Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, Some Are Always Hungry chronicles a family’s wartime survival, immigration, and heirloom trauma through the lens of food, or the lack thereof. Through the vehicle of recipe, butchery, and dinner table poems, the collection negotiates the myriad ways diasporic communities comfort and name themselves in other nations, as well as the ways cuisine is inextricably linked to occupation, transmission, and survival. Dwelling on the personal as much as the historical, Some Are Always Hungry traces the lineage of the speaker’s place in history and diaspora through mythmaking and cooking, which is to say, conjuring.
Jihyun Yun is a Korean American poet from the the San Francisco Bay Area. A Fulbright research fellow, her debut collection SOME ARE ALWAYS HUNGRY won the 2019 Prairie Schooner Prize and was published by the University of Nebraska Press in September 2020. Her work has been published in Best New Poets, Narrative Magazine, Adroit and elsewhere. She currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
This compilation by Jihyun Yun is a stunning collection of poetry which won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.
These poems, stories as poetry, share the experience, thoughts and feelings of immigrating from one culture to another that is fundamentally different in many ways. Language. Food and recipes. The respect, reverence even, for elders. The painful memories of leaving, of needing to leave for safety, the mourning of old ways. Food. Cooking. Culture. Poverty. Abuse. Racism. Survival. Becoming, being a woman. Shame. The memories, both good and bad. The myths and legends of a culture left behind. Loss. The aching desire for this new world to be filled with the things missed in the old one. Grateful for new opportunities, but sensing the negativity that radiates off of those who never wanted them, who wish them to leave. The scars that are left on their souls and minds.
This collection is beautiful, gut-wrenching, poignant, emotional, stunningly spectacular, unsettling, thoughtful, thought-provokingly challenging and inspiring. It left me with whispers of words, thoughts and feelings that continue to return to me, words left to enlighten and reflect upon.
I will be thinking about this collection for a long time.
Pub Date: 1 Sep 2020
Many thanks for the ARC provided by University of Nebraska Press / Longleaf Services and Edelweiss
Powerful poems about war, refugees, immigration, and above all family. All around amazing structure, language, and emotional intensity. Will be returning to these poems again. Some of the forms were also creative, like 'War Soup':
1. In eight cups of boiling water, add dried kelp and anchovy, soaked shitake mushrooms and onion tops to make a broth. Grind four cloves of garlic together with hot pepper paste, soy and sugar for seasoning. Set the mixture aside for later.
2. Onion carpeted in pork fat and rice wine flared, very briefly, an ignited landscape. Then sun-dried pepper flakes staining the oil, a sundry of roots tossed in at rough dice, zucchini cut to half-moons, halved and quartered heads of kimchi. The stock should not disappoint, heavy with anchovy and odd bits. Set it all to boil, no witness, low heat.
3. We’ve not long been able to afford this: life giving flesh, singed wire hair that remembers outhouse and apple core. The fat ripples its own horizon, studded white over pink meat, cartilage wedged there where the muscle gathers. Cut the slabs into mince, light those dented pots.
4. Dear family I left behind in the northern province of my birth, do you live as I feed and am fed have they given you to sea?
5. Then Spam, more tofu than animal, cut to cubes. Say, we made do with what we did. At the bases, the Americans gave cans of beans or meat. We weren’t picky, boiled it all with weeds and scraped carcass. We called it Johnson-tang, rejoiced like we’d never again need to eat, as if the miles were no real thing. Now chili, now green onion sprigs.
6. The northern village of my birth, a storm crushed window. The gaunt faces of my people parade the TV screen; dear lord, dear leader.
7. Let the noodles wilt over broth just before serving. At the table, over kerosene flame, three generations tend to the pyre that feeds and feeds.
What a blessing, to have passed through hunger. I will teach my daughters to bare their palms. I will teach them how to beg.
**Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
I struggled a lot with this one. I am always eager for stories from immigrants, it's such a unique perspective and truly singular experience - no two are the same. I crave to read about more stories like that of my father and mother, to see how they translate to other cultures and other mother tongues.
I failed to connect with this one, I didn't feel like there was a clear reasoning for the order of the poems, there was no natural progression of the 'story' for me.
"When the first blood releases between your thighs, they'll come. You were born knowing to mourn this."
Some Are Always Hungry is a timeless collection of poems. Jihyun Yun's exploration on immigration, food, family, womanhood, survival, war amongst many other things through evocative words is one of the best poetry collections I've read in a long time.
This collection is filling while making you beg for more. I love how unrestrained the poems were and felt to me. They hit the nail on the head, no hanky-panky or shenanigans.
I was honestly impressed by this collection. So impressed. I went in, not knowing what to expect, not having any high hopes and I was blown away. I was blown away so much that it helped me get my writing groove back and I penned down two poems the night I started it.
If you are looking for a collection of poems that will (mostly) make you tick all your boxes in what you are looking for in a poetry collection, read this!
"Commit yourself to this un-harvest. To the joy of unmaking."
I am completely blown away by this poetry collection, to be honest. I really did not expect to be so impressed because usually I am quite critical when it comes to poetry, but this one... The way immigration, diaspora, womanhood, family bonds and survival are presented is just so... heartwrenching, but at the same time inspiring. The food metaphors are incredible and the way the traditional recipes are woven into the narrative is just so original and well done.
"Now, men with bayonets. Tomorrow, dogs. In no version are they not hunting us."
I don't even know what to say, I loved it and I highly recommend it.
ARC provided by NetGalley but all opinions are my own.
Some Are Always Hungry by Jihyun Yun is a lovely work that weaves together from a single thread a whole that is both relevant and timeless. The immigrant experience is detailed through the story of food, or lack thereof, as a means to bond and unite and, ultimately, to sustain. These are powerful words of survival, sharply observed, and strung together in a beautiful and deeply affecting way.
Many thanks to NetGalley and University of Nebraska Press for the opportunity to read this ARC.
Thanks to #Negalley for providing this book. This book follows the life of a family from the perspective of a daughter through war, starvation, and immigration. I am assuming that this story follows a Korean family who had to do everything to survive during the way that leads to the division of Korea. A story told through recipes, tales of fictional characters, discomfort, and shame. I felt how personal this book was. You cannot express such emotions unless you have gone through it. I enjoyed the way some things and situations were explained. Take for example when she talked about miscarriage her the shame she felt being an unmarried woman, she used the description of a stepmother poking a mouse. Or when she talked about bombings, "the planes dropped their eggs, hatched a red so loud the landscape was struck briefly mute" "Call us lotus, we bloom in rot" a line from the poem 'For Now, Nothing Burns' has to be my favorite in the whole book. It is quite a short book, I hope you check it out.
Bless this December day, so mild we might finally undress, drink corn-silk tea cold without shivering. Bless this home and its four corners, the rice in our bowls though it is infested. Bless this stone-cut family so determined not to waste. Bless the weevils, whole or quartered, peppering the grains, bori masking the taste, their hard husks we chew through.
Bless the hen we braised, the rice wine's effervescence. The milk thistle and stewed burdock, bless them too. Bless my daughter in her oscillating moods, her moments of tenderness that set my teeth aching. Bless my granddaughter, though she's forsaken you.
Forgive the body, this naked mollusk thing, I know what it can do. Slit and puncture wound, I've seen a red sky escape through. Blue knife of morning, dusk at comfort stations where girls were halved stone fruit No I do not resent you.
Bless the ones still tethered to earth, who grapple with their own disappearing. Let them soon reunite with viscera and bone, forgiven to whole and rejoice for there are no burning cities waiting to inherit them.
"Let me suck meat off the shell of every animal you won't eat. Give me refuse, and I'll make it worthy." -Benediction as Disdained Cuisine
Stunning poems about food and family, immigration and inheritance, diaspora and the dinner table. I set out to read this slowly, a few poems at a time, but ended up devouring most of it in one sitting. I started marking favorites, but then looked back and saw I'd marked half the book. Highly recommend.
An intimate, raw, and heartbreaking collection of poems. Yun beautifully captures intergenerational trauma that so often comes with han, an untranslatable word from Korean that describes the collective sorrow Koreans carry as a result of their turbulent past. This collection is particularly raw for Koreans and the diaspora—especially those who know the language—as it opens up a particular, heartbreaking tenderness and love for one’s Korean identity. It creates an intimate space that, perhaps to the chagrin of some, bars them from fully immersing themselves in these poems. Maybe this was the intention, which I’m thankful I can be a part of, but I also understand the frustrations that non-Koreans in particular would have. However, I don’t believe this should stop anyone from enjoying the lyricism and carefully crafted lines in Yun’s poetry.
Yun reflects on han through language, recipes, folktales, womanhood, and history in brilliant ways. This is a small detail, but one I always notice: the refusal to italicize “foreign” words (though I've done it in this review), write in hangul, or explain what they mean. This is the fierce love that Yun displays for her culture and language; almost a way to make up for the times when colonizers attempted to eradicate the Korean identity (or to quote one of her lines that I found brilliant: “de-Korean the broth”). Furthermore, we see this in the beliefs and folktales she chooses such as ‘Janghwa and Hongryeon’ or blood types. (Side note: Many Koreans know their blood types and, much like Western zodiacs, determine the type of personality you have.) Yun weaves history—specifically when the peninsula was brutally colonized by Japan and during the Korean War—with food, reflecting how influential these periods were on the construction of Korean gastronomy. She already foreshadows this with the title of her collection, though one will discover that the hunger is also for closure.
Perhaps the thorniest of her topics is womanhood; a difficult subject matter in Korean culture and society. The rawness of exploring “taboo” topics such as sex, menstruation, and blatant misogyny many have faced in the past and, unfortunately, still face shed light in ways that some may find uncomfortable. Yet, it is a needed conversation that Yun addresses with nuance and by giving autonomy to these women.
Yun also touches a bit on immigration, though I felt that there was a lot left to be desired. You see elements of the aforementioned themes, but I got the impression that this heavy and complex topic could be explored in its own collection. In addition, I felt that some of the poems were a bit disconnected at times—whether it’s because of the order or the general structure of some poems—though this is more a reflection of what I like than a fault of her style.
Overall, a stunning collection that gives readers a small glimpse into the deep complexities of being Korean. I would strongly recommend this to anyone interested in poetry that takes time to digest.
I received this collection of poems from NetGalley and the University of Nebraska Press for an honest review.
A courageous and startling collection of poems. I'm struck by the similarities in the stories of all people displaced by violence and war. In particular the poem "Savaging" brought me up short, working as I am on the history of my own people displaced by colonialism and genocide, forced into living on the fringes of society, existing on scraps foraged from garbage heaps and slaughterhouse cast-offs. None of which happened all that long ago. This work hits me right in the heart.
An exceptional collection of poetry, meditating on themes of family, diaspora, and culture. This collection synthesizes Korean history, gender identity, and food through its poems, which find new forms in recipes, lists, and family stories. I would highly recommend this book to everyone.
This collection of poetry is predominantly focussed on the physical and emotional hardships of the immigrant experience, and the ways this trauma can be passed from one generation to the next. The use of language is visceral, the structure playful, and several lines throughout hit me like a sucker punch.
There is such reverence for food in this collection, and I thought this recurring motif was used really effectively. Yun explores the art and ritual of food preparation, celebrating its ability to connect families with their heritage; tastes and smells transporting them to their homeland. But she also comments on the intense, animalistic consumption that is often inherent to those who have known true hunger.
Though deeply personal, the collection pulls back at times to take in wider contextual details, exploring the various factors that can push people to relocate in the first place. War, Occupation, abuse, and poverty are all touched upon, as are the various issues that await immigrants when they reach their new homes, such as racism, language barriers, and a pressure to shed aspects of their identities – even down to their birthnames.
While it’s fair to say there isn’t a huge amount of light to balance the themes’ innate melancholy, it’s an impressive collection overall, and Yun is a poet I’m glad to have discovered.
Thank you to the publisher for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Advanced review copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.
Wow. I do not often read poetry, but the synopsis of this collection was intriguing and I was completely blown away by the mastery of Jihyun Yun.
Some are always hungry is a collection of poetry that presents themes of womanhood, immigration, family life and the struggle for survival through the lens of food and dinner time. This is unlike anything I have ever read before, and I was blown away by the heartbreaking exploration of trauma and family in the midst of war. I am not well versed in the world of poetry, but I loved this collection and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the themes it explores!
What a beautiful, painful, disturbing and stunning collection of poetry. The writing is dense, setting it apart from the plethora of accessible poetry that exists nowadays. There is a time and a place for the Rupi Kaur-style of poetry, but Yun’s writing is literature that you can really sink your teeth into. It is not there to be empathised with, nor does it exist to calm our souls or make me feel heard. It exists to make itself heard, to inform me, not to settle me. It is often completely painful reading, but so utterly important. The writing explores themes of poverty, woman-hood, family, abuse, lack of education, racism, diaspora and the effects of these on the human body, soul and mind. The language is mouthy and tangible, lyrical - like you can chew on each word. It is beautiful and whole. This feels appropriate given it centres around recipes, food and the home kitchen. This brings the writing into the home, and everything else spills out from this central idea. It’s completely original, again setting it apart from so much other poetry. The feeling of homeliness also provides a stark contrast to the dark and heavy nature of so many of the poems. This works really well, and draws attention to pain at all the right moments and all the right ways. These are important words.
My criticisms are few - sometimes the writing became so dense that it felt impenetrable, like I’d missed the point and meaning, or perhaps that there wasn’t really a point to it in the first place. At times this felt frustrating. At other times, the voice could become confusing and disjointed, like another voice had entered the scene, unexplained. But then in some ways this was refreshing and grabbed my attention in new ways.
I loved this book - I think it’s beautiful and important.
I received an ARC on NetGalley - all opinions are my own.
really nauseating… but a worthwhile read. memorable poems: field notes from my grandparents, yellow fever, saga of the nymph and the woodcutter, husband stitch (particularly stomach-turning), the tale of janghwa and hongryeon. tell me again of love and its dark mirrors: well-skinned pear, our cheeks in the dust. the wet shred of a body.
I don't often go for poetry, because I have to be in a certain mood, but this now only drew me in with the beautiful cover, the idea of using food to describe characters, emotions, events and simply life was terribly tempting.
I could identify with this compilation as I also changed cultures and countries, so it was relatable on a whole different level.
It's dark, raw, real and emotional. It hits different.
I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to read more about family, cultures, immigration, survival, struggles.
I hadn’t read any of Jihyun Yun’s work before this collection and I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on this brilliance. “Some Are Always Hungry” is a visceral, empowered, genius examination of womanhood, the body, and how bodies + lives are viewed and valued by society. I don’t think I can pick a favorite, but I will say that the first poem, “All Female,” was astounding as an introduction to Yun’s work. There, Yun examines the reality that we always destroy the female body, whether it’s a chicken or a crab or the way female humans are oppressed and fetishized. I had never thought of our traditions that way, but it’s true. And this poem and its insights and profundity are the tip of the iceberg in this collection.
I will loudly proclaim my admiration and awe of “Some Are Always Hungry” and the remarkable, revolutionary work of Jihyun Yun. Thank you so much to the publisher and NetGalley for this advance copy. This review is entirely unbiased and effusively positive.
thank you so much to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC! this poetry collection was absolutely stunning. every poem was brutal and painful and gorgeous. i love anything that considers the layers of mother-daughter relationships and this one dug so deep. it’s a quick read but it packs a firm punch.
Name: Some Are Always Hungry Writer: Jihyun Yun Genre: Poetry, War, Violence Review: Of wisdom, splendid columns of light waking sweet foreheads, I know nothing but what I’ve glimpsed in my most hopeful of daydreams of a world without end, amen —Li-Young Lee A collection of heartbreaking poetries that speak about war, immigration and their struggle for survival. The poetess has this silent rage and numbness mixed with her poetries which which explores her life as a girl in immigration to a foreign land. Each poetry talks about different aspects of her life as well as her family's. She explores the struggle of being a immigrant and expresses her connection to her motherland. Through cooking recipes to mythmaking, she dwells into her personal as well as natural history, which gives us a deeper insight to her past.
I felt like each piece I read herein linked to the next and so forth until I came to the end of the book. The author explores survival, war and in a most refreshing way links it to the sea and to food, and that in itself got me because food carries memories and it seemed as though every word written here brought me back to those places, those feelings at that time. Thanks Netgalley for the eARC.
Note to self: If anyone ever asks me, “How does one write poetry?”, I would recommend that he/she read “Some Are Always Hungry.” You, you who have been reading this, read the book and understand my note.
PS While reading this book I starved (famished for cuisine and more of Jihun Yun’s poetry). This collection is dripping with savory, sensuous, evocative poems.
Wow. I'm not sure I've ever read poems that describe, and use food to make meaning, the way Yun does here. Stunning. I found it hard to put down this book once I picked it up. Wanted to underline everything.