This volume is a translation of Choi Seung-ja’s 1991 anthology titled Portrait of a Suburbanite
. Published in the series of “100 Prominent Korean Poets” by Mirae Press, the poems in this volume were selected from four of Choi’s previous works titled, Love of This Age (1981), Merry Diary (1984), House of Memory (1989), and the subsequently published My Tomb, Green (1993). Speaking with a fierce sense of equality and independence, Choi Seung-ja’s poetry battled ossified forms of language not only on the political but also the personal front. Like her male colleagues, Choi parodied and critiqued the idol of the father, but even further, she insightfully explored irreverent content to reveal the gendered constraints of the lyric form. In particular, Choi exposed the idolatrous power of the lover, the basis of exploitation and injustice at the most intimate level. On top of their political disempowerment as citizens, the private and domestic alienation of women as daughters, lovers, and wives form a deep stratum of repression. When Choi’s women personae broke this long silence of compliance nurtured by the traditional lyric and voiced themselves as exploited and traumatized, yet fearless and tenacious human beings, the shock of this transgression shook the nation. In turn it demonstrate how long and how powerfully the gender constrictions had been imposed on Korean women.
Distributed for Cornell University East Asia Program