Spring 2023 • Vol. XLV No. 2 Translation FolioApril 4, 2023 |

Unappeasable Peas

Translator's Note On translating poetry, Ezra Pound once wrote, “That which appeals to the ear can reach only those who take [the poem] in the original [language].” Yet in my translations of Lee Jenny, the sounds of her poetry — the tone and texture of her words and the rhythm of her lines in Korean — are precisely what I endeavor to re-create, for it is through prosody that Lee Jenny’s poetry is meant to be experienced. A hallmark of this poem is what literary critic Kwon Hyeok-ung calls a “sound metaphor,” that is, Lee Jenny’s juxtaposing words that are near homophones of each other, thus forging surprising connections between them. Consider the title of the poem “Wangohan Wandukong,” which I’ve translated as “Unappeasable Peas.” Throughout the poem, Lee Jenny repeats inflections of the word wangohada (stubborn) alongside the nouns wandu (pea pod) and wandukong (pea). The whimsical image and alliteration of peas being picked out of potato sa

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Lee Jenny is a South Korean poet. She made her literary debut with the poem “Peru” in 2008, which won her the Kyunghyang Daily News New Writer’s Award. She has since published four poetry collections, the most recent of which include 있지도 않은 문장은 아름답고 (The Sentence That Doesn’t Even Exist Still Is Beautiful And, Hyundae Munhak, 2019) and 그리하여 흘려 쓴 것들 (Scribbles I Thus Spilled, Moonji, 2019). She was awarded the Pyeon-un Literature Award for excellence in poetry and the Kim Hyeon Prize, in 2011 and 2016, respectively. Most recently, in 2021, Lee received the Hyundae Munhak Prize. Lee is known for lyricism, rhythm, and wordplay in her work; critics have likened her poetry to incanting a spell.

Photo of Archana Madhavan

Archana Madhavan is a literary translator from Korean into English. Her first book-length work is a cotranslation of Glory Hole by Kim Hyun (Seagull Books, 2022). Her other poetry and prose translations have appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation, Columbia Journal, The Puritan, and Korean Literature Now, and are forthcoming elsewhere. In 2022, Archana was chosen as an ALTA Emerging Translator to translate poetry from Lee Jenny’s collection 아마도 아프리카 (Maybe Africa, Changbi, 2010).

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