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Hardly War

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  183 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Hardly War, Don Mee Choi's major second collection, defies history, national identity, and militarism. Using artifacts from Choi's father, a professional photographer during the Korean and Vietnam wars, she combines memoir, image, and opera to explore her paternal relationship and heritage. Here poetry and geopolitics are inseparable twin sisters, conjoined to the belly of ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Wave Books
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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Ronald Morton
Mar 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: verse, by-women
While I was growing up in Hong Kong, I saw more of my father’s photographs than of my father because he was always away in various war zones. He would bring back photographs of the wars he saw, then leave again. He also left us a map, a wall-sized map of Southeast Asia, framed and hung above our dining table, so we could track him across Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. What I am attempting to do with my poems and my father’s photographs is what I used to do as a child when I stared at my father’
need to reread and process in my tiny brain but i am THINKING!! congrats to don mee choi
Focusing on war (through her father's experience), translation, nationality, and flowers.

I think Choi does a lot of things very well. I liked the use of adverbs and children's songs. The wordplay was often great and provided a contrast to the seriousness of the effort. I guess her own innocence as she wasn't there for her father's experiences.

The look on translation was interesting. Some part like 18=sepal were jokes that required you to know some Korean. 18=십팔= fuck. Other jokes written in En
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My review for the New York Times Book Review:

This poetry collection is the predecessor to Choi's DMZ Colony, which won the 2020 NBA for Poetry.

The themes in the two books are similar--war, her father's work as a South Korean photojournalist in Korea and for Korea during the Vietnam War. And this one started off in a promising way, mocking news reports (American? Korean?) that considered the Korean War (and maybe the Vietnam War too?) as being "hardly war".

But I did not enjoy this one nearly as much. Again there is untranslated Korean which

Some of my favourite lines:

I refuse to translate


I eventually became a foreigner
I no longer pretend to write in English
Because English is a foreigner like me
But I still pretend to be a foreigner - O rubbish!
Because that is what I am in English


Translate me and I'll kill you

I feel like I need to know more about international history after reading this.
This book is so necessary, I'm grateful two people recommended it to me. It was a huge (aesthetic) inspiration for one of my portfolio colle
Hannah Krueger
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of Don Mee Choi’s first works that isn’t her translating someone else’s work, and mainly focuses on her father’s experiences in the Korean War. This one was a bit harder for me to follow, mainly due to knowing only vague outline information about the Korean War. Probably the most interesting piece in here is Hardly Opera, which tackles her father’s experience through the form of Chinese opera and the use of flower language to refer to things like Johnson’s Daisy Girl ad, Gertrude Ste ...more
Callan Foster
May 27, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
DNF @ page 45

I really wanted to like this collection. Usually experimental / multi-media poetry really speaks to me but this collection just fell flat for me. I don't know why exactly, perhaps it's because the individual lines weren't interesting enough to carry my attention for how experimental it is?

I am sure this book will speak to someone else, like I can see it's value and I love it on a conceptual level, but it's just not for me.
Zöe Yu
May 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: korean, poetry
Wonderfully written poems about war, Don Mee's father and a complicated complex with ROK. So inspiring! For readers who love poetry, reading inspirational poem as well as innovative poetic arts! ...more
Cooper Renner
Apr 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Not as unified and powerful as DMZ Colony, but still very fine.
3,25 stars
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Beauty is pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing." As soon as I came across this line in Don Mee Choi's collection about the Korean War and her father's experience as a soldier documenting it, I was all in. As jarring as it is precise, with fatal language that awakens haunting imagery, Choi's collection digs right to the core at what war is, what it can be, and how it is defined. In fact, much of Choi's lines are what on the surface appears to be a simple defining of terms. This = that."Ha ...more
Eli Tubbs
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don Mee Choi has created something unlike anything I've encountered. Reminded of Rankine's, Citizen in its make up... Only the topic is very different. Following a photo diary of her father's war photographs, Don Mee Choi takes her readers through what it is like to be a child experiencing war at home from both sides. Hardly War is a very eye opening experience about American warfare, and also what it means to be on both sides. Amazing work. It's writers like Don Mee Choi, Claudia Rankine, Ocean ...more
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, poetry
The language throughout is fractured and repetitious. The sources varied. There's a richness in the poems that is easy to overlook due to the sing-song rhythms in the poems.

For me the entry point was Daisy Serenade and its reference to Johnson's Daisy ad. It lined up the horror and destruction that was there alongside the botany throughout the book.
Patricia’s Book Summaries
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved how it bring the Korean and Vietnam Wars into the light at American learning institutions.
Greg Bem
Apr 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My head responded with its own conceptions of war, and where my father found it in his own uncertain history.
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Born in Seoul, South Korea, Don Mee Choi is the author of DMZ Colony (Wave Books, 2020), Hardly War (Wave Books, 2016), The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010), and several chapbooks and pamphlets of poems and essays. She has received a Whiting Award, Lannan Literary Fellowship, Lucien Stryk Translation Prize, and DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Fellowship. She has translated several collections ...more

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