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Don Mee Choi

Don Mee Choi was born in Seoul, South Korea, and lived in Hong Kong before moving to the United States. She is the author of the poetry collections DMZ Colony (Wave Books, 2020), which won the National Book Award for Poetry, Hardly War (Wave Books, 2016), and The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010), as well as several chapbooks and pamphlets. Of her work, Craig Santos Perez writes, “Choi translates feminist politics into an experimental poetry that demilitarizes, deconstructs, and decolonizes any master narrative.”

Choi is also known for her work as a translator of contemporary Korean poetry, including Kim Hyesoon’s Autobiography of Death (New Directions, 2018), which received the 2019 Griffin International Poetry Prize and Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream (Action Books, 2014), which was a finalist for the 2015 PEN Poetry in Translation Award. The author of the essay pamphlet Translation is an Anti-neocolonial Mode (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2020), Choi also translates for the International Women's Network Against Militarism.

Choi is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a grant from the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, a Lucien Stryk Translation Prize, and a Whiting Writers Award. She currently serves as an advisory editor for Action Books: Korean Literature Series and teaches at Renton Technical College. She was 2019 DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program Fellow.


DMZ Colony (Wave Books, 2020)
Hardly War (Wave Books, 2016)
The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010)

By This Poet


Untitled [1950 June 27]

1950 June 27: my father heard the sound of the engine of a North Korean fighter plane, Yak-9. Foremostly and therefore barely consequently in the highest manner, he followed the sound, running towards the city hall. After all it was hardly war. Yak-9, made in Russia, flew over the plaza of the city hall. Then in the most lowly predictably ethically unsound manner from the point of view of everything that is big and beautiful, the sound of the machine gun. He missed the chance to capture the Yak-9 with his camera. That late afternoon the yet-to-be nation’s newspapers were in print, but no photos of the war appeared in any of them. After all it was hardly war, the hardliest of wars, neverthelessly Yak. And it turns out that one thing is better than another. Hence still going forward, napalm again. Always moving up to Choson Reservoir. Always another hill, for in no circumstance can man be comfortable without art. Why that is so has nothing to do with the big problem—what to do with the orphan kids. And always the poor hungry kids. Now look at this and look at it and look at it. This is what the Republic of Korea is fighting for—miles and miles and miles of order words that are given in our society. Merry Christmas, Joe! Phosphorous and flamethrowers. Fire them up!—burn them!—cook them! Beauty is pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing from the point of view of everything that is big and beautiful in the highest manner possible and why that is so has nothing to do with hills and more hills, rivers and more rivers, and rice paddies and more rice paddies. How cold does it get in Korea? Brass monkey cold.

from “Twin Flower, Master, Emily”

Dear Emily,

For poetry – I have you. One need not be a House – One need not be a Nation or a Master for that matter. Delicate and beautiful, common in rich mossy woods, in pairs, we live. We are crimson-pink, particularly in the mountains. The rough terrain is not visible to many, but somewhat green and fatigued, demilitarized! A nod from far away is hollow. True men – How shall I greet them? Nation building is kind and generous. It is common to decline it. Emily, Shall I – bloom?

Yours, Twin Flower   

from “Hardly Opera”

—tête-à-tête of flowers—

(still at the ambassador’s garden party in the middle of Seoul)


How do you do
Mr. Ambassador?



How do you do?
Modern style?
I do


Overly ovaries!
General Kim
How do you do?



One shot!
No spots!
How many baby azaleas?


Did something happen?
The world wants to know



Syngman Rhee has left for Hawaii
Modern style of course!


Do petals fall and bloom again?



Tell the world
We want
Coty powder!


O totally tether!
Does it tatter?



O patter matter!
Do you batter?


O Coty potty!
Hoity naughty



O pat her met her!
Does she natter?


I’d rather batter



Yes, ma’am

—end of tête-à-tête—