|Dimensions||6 × 9 in|
Like the term “half-life,” used to describe radioactive decay, pharmaceutical drugs, rocks, the atoms of our human bodies, and even technological products, this book of poems, A Half-Life, provides a rare glimpse into the cultures of Asian America, particularly the Korean immigrant and Korean American experience. The poems use the literal metaphor of the highway as an intersecting “half-life” point of America, Asia, and the globe to portray journeys from the Korean and Vietnam War eras to current times, from Chicago to Seattle and back, from the fictional to the biographical, and from the personal to the universal. In doing so, these poems reveal the joys and pains, the probable and improbable occurrences, and the individual and communal experiences of Asian America woven through history and modern life.
|Dimensions||6 × 9 in|
David S. Cho was born and raised in the Chicago area, along with his brother and extended family, the proud children of Korean immigrants in the early 1970s. He holds a BA from the University of Illinois, MFA and MA from Purdue University, and MAT and PhD from the University of Washington, and has taught in West Lafayette and Crawfordsville, Indiana; Chicago; and Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. Formerly an associate professor of English and director of the American Ethnic Studies program at Hope College (Holland, Michigan), he now serves as the director of the Office of Multicultural Development at Wheaton College. He is the author of a chapbook, Song of Our Songs (2010), a book of poems, Night Sessions (2011), and a scholarly monograph on 20th-century Korean American novels, Lost in Transnation (2017).
At the heart of David Cho’s A Half-Life is the narrative journey of Harry Kim, an American son born to immigrant Korean parents learning to become American in the heart of America, treading a line between two cultures, embracing a lineage more complex than most American boys and young men, and finding a way to belong in the country he was born in with both heart and spirituality and desire.
—Shawn Wong, author of Homebase, American Knees, and Aiiieeeee!
David Cho’s poems evoke experiences of growing up Korean American, loving Chicago, and meditating on roadkill at the same time that they signal an awareness of themselves as verbal constructions. Hence, in a poem about the hyphen—that iconic signifier of ethnic American identity—punctuation itself takes on a life of its own; in a poem ostensibly about love for his wife, the speaker offers an encomium to the Windy City; and in a poem about roadkill, the speaker invites the reader to address the dead deer directly. What does it mean to be a second-generation American? How do you write a love poem? What can death teach us? A Half-Life at once grapples with these and other important questions and resists reductive answers.
⎯Floyd Cheung, author of Jazz at Manzanar and coauthor of John Okada: The Life and Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy
Cho’s touching poems pulse with small, memorable moments that bear witness to a dedicated father’s legacy of sacrificing for love while battling the “sting” of immigrant life. The Harry Kim poems show America’s Korean son navigating boyhood challenges, exploring his father-the-pastor’s lessons of God and hard work, and reckoning with his country through its ideals and heroes to grow into “A True-man.” Experience happiness with the Kims, marveling at the twoness of Korean American life, celebrating Korean terms of endearment and foodways, poking fun at self-absorption and perceived failed promise, and embracing joy.
⎯Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy, Louisiana Poet Laureate and author of Second Line Home
Spring in Seattle
In half-closed shades,
of vain wishes to let in the morning
warm, yet still cool, I know
A door in my bedroom exists
because its darkness remains
in long squares, longer than the morning light
A seagull’s cry from the canal
pierces miles of absent
gray turning to pastel light
evergreen seeds growing ready
to leave their nestle
A dark blue and black
blanket, checkered, surround my children,
nestled within, the friction
Sparks that leap
in the still yet
from “A Love Poem for My Wife”
Today, I wish a love poem for my wife
would arise, like this broken-windowed,
three-storied, red brick building.
Arise from a field of long-dead
Chicago grass, yellowed, the whispers
of wheat and prairie grass in its heads,
holding the promise of spring.
This building set atop this field,
set atop timber, steel, and cut stone cylinders,
in this muddy marsh, this great layer of jelly,
this Chicago cake of clay, water, and gravel…
the winter gale off the Lake, creating a swirl of snow,
this Windy City of my birth, this city of broad shoulders,
for this Korean American woman I so love—
a love poem.
David S. Cho
Pub date – February 2022
Trade paper – 6 X 9″
Emerging Voices – Poetry
5 Horizon Road, #2403
Fort Lee, New Jersey 07024
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