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Poet Kim Hye-soon's 'Phantom Pain Wings' wins National Book Critics Circle Award

March 22, 2024 - 10:43 By Yonhap
South Korean poet, Kim Hye-soon (Newsis)

South Korean poet Kim Hye-soon won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award for her work "Phantom Pain Wings" on Thursday.

The National Book Critics Circle, an American nonprofit association, announced her as the winner in the poetry category of this year's awards during a ceremony in New York City.

She became the first Korean ever to win at NBCC Awards.

The annual awards recognize outstanding books published in English across six categories: fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry and criticism.

"Phantom Pain Wings," depicting the memory of patriarchy and war trauma, marks the 13th book by the 69-year-old poet.

"I never expected to win," Moonji Publishing Co., the poet's Korean publisher, quoted her as saying. The poet, who was in South Korea, did not attend the ceremony.

"It's surprising and delightful that they honored the award to an Asian woman. I'm grateful to Choi Don-mee, who has been with me for a long time with her excellent translations."

Originally published in Korean in 2019, the poetry collection was translated by Choi and released in English by New Directions Publishing last year.

The poet "pushes the poetic envelope into the farthest reaches of the lyric universe. In her new collection, Kim depicts the memory of war trauma and the collective grief of parting through what she calls an 'I-do-bird-sequence,' where 'Bird-human is the 'I,'" the U.S. publisher said about her book.

It was chosen as one of the best poetry books of 2023 by The New York Times.

Among the five finalists in the award's poetry category, Kim's book was the only translated work, marking the first time a translated poetry collection has won the award since its inception.