These poems animate the elements of the epic poem and Korean history across a dystopian dreamscape of fairytale and folklore. Filled with pithy observations and striking lyrics, this collection explores alienation, moral isolation, and nationhood.
Rough, and Savage is a lyrical collage of ancient fragments, fairytale, and both Korean and American history that is as daring as it is restlessly imaginative.
Star Tribune, “Big Fall Books by Local Authors”
“Shin’s troubling second collection explores dangerous knowledge, transgression, bad beginnings. Thus, its pages writhe with snakes—‘a moving stripe,’ a ‘tail like a whip’—and punishment. Strands of Dante’s Inferno, which Shin entwines throughout Rough, and Savage, remind us that suffering, regret and horror have a geography and, as such, can be mapped. Yet, for Shin, to know is an erasure (‘even as I write, Korea has ceased to exist . . .’) making these accumulated poems a smoldering tragedy, a heady descent, songs from a pit where what glints may be gems or the moon off snake scales. Brave reader, walk to Shin’s hard light.” —Douglas Kearney
“Sun Yung Shin is creating a new mythology. As with most origin stories there is hidden danger, primeval chaos and uncertain outcome. Fortunately Shin has enough emotional courage, formal daring and adroit musicality to navigate through the rough and savage woods at the beginning of Creation.”—Kazim Ali
“[R]ough, and Savage . . . is simultaneously alluring and caustic, lovely and mournful, ambitious in both its moral ambition and literary invention.”—Knight Arts Blog
“Revisiting many of the themes from Skirt Full of Black, Shin takes us further into the realm of myth, exploring the history of Korea and the people who have inhabited and ruled it. Blending academic research with her own composed text, Shin calls our attention to the erasures in history—erasures both deliberate and unconscious.”—Hazel and Wren
“Shin’s poems enact what happens when the violence and erasure of history collide with the poetic impulse to make meaning. . . . Much of [her] work reads like redactions, offering fragments to be explored, investigated and interrogated, making her reader equal partner in the creation of meaning.”—Star Tribune
“Without a doubt Rough, and Savage is the most moving book of poetry I have read all year. . . . Her work is like a haunting yet intriguing fairy tale exploring thoughts about Korean North and South and the rising Western presence.”—The Corresponder
“Rough, and Savage is a challenging and riveting exploration of such intimate yet universal issues . . . delicately executed and beautifully written.”—Eleven Eleven
“In this inspired follow-up to Skirt Full of Black, she presents explosively imaginative poems that are never untethered from experiential reality. It’s Shin’s genius to seamlessly wed the imaginary, the dream-wrought, and the mythical with the historical, the hard and factual.”—ALIST Magazine
“In her new collection Rough, and Savage, Sun Yung Shin draws from Robert Pinsky’s translation of Dante’s Inferno, the Korean War, and events from her own life to create a multi-layered archipelago combining the past and the future and mimicking or redefining the epic poem. As we follow Shin deeper down into her inferno, themes of separation, possession, and ignorance collide with images of war and violence.”—Rain Taxi