Writing Into the Living Archive: An Interview with Emily Jungmin Yoon

Interview conducted by Sebastian Hasani Paramo

Emily Jungmin Yoon  is the author of A Cruelty Special to Our Species (Ecco, 2018), winner of the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award, and Ordinary Misfortunes (Tupelo Press, 2017), winner of the Sunken Garden Chapbook Prize. Her poems and translations have appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Poetry, and elsewhere. She has accepted awards and fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest, AWP’s WC&C Scholarship Competition, the Aspen Institute, and elsewhere. She is the Poetry Editor for The Margins, the literary magazine of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and a PhD candidate in Korean literature at the University of Chicago.

Yoon’s book A Cruelty Special to Our Species is a brutally honest and lyric exploration of Korean ‘comfort’ women during WWII in Japanese occupied-territories. She renders war, sorrow, and these shameful histories through the lens of her own “multiple cultural-historical perspective.” Born in Busan, educated in Canada and the U.S., she offers us small glimpses into what can be uncovered.

Reading this book, I was struck by her honest, dark humor, and was often arrested and captivated by the language. At the same time, because of the material engaged, I found myself pausing between poems to sit with the horrors of the poems