Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Jed Munson : On Silts






Importantly, Silts came to me on paper—specifically the blank-paged notebook (필기장) that Ainee Jeong designed for UDP last year. Something about the feel of that notebook—the off-white color, its unobtrusiveness that made it easier to open than, say, a hardcover Moleskine, which can feel so stiff and formal—gave way to this movement of poems.

I think the size of those pages corresponded well with the shapes of my thoughts that summer, the kinds of lines I was writing and the units by which I was thinking. It was a long, late monsoon season in Seoul, and I was living, for once, a slow life, sleeping in and eating real meals, jogging on the river. Albeit while being backed by empire—but I was also, for once, letting myself walk away from that internal battle: I was in the motherland reunited with my parents and our little sea of relatives, and I was happy. So what if these were poems and not essays on geopolitics in accordance with my grant description? So what if I was there on State Department dime, technically representing the colonizer to the neocolony? So what if my body is the site of that dichotomy’s conflation, detonation, articulation and disarticulation?

Why the so-what? The notebook, for one: it felt calming but also radical to hold something small and real and wide-open. To do something regular, for no one. These great rolling-ball pens I’d found at a stationary store also grounded me, liquidly, to my task. And, not to mention, the three hours I’d spend on the train most evenings going to and from the other side of the city to see the person I was falling in love with.

So these are love poems in a way—love shot through every grid of my invention—though Q isn’t the addressee necessarily (just the cover designer). They are love poems to the language I was swimming through to reach her—the one not featured in the poems explicitly, but always there, the private one that became suddenly, in Korea, public, like a giant tongue wrapped around me. In America, Korean was my small, contained dome, the language of family, body, and childlike interiority; English was the outside, the thing of theory, empire, commodity, the professionalized domain—and also my increasingly flexible armor against that paradigm. But that summer, it felt like that external field existed almost exclusively inside of me: English became a private-public voice in my head, weirdly precious and clear. But—another but—at the same time, I couldn’t tell what was truly inside or out, I was becoming more and more porous, the substances that were passing through me—that I was passing through—my chats, texts, jots, and readings in either language—were becoming more and more fluid.

I have always had a complicated relationship with Korean—I long for it even as I use it, I feel I am losing it especially as I use it. But English, that other, all-too-familiar material, the thing I so often want to rinse myself of, is also a vast, moving complex, something I have long-needed to relearn my tenderness for. Silts is about that dialogue and process of renewal, which is ongoing. Surrender has a big role in this, surrender as in surrendering even to not really knowing the meaning behind the things I choose to follow or organize myself around, i.e. what I mean here by surrender. And letting myself move with things—and be moved by things—expressly outside of me, but also letting those things, by acknowledging their influence on me, into me—and if you’re lucky enough to find a sympathetic publisher like rob, into spaces beyond.

I hope Silts can be that—a boundary of tenderness, a small boundlessness—for readers too. 






Jed Munson’s [Photo by Keum-ji Son] first chapbook, Newsflash Under Fire, Over the Shoulder, was published with Ugly Duckling Presse in 2021. Silts appeared with above/ground press in 2022. His work has appeared in Conjunctions, P-QUEUE, Full Stop, and others.

image credit: Via #21513-17 by Sylee Gore

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