Flower Swallows Sing: A North Korean Memoir in Verse

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While Western media usually focuses its attention on the enigmatic dictator of North Korea, Flower Swallows Sing focuses on the humanity and agency of the North Korean people.  This collection of poems by Imu Baek is a powerful portrayal of everyday life for the citizens trying to endure North Korea’s oppressive regime. How do they survive starvation, homelessness and imprisonment? How do they escape and live in exile in another country?  While much of the literature translated from North Korea emanates from the elite class, this work offers a unique insight into the collective suffering of North Korea’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. Parents and grandparents sacrifice themselves so the children can eat. Children wander the streets as orphans.

Writing pseudonymously as a defector living in exile, Baek’s voice has emerged on the world stage as a reverberating condemnation of the violence inflicted upon North Korea’s most defenseless population. This translation is an effort to make Baek’s story available to English readers and hopefully, in doing so, continues her project of denouncing the violence of fascism in all of its forms.

From the unique perspective of a female teenage orphan, Baek writes about family, survival, and escape. This collection of poems from her experience in North Korea is a testament to the rich internal life, imagination, and hope that endures amidst dark and inhumane conditions.


Hyongrae Kim

Hyongrae Kim is a PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

He is currently translating The Origins of the Panmunjon Regime by Hakjae Kim (2015).  Kim has served as a Linguistic Specialist and Interpreter in various roles for the Republic of Korea.

Siobhan Meï

Siobhan Meï is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she studies the intersections of feminism and translation. Her translations of poetry have appeared in AsymptoteTransference, and carte blanche among other places.

152 pp.
LC# 2019948202
Softcover 14 x 21.6 cm.
ISBN-13: 9781565913813
ISBN-10: 1565913817