Tabs open on your screen right now: Outlook and a Korean news website. The news article is on the drafting of Korean women’s volleyball players.
If you had to brag about yourself: I like my thick and dark eyebrows and how they’re shaped. I’m lazy so I’m glad that I don’t have to draw on eyebrows. OH and KTX Magazine (magazine run by the high-speed train KTX) published my note to the editor and sent me the September issue and a face cleanser haha! I wrote that I liked their feature on the revived popularity of poetry in Korea in their August issue. I use the train a lot in Korea to go back and forth between Busan and Seoul and love the magazine so this is cool for me. They have good journalistic pieces and poetry! I was actually really excited to get my two cents in there.
Your writer crush: The first poet I crushed on hard is Li-Young Lee. I saw him at AWP in LA and was the opposite of the suave. So awkward!
Favorite lyric: “작은 가슴 모두 모두어/시를 써봐도 모자란 당신” from Kim Kwangsŏk’s “먼지가 되어.” The lyrics can be translated to “even if I gather all of my small heart and write a poem, it’s not enough for you”–not enough as in, even a poem cannot express the speaker’s feelings for the “you.” The title can be translated to “Become dust.” The next part of the song says that the speaker wants to become dust and fly to the “you.” There is actually a theme or gathering, settling, and flying that turns things to dust, like the “small heart” in the part that I quoted. The texture of the words is difficult to translate into English.
Any place in the world: Busan, Korea, because that’s where I am right now and where my family lives. It has beautiful white sand beaches.
Best breakfast: Anything with eggs.
Least impressive thing about you: I’m really scared of many insects, especially roaches. One time in Seoul, a huge moth flew into the apartment I was staying at, so I trapped it in a bedroom and called a friend to come catch it for me. The friend was actually my friend Jack Jung, a fellow poet/translator. Jack had to take a taxi to my place. Then I hid in a corner and yelled DON’T KILL IT, CATCH IT AND RELEASE IT OUTSIDE. DON’T KILL IT!
Favorite space to write: A cafe with big tables, lots of light, and soft music. Or my room in the wee hours of the night.
What should we know: I don’t understand a lot of western pop references or know a lot of music from the 90’s or before because I moved to Canada in 2002. For instance, when Bowie and Prince died, I couldn’t participate in the grieving because although I knew them by name and knew that they were influential and meant a lot to people, I still don’t know much about them and don’t know much about their music. Sometimes people say something like “OH MY GOSH, you don’t know ______? It’s a classic!” I wish they wouldn’t. It’s not easy to keep up with multiple cultures.
Best book nobody talks about: I don’t know if nobody talks about it, but I love the children’s book Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman. It’s about how a grandfather makes a blanket for his baby grandson and as the grandson grows older and bigger, the blanket turns into a jacket, a vest, a necktie, a handkerchief then finally a button. No one I know seems to have read it, although many of them know the Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, and the very famous ones. I love the illustrations in Something From Nothing. I love that the illustrations show both the human family and a mouse family living underground. The mice use the scrap from the fabric that fell into the floor cracks to make their own things. Spoiler alert, the grandson loses the button but the reader sees that the mice family has found it.
Another book that few people in the US seem to know is Meu Pé de Laranja Lima (My Sweet Orange Tree) by José Mauro de Vasconcelos. It’s a Brazilian novel that is VERY popular in Korea. The story is a bit long to explain, but Wikipedia has a good entry on it. I read it a long long time ago in Korean, but I remember that I was infatuated with it.
Question you secretly want to be asked: Can I give you a million dollars for nothing?
The answer: Yeah, I’ll take it.
EMILY JUNGMIN YOON‘s poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, The Collagist, The Volta, Columbia Journal Online, and elsewhere. She is the winner of Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest 2015, AWP’s WC&C Scholarship Competition 2015, and the AAWW fellowship for Home School Miami 2016. She is currently a PhD student in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago and serves as the Poetry Editor for The Margins, the literary magazine of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. http://emily-yoon-poetry.tumblr.com/