What have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes?
In her stunning debut poetry collection, What have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes?, Arlene Kim confronts the ways in which language mythologizes memory and thus exiles us from our own true histories. Juxtaposing formal choices and dreamlike details, Kim explores the entangled myths that accompany the experience of immigration—the abandoned country known only through stories, the new country into which the immigrant family must wander ever deeper, and the forked paths where these narratives meet and diverge.
Sharing ground with Randall Jarrell’s later poems, and drawing on a dizzying array of sources—including Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Korean folklore, Turkish proverbs, Paul Celan, Anna Akhmatova, Antonin Dvorak’s letters, and the numerous fictions we script across the inscrutabilities of the natural world—Kim reveals how a homesickness for the self is universal. It is this persistent and incurable longing that drives us as we make our way through the dark woods of our lives, following what might or might not be a trail of breadcrumbs, discovering, finally, that “we are the only path.”
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Praise and Prizes
“Using fairy tale archetypes like axes and keys, and diverse cultural references—from the Romanovs and code ciphers to Korean birth rituals—Arlene Kim recasts the experience of family immigration in language that manages to be both lush and restrained. This is a book to savor, give your friends, and let echo in your ears for a long time to come.”
“Arlene Kim’s book details a crisis of the spirit. . . . Underlying this narrative, Kim’s use of rhyme, syllabics, prose poems, and white space on the page make a compelling read more captivating. This is a collection not to be missed.”
“In this young century, American writing has rapidly changed and the impact of this book proves Arlene Kim is a part of this exciting transformation. Her poetry and prose challenge the concept of genre as they redefine the role of the imagination. Her courage and visionary dances realign the poetic process as Kim takes the personal and moves it into dimensions where the words of the seer become the sounds of compassion.”
“Turn to the first poem, and you’ve entered a surreal fantasy world where fairy tales are dangerous and twisted. . . . In the end, that’s what makes it so darkly delightful.”
“Arlene Kim’s stunning debut explores a wilderness where the self orphans and twins. ‘In that dark, we take shape,’ she tells us. With lush and exact language, surprising form and slippery syntax, these innovative poems do not recover what is lost, rather they body forward and remake with intoxicating urgency ‘the next world for something like singing.’ Kim’s wholly original voice and attentive consciousness reinvent the page and call us back to the family of things.”
“These are poems to whisper alone in a tent by flashlight, delighting in the whistles and pops of words that tear at your heart.”