36 Books in 36 Days: Unbearable Splendor

Each day we highlight one of the 36 finalists leading up to the April 8 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, presented by Education Minnesota. Today we feature 2017 Poetry finalist:


Maze_Bull_V3Unbearable Splendor by Sun Yung Shin
Published by: Coffee House Press
Category Sponsor: Wellington Management, Inc.

Who is guest, and who is host? Adoption, zombies, clones, and minotaurs – all are building blocks, forming and reforming our ideas in Shin’s groundbreaking new collection. Her work navigates the line between verse and prose, as cerebral as it is emotional.

The Lantern Review Blog described it beautifully:

Unbearable Splendor [is a] collection of poems, essays, and hybrid works characterized by bold, flexible experiments in form. The work draws from a wide range of historical, mythological, and literary sources, including figures like Antigone, Asterion, and Pinocchio, demonstrating a deep concern with matters of origin: the etymology of words, the logic of replication and reproduction, and the ways these processes are interrupted by both natural and uncanny means. Shin examines technologies of artificial reproduction, as well, staging them as interventions in her exploration of what it means to reproduce and to be reproduced. From this investigation of cloning, cyborgs, surrogacy, and adoption, Shin weaves a narrative of language and history that represents a striking new way of understanding identity.”


Sun Yung Shin, Unbearable SplendorAbout the Author

Sun Yung Shin is the editor of A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota and the author of two previous poetry/essay collections—Rough, and Savage and Skirt Full of Black (both from Coffee House Press). She is also the co-editor of Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, and the author of bilingual illustrated book for children Cooper’s Lesson. She has received artist grants from the Bush Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the McKnight Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation. She is teaching or has taught at St. Catherine University, Hamline University, Macalester College, the University of Minnesota, the Perpich Center for Arts Education, Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis public schools, and the Loft Literary Center.


Rave Reviews

“In a striking interweaving of poetry and essay, etymologies brush up against adoption certificates, and quotations jostle with myths… Shin’s resistance to offering a definitive answer allows her to make connections that are sometimes dizzying, often lyrical, and always thought provoking.”The Missing Slate

“As a book, Unbearable Splendor works on multiple levels. On perhaps its most obvious, superficial level, it’s a text full of beautiful, haunting, lyrical language and interconnected themes that wind in and out of each other to weave a coherent fabric of many strands. Under that surface, though, lives a veritable dissertation (with plenty of angles that the reader can research) on otherness and transgression, and in turn, on how what or who that is other, or what or who that transgresses, problematizes the existence of the one who observes.” Drunken Boat

“Shin uses both prose and poetry to explore the human narrative. What makes us human? She goes through myth both Greek and Korean, the sort of uncanny valley approach of science fiction and the role of the cyborg in exploring human nature. The back notes and references are exhaustive and there is so much to be curious about as we follow Shin’s amazing leaps in how language shapes human experience.” – MN Book Awards judge


Beyond the Book

Audio Interview: KFAI’s Minneculture with Emily Bright Kusack

Print Interview: “In Practice: Poet Sun Yung Shin,” by Lightsey Darst

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