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CLMP Publishers Nonfiction - General

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Commentary on the Birds

ISBN: 9781734831672
Binding: Paperback
Author: Jed Munson
Pages: 148
Trim: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Published: 10/24/2023

In his debut collection of essays, Jed Munson excavates the geopolitical reality and symbolic weight of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Drawing on his time as a Fulbright scholar, Munson explores the ecology of the DMZ—the cranes who live there and cross borders that remain deadly to humans—and the artwork that grapples with this inaccessible but calamitous place, a site of perpetual encounter and impasse. This book combines text and image, stories of trail-walking and of illness, and the author's reflections on diasporic identity as a biracial Korean American. The result is a deeply moving work of memoir, cultural criticism, and ecological thinking for our time.


Jed Munson grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. His poetry chapbooks include Minesweeper (New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM, 2023), Silts (above/ground press, 2022), and Newsflash Under Fire, Over the Shoulder (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021).


"Commentary on the Birds is an eco-geopolitical hybrid narrative created from Jed Munson's field work, field notes, criticism, and memoir. As a biracial Korean American, Munson's navigation route to and from the DMZ on the Korean peninsula is often disjointed and disparate, yet such migratory pattern may be one of many identities and languages of diaspora itself. Munson has constructed a deeply felt and thought-provoking multi-dimensional diorama of the DMZ—its internal and external geography of pains and mines. This brilliant book can also be read as a field guide to seeking and observing diasporic self and birds." - Don Mee Choi

"It is a strange, somewhat elliptical experience, to recommend to so many people a book that does not yet exist, but that has been the experience, for me, with Jed Munson's Commentary on the Birds. Now the recommendation can be consummated. This delirious DMZ, this travelogue of incisive blundering through collective fictions and negative space, this blowing of molten han into binoculars, joins a specific ecology that includes Don Mee Choi's DMZ Colony and Na Mira's The Book of Na, and is one of the most thoughtful, thought-provoking books of our century." - Brandon Shimoda

"In lyric and documentary prose on themes of ecology and art, Jed Munson's essays invite readers to consider the layered complexity of the Korean DMZ. Of Korean heritage, Munson evokes a place that is at once a frozen territory, an 'open cage,' an artifact of the Cold War and a borderland, paradoxically ecologically and symbolically rich. Formally innovative—and precise—Munson pairs image-texts that wind through surprising apertures, ways of seeing, and looking, the hidden and delayed vision. Munson's Commentary on the Birds is a daring act of the literary imaginary—that finds the connection between landscape and psyche." - Erica Hunt

"Combining poetry, literary criticism, and (auto)ethnographic observation, Commentary on the Birds is a powerful contemplation of the Demilitarized Zone as a bounded geographic area, a product of unended war, a wilderness preserve, a subject of cultural production, and a psychic terrain. By crossing boundaries such as North/South, inside/outside, here/there, nature/culture, and before/after, this project dissolves divisions to achieve a sense of freedom and flight that transforms the DMZ into a kind of third space for the diaspora—an articulation of longing and possibility. I felt both my heart and mind fully activated as I read Munson's elegant writing. This book is a gift, and I'm grateful for it now more than ever." - Grace M. Cho