossible not to think about those from the past.
4. Since your works cover various concepts of love in your poems, I wonder what love means to you. It could be the song you sing with mermaids and it could also be the boy who thanks Grandpa Andy after discovering his disease.
I received a similar question one day, and I answered, “Love is everything to me” in one breath. If someone asks if I still feel the same, I think I’d take ten more seconds before answering “yes.” And I think these ten seconds are the reason I continue to write and create artwork. These days, hearing “love” instantly reminds me of “alliance.” How far can my and our love expand?
5. What will your next novel’s venture be like?
Last February, I published the second poetry anthology When the Lips Open, in which I put together my poems written from 2013 to 2015. And a bilingual Korean-English poetry anthology is about to be published in the first half of this year. I named the collection The Future of Sadness, and I chose twenty poems written after 2015. I’ve also collected the scripts for my third anthology, and I’m now working on poems for the fourth anthology.
Read Kim Hyun’s
“Old Baby Homo” and four poems here