23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Don Mee Choi
© Hartwig Klappert

Don Mee Choi

The poet and translator Don Mee Choi was born in Seoul in 1962 during the US-backed military dictatorship of Park Chung-hee. Choi also grew up in Hong Kong and eventually moved to the USA, where she now lives in Seattle.
The division of Korea and the resulting identity problems are a fundamental theme in Choi’s poetry. She made her début in 2010 with the volume »The Morning News is Exciting«, whose poems focus on both her own and the national identity as well as on the exploration of themes of empire, military violence, dislocation, and memory. Following the poetry and essay pamphlets »Petite Manifesto« and »Freely Frayed« (both 2014), »Hardly War« was published in 2016, a book of mixed-media poetry and prose about themes of tension between the legacy of the Korean War and her family history, accompanied by photographs from the Korean and Vietnam wars taken by Choi’s father, a war photographer. In this book, Choi expresses her pain over the situation in Korea with wit and anger. For example, in »A Little Menu« she uses a list of foods to ask whether the South Korean general Chae Pyong-dok, whom the Americans called »Fatty«, would prefer GI rations or traditional Korean cuisine. In the section titled »Refugee Girl / Daisy Girl«, Choi juxtaposes a photograph of a North Vietnamese refugee girl with a »daisy girl« from Lyndon B. Johnson’s »Daisy« advertising campaign against Barry Goldwater in 1964. The book ends with an opera libretto based on Choi’s interviews with her father in which the main character is called Camera Elmar, after her father’s preferred camera. Here, flowers are given a special meaning as a chorus of voices under the influence of the war. »Choi’s zany take on militarism and the Korean diaspora may seem absurdist, but it is an inventive and daring waltz that upends what is commonly understood as the ›Forgotten War‹« (»Publishers Weekly«).
Don Mee Choi is also a translator of contemporary Korean women’s poetry. She received the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize in 2012 and was a finalist for the PEN Poetry in Translation Award in 2015 with her translation of Kim Hyesoon’s »Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream«. Choi was awarded the Whiting Award in 2011 and the Lannan Literary Fellowship Award in 2016 for her own work. Her translations, poems, and interviews have appeared in journals such as »Granta«, »The Margins«, »Bomb«, and »Modern Poetry in Translation«. She also translates for the International Women’s Network Against Militarism. In 2019 she is a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.



The Morning News is Exciting
Action Books
Notre Dame, IN, 2010
Petite Manifesto
Vagabond Press
Sydney/Tokio, 2014
Freely Frayed
Wave Books
Seattle, 2014
Hardly War
Wave Books
Seattle/New York, 2016
DMZ Colony
Wave Books
Seattle/New York, 2020