Ode to Belly Lint
I have always been interested in things like degenerate art, the cult of ugliness, trash and shit. My friend the poet Jang Ok Gwan always says a poet is someone who writes a poem, and so it is important for poets to write everyday. I don't write everyday. But I do produce a ball of lint in my belly button. I've lived for a long time and I often wonder, how? And why? I was getting a PhD and reading lots of philosophy, searching for a theory, but there it was the entire time. I'm never looking for it, but I always find it. A ball of lint in my belly button. Often shaped like a cloud, which is shaped like an animal, the belly lint is soft. So it is good for sensitive and imaginative beings like children. Where does the belly lint come from? And why is it there? I have been experimenting with different shirt fabrics to see which ones yield the most lint. It's important not to wear synthetic fibers. Soft cottons in vibrant colors produce exotic results, but thick wool makes for the most impressively sized lints. I spend a lot of time in my office at Keimyung University. This is probably the place where I do most of my belly lint production. That is the first reason I picked the location. Secondly, producing belly lint and publishing poetry have almost equal value in terms of research points given out by the university. So I thought it was important that I recorded in the university as a protest against the injustice of the research evaluation system.
Jake Levine is a poet, translator and critic. He has written, translated, or co-translated many books. Along with Soeun Seo and Hedgie Choi he received the National Translation Award and Lucien Stryk prize for the English translation of the book Hysteria by Kim Yideum (Action Books 2019). He has been the recipient of other awards, fellowships and scholarships, including a Fulbright to Lithuania in 2010 and a Korean Government Scholarship. He is an assistant professor of Creative Writing at Keimyung University in Daegu, South Korea and edits and curates the Moon Country series at Black Ocean. His first full-length book of poems The Imagined Country is out with Tolsun Books in May.