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Vol. 1 No. 1 (2019): The Salzburg Seminar and Its Legacies in American Studies

The Cold War and New Sacred Poetry: Li-Young Lee, Suji Kwock Kim, and Kathleen Ossip

January 21, 2020


Contrary to what one might expect, many poets who engage with the Cold War adopt not primarily a political but rather a religious voice. Indeed, poets such as Li-Young Lee, Suji Kwock Kim, and Kathleen Ossip examine the Cold War in light of theological questions. Their poems bear witness not to personal suffering inflicted by political and societal circumstances but instead to human resilience bolstered by faith in the face of traumatic experience. Their writings are not best captured by the frequently invoked "Poetry of Witness," understood as witness to injustice, but rather "new sacred poetry": colored by individual experience of trauma, their poetry serves as a vehicle for expressing spiritual and mystical experience. They thereby innovate not only poetry but also contemporary theology. The Cold War becomes the backdrop for the struggle between faith and suffering brought about by political, societal, and personal circumstances.


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