In Civil Bound, Myung Mi Kim turns a keen ear to language as the mechanism by which society operates. The poems engage multiple methods to make sense of this pervasive tool, its powers, nuances, and influences over the structure of our civilizations. Through investigations of ecology, capitalism, military powers, colonialism, and supremacy, the book uncovers patterns in the ways that language is active in perpetuating inequality and binding its subjects to the will of those in positions of authority. In questioning systems of oppression, the poems also offer the hope of forging new paths through the connecting power of language. Examining our participation in social contracts, communal goals, and human desires, Kim’s poems encourage us to salvage language as a means of connection that binds us in respect and commitment to our fellow human beings.
About the Author
Myung Mi Kim is the James H. McNulty Chair of English at the University at Buffalo. She is the author of Penury, Commons, DURA, The Bounty, and Under Flag.
"Kim explores the mechanisms of language–and its impact on civilization–through a consideration of ecology, capitalism, military powers, and colonization, unearthing patterns and revealing how words perpetuate inequalities." — Publishers Weekly
"Kim, who has now published eight collections, is no apprentice, and has invented her own avant-garde approach. In a development that gained its full scope and subtlety with her 2002 collection, Commons, her practice makes room for necessary subjects like capitalism, ecology, and imperialism. She renders such subjects not on the level of topics but of the word, the syllable. . . . Kim’s protest against oppression is ferocious in these moments precisely because it hasn’t been flattened by a rhetorical scheme." — Public Books
“Spare and lush, Civil Bound is a ‘sight oath’ of fractured charms and charts, assembled heart markers. Her quicksilver connections, reformulations and apprehensions concentrate and mobilize the possible and impossible moves. Like subtitles of recovered field recordings from lost horizons, with her passages of diagonal bars and a cross of verticals, Kim questions knowledge and what constitutes language as we see and hear it. . . . Prepare to be stunned.” — Norma Cole, author of Fate News
“Civil Bound is a breathtaking book of canals composed of air and water and land, of bodies, of labor and power. Within its networks of human meaning, one witnesses the violent incursions of colonialism upon physical and cultural geographies and ecosystems, including patterns of bondage created under the guise of civilization. . . . The space within these poems is full of open questions. By what social contracts are we bound? Toward what outcomes are we bound? What binds us together? Of what are we made? Kim’s attention to overarching systems and their patterns of interference generates a deeper understanding—and affirmation—of mutuality and relation that is as resilient as the air that passes through these profoundly moving poems” — Elizabeth Willis, author of Alive: New and Selected Poems
“Kim recasts her abiding re-membering of the history of Korea’s colonization and diaspora in her first volume, Under Flag, but here enfolds it into a broader and more assiduous reckoning with what it means to be a citizen and a civil subject of the U.S., especially in these times of a resurgent nationalism and xenophobia.” — Laura Hyun Yi Kang, author of Compositional Subjects
"Precision is a lyricism all its own. Austerity has nothing to do with it. Every page is full. There’s room for many languages, especially in telling the reduction to one. The largesse is obvious, mysteriously stark, and interminable, endlessly diverse, like what flows before, and then after, a river, hard in its erosions and redactions. Having found a sonic niche of her own, Myung Mi Kim is our species, or gives us as close to a reason as we’ve got." — Fred Moten, author of consent not to be a single being.
"Even if you know Myung Mi Kim's alchemically original sense of time and sound—what comes through the "tattered conduit of jawbone and ear" (the precision of her labor with words ... how she represents writing as arrangement), remain open to being shaken by the surprising and ever economical force of this book. Beginning with a growl rising up out of oceanic space, Civil Bound leads the reader to think (in the way Myung leads through pauses and meditation upon the progression of words and phrases as inventions) each poem as a durational action that re-animates, re-constitutes history—history, violently breaking the human world into two parts . . . civilized and savage. Myung Mi Kim's deep sense of what language does and can do in service or opposition to history is simply unparalleled." — Simone White, author of Dear Angel of Death