Saturday, May 08, 2004
  ok, i was wrong about Yemen. It is Sudan, and not Yemen.
and, I should have given a way to respond or add information: gary@gulfofmainebooks.com

Here is part of an interview with North Korean poet Choi Jini. She has defected from the North and was interviewed in the Chosun Ilbo:
Q Where do poets stand in North Korean Society?
A Basically, poets are politicians. Their primary job is to write poems to praise authority. Some writers who are good at flattery become popular and successful. We call them "a non-literary man", something equivalent to a government patronized scholar in the South. But, most writers try to keep literary value of their works and preserve their conscience as writers.
Q What does "literary value" mean?
A It means discovery of truth and forgotten beauties of daily life. North Korean poets write down love poems on their personal notes. But within their minds, they recite poems that criticize society. They hunger for beautiful rhetorics such as metaphors and symbols. Under the situation where emotional expressions and freedom of artistic expression are stifled, many North Korean poets are trying to preserve the very essence of literature. Given the hardships that they are undergoing, their efforts are extraordinary.
q Where do North Korean poets draw inspiration from?
A usually we are encouraged by senior poets who read works of William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest hemingway and other great writers. When I entered elementary school, all western classics were banned in the North. I heard that when the authority confiscated all western classics, senior writers risked their lives to get these books. Such brave spirit still lives in the North Korean writers.
Q South Koreans tend to think that most of the poems in the North are to praise the regime.
A On the surface, it's true. If a piece of poem is to be published, it should contain some phrases that commend the regime. But, we have another world of literature in our minds where we can write whatever we want to express.
Q What do the North Korean poets aspire to have? Freedom?
A The North Korean writers want to have freedom. Not only a political one, but an artistic freedom. They want to freely express their thoughts, feelings and hopes. And, about the South Korean literature, I don't know yet. In the North, politics kills literature. In the south, commercialism does the same.

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poetry from countries currently embargoed by the us, and discussion of the poets, poems, and embargoes

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