Winner of the 2015 Michael Waters Poetry Prize
Every history has its holes, every landscape its vanishing point. Fathers and brothers disappear. A bronze helmet winds across centuries from Olympia to Berlin to Seoul. Fish bones turn to thorns in the native tongue. In these poems that explore identity, family, and the hunger to know what can’t be known, we discover both vividly recreated scenes and the rips in the canvas. We enter works like the 19th-century Gettysburg Cyclorama at the heart of this book, asking: What art can we make out of violence? What shape from loss? Like snow that leaves no trace in the photographed garden, Into the Cyclorama answers: Form is everything, even at its most transient.
"At the heart of Annie Kim’s work are questions of vision and scale. How is the personal refracted through the historical? How is the present substantiated by the past? In poems that are as exact as they are charged, Kim faces her questions with 'the kind of love / that is attention mainly.' And far from claiming sure answers for questions that are necessary but mutable, Into the Cyclorama instead brings its reader deep into seeing, thinking, and making—deep into the processes that make us who we are. 'Incompletion means I’ll live,' declares one of the speakers in Kim’s poems, highlighting the fierceness to know—not to mention the heartbreak and bliss—that defines this powerful debut collection."
"Immersive, inclusive, encircling, a cyclorama gives us a 360 [degree symbol] view of things. Annie Kim’s wonderful first book, Into the Cyclorama, is equally embracing, equally attuned. She can pan across points of view as well as points of origin, from the Greek ode to the traditional Korean lyric sijo, as her formal dexterity finds shape in both the solo voice and choral harmonies, in etude as well as rag. Each poem is beautifully distinctive—whether long or short, serial or singular, plain or as intricately shaped as a fractal or a fugue. Throughout, Kim’s complex narrative skill depicts a self, a family, and the myriad 'hidden strings' of cultural identity formed by this poet’s panoramic and symphonic sense of history."
"As a cyclorama allows us to 'step inside the painting,' this debut collection by Annie Kim allows us to inhabit 'the bliss and the shame' of a life tensed between cultures, Korean and American, and to live inside the language woven to reconcile them. 'You see what happens / when I look. I turn one thing / into another, I invent / my brand of clarity.' Clarity remains constant in poems that evoke and question familial and historical destiny, and that come to recognize how 'imperfection takes the shape you love.' Through its own modest imperfections and with uncommon depths of feeling, Into the Cyclorama locates 'the garden of your dreams, the dirt of dreams. Call it home.'”
The Into the Cyclorama cover artist is Miriam Mörsel Nathan.