by Lee Soho
“Catcalling by Lee Soho is a playful, ferocious uprising against patriarchal order, and Soje is a rising star-translator of South Korea’s new wave of innovative feminist and queer poetry.”
—Don Mee Choi
Lee Soho’s debut collection of poems is an experimental lyric bildungsroman that confronts dynamics of abuse as it challenges poetic form. Catcalling exposes and ridicules the violences that the speaker-protagonist Kyungjin encounters as she navigates a patriarchal world. Divided in to five formally distinct sections—ranging from lyric to prose poems to experimental mash-ups to concrete forms—the book begins in Kyungjin’s childhood home as she recounts the haunting claustrophobia of verbal and psychological abuse, and follows her into the world as an emerging female poet navigating pervasive sexism in the era of Korea’s own movement against sexual violence and the global #MeToo movement.
Lee’s poetry is reactive: reacting to a series of foils, but also initiating a kind of chemical reaction that introduces something radically new to a world that has such confining gender and artistic expectations for a young poet. Following in the footsteps of feminist Korean poets like Kim Hyesoon, Kim Yideum, and Choi Seung-ja, who have made their way to English audiences in recent years, Lee Soho emphatically heralds the arrival of the next generation.
Translated from the Korean by Soje
About the Author:
Lee Soho studied creative writing at the Seoul Arts University and earned an MA in Korean literature from Dongguk University. She made her debut winning the Newcomer Award in Modern Poetry in 2014. Her first collection, Catcalling, won the Kim Su-young Literary Award in 2018, the highest poetry honor in Korea. Her next book is forthcoming from Moonji.
About the Translator:
Soje is the translator of Lee Hyemi’s Unexpected Vanilla (Tilted Axis Press, 2020), Choi Jin-young’s To the Warm Horizon (Honford Star, 2021), and Lee Soho’s Catcalling (Open Letter Books, 2021). They also make chogwa, a quarterly e-zine featuring one Korean poem and multiple English translations. Find excerpts, essays, and more at smokingtigers.com/soje.
Praise for Catcalling:
“Adjectives like brilliant can’t do this collection justice. It’s the quick we try not to cut to; it’s everything—it razes and reimagines everything—and Soje's translation seizes all the opportunities it offers.”
“Lee Soho's Catcalling fascinates with poignant, strange poems. From the first sentence, “I was born but somehow you were born to,” we are jarred awake by a voice that is as lucid as it is uncanny. Soje’s brilliant translations bring to life Soho’s poetry, a lens into a world that is at times twisted and witty, violent and tender. In this powerfully complex poetry collection, Lee demonstrates the astounding feat that it is to survive.”
“Teeming to a near burst, these experimental pieces are darkly funny, plucky, full of verve. Yes, we can trace the residue boldness evident in the voices of Kim Hyesoon, Kim Yideum, but what Lee has cast is singularly her own: we witness a sister slitting another sister’s wrist, a poem blurs on the page because the speaker has been beaten with a frying pan—nowhere else would a mom hang from a daughter's crotch. I hung onto every sharp edge, every page, dumbstruck and rapt.”
—Diana Khoi Nguyen