45. Building Bridges w/ Tanya Ko Hong

Content warning for mentions of rape, torture, and cannibalism.

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.

Learn more at her website, tanyakohong.com, and follow her on Twitter @tanyakohong.

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

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“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.” @tanyakohong

“I think [a focus] for me is building a lot of bridges.” @tanyakohong

“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.” @tanyakohong

“I wanted to give the attention, the intimacy, of one person’s life.” @tanyakohong

“I was trying to give them [Korean comfort women] a voice.” @tanyakohong

“My big question was…am I allowed to write this poem?” @tanyakohong

“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.” @tanyakohong

“[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.” @tanyakohong

“As poets, we really need to share authentically. Bring our own voice, and then share it.” @tanyakohong

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 PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod.

One thought on “45. Building Bridges w/ Tanya Ko Hong

  1. Wow, this information was completely new to me. I’d never heard about Korean Comfort Women. Tanya (Hyonhye) Ko Hong’s approach to giving life to one persons voice, humanizes a haunting, harrowing experience. I appreciate how the interviewers gave the poet space to share the cultural context of things, that may have been lost without that understanding. I really enjoyed this episode and the all of the wonderful poetry shared.

    Liked by 1 person

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