In Episode 45, we talk to award-winning poet Tanya (Hyonhye) Ko Hong about translating texts into Korean, writing bilingual poetry, finding her name and place as an immigrant, and giving a voice to the Korean comfort women of World War II.
Tanya (Hyonhye) Ko Hong is a poet, translator, and cultural curator who champions bilingual poetry and poets. Born and raised in South Korea, she immigrated to the US at the age of eighteen. She is the author of four books, most recently The War Still Within: Poems of the Korean Diaspora (KYSO Flash Press, 2019), and is the recipient of the Yun Doon-ju Korean-American Literature Award. Tanya has an MFA from Antioch University and is a Ph.D. student in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She lives in southern California with her husband and three children.
This episode was recorded on January 11, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod. Content warning for mentions of rape, torture, and cannibalism.
People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode
- The Ginkgo Light by Arthur Sze
- “The Shapes of Leaves” by Arthur Sze
- Ellen Bass
- Great Weather for Media
- George Wallace
- The War Still Within by Tanya Hyonhye Ko Hong
- Park Young-Shim
- Kim Hak-sun
- “Bomb” by Gregory Corso
- Ruth Stone
- “The Guest House” by Rumi
“That’s how I feel being an immigrant. You don’t know where you fit in…You don’t even know how to fit in with your name.” @tanyakohongTweet
“I think [a focus] for me is building a lot of bridges.” @tanyakohongTweet
“I thought I couldn’t even write [“Comfort Women”] because it was just too much…The pictures are horrifying…I couldn’t eat. I think it took me months before I started writing.” @tanyakohongTweet
“I wanted to give the attention, the intimacy, of one person’s life.” @tanyakohongTweet
“I was trying to give them [Korean comfort women] a voice.” @tanyakohongTweet
“My big question was…am I allowed to write this poem?” @tanyakohongTweet
“A lot of people will say, ‘Why didn’t they come out right then?’ And I know exactly why they couldn’t come out, even fifty years later.” @tanyakohongTweet
“[I realized] I could create space through the poetry and the writing to give them a voice. It’s not just giving them their voice, but it’s also giving them my voice too.” @tanyakohongTweet
“As poets, we really need to share authentically. Bring our own voice, and then share it.” @tanyakohongTweet