What is Suji Kwock Kim's tone and style in her poetry/poems?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Her tone?  Often sensual, sometimes analytical, always personal.  Her style?  Absolutely always lyrical. 

In regard to style, if you search online you will see that sometimes she is more associated with MUSIC and OPERA more than poetry!  This is apart from all of her poetic awards, such as the prestigious Walt Whitman Award in 2002!  Further, her poems are always described as having either "choral settings" or "vocal settings" which is quite an interesting way to describe her style of lyricism.

Even though her style is interesting, it is the personal tone of her poetry that I think is the most striking. Often the feeling is one of pain, but not always.  Let's take a look at a few of her poems as examples.  In "Generations," which is a neat representation of the first part of her collection called Notes from the Divided Country, Kim talks about the growth of the poet through the metaphor of conception.  It is entrancing and beautiful in its language!  However, soon we see where the "life" of the poet with two backgrounds can lead. 

Many of her poems have a painful and anguished tone.  For example, the tone of "ST RAGE" is quite striking, painful, and apparent.  Here Kim explores the feelings of hatred of the white thugs who bully her mentally and physically challenged brother.  The pain and anguish continue through the history of the many American and Korean conflicts and how they affected Kim's family.  However, it is not only pain and anguish that affects Kim; however, the tone of her nature poems are some of the most analytical in their analysis.  Look at "On Sparrows"!  It hearkens to Hopkins' "Glory be to God for dappled things" and should make us all stand in awe of God's nature.

Thus, Kim desires us to see "through the veil" a bit in her poetry, as she says here:

You must not grieve that the world is glimpsed through veils. How else can it be seen?

Only through her personal tone and lyrical style can we see the unique blend of Korean and American found in the words of Suji Kwock Kim.

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