Encounter with a Crocodile
You may be familiar with this post that appeared on the Poetics List on 7/19:
I am very disappointed in POETICLIST.
I am a poor Korean writer suffering a deadly Korean environment.
After barely solving the translation barrier, I sent the message with
my homepage http://www.xqqqx.com
where my texts are.
But getting no reply makes me so sad.
I just want to communicate with people who love expermental
literature, since there is nobody in Korea.
I went to look at his website, and wrote him back:
Uh Ak, I think you are an AWESOME poet. I’m glad you complained
because otherwise I might not have noticed your poems.
I’m an English teacher and I have a lot of Korean students. They
seem to be having a good time in New York. Why not come and check it
out here if Korea is such a deadly drag?
What I didn’t add to that email, although I thought to, to show that I am not instantly credulous, was the line, “You write better than Kent Johnson!” Although I may have had some suspicion along those lines, I thought that it would be interesting to play along with an interesting story… and if “Ak-Uh” (my misalignment of whose name BK Stefans didn’t hesitate to mock) were indeed real, that would be an even more interesting story.
Gary, tackling his own suspicions, did some detective work, and found out that 1)Ak-Uh means crocodile in Korean, 2) that the site was indeed maintained by a Korean person and a Korean host. He also found some evidence of the work of another Korean writer whose poems seem to have influenced Ak-Uh’s. Of course, none of this evidence discounts the wily machinations of Kent Johnson, or some other copycat hoaxer.
So… I was delighted to receive this email from Ak-Uh:
Thank you for your reply.
I am really in bad situation.
I am 20 years old boys.
I have been rejected from EVERY college I applied.
I want to know more details about your education.
I really need somewhere to escape.
This appealed, of course, to the do-gooder educator in me, and I wrote back to him:
I teach ESL at Pratt Insititute — have you tried applying there? They actually have a writing program that is pretty good. The only problem is that it is quite expensive.
Did you know that some people on the Poetics List think you are a hoax (a fake — not really Korean)? There is a poet named Kent Johnson who writes as poets from different countries. Some people think you are him or that you are trying to do something like him. For example, they are saying your name is strange, and not a real Korean name — that it means “crocodile.”
Why don’t you send me some proof that you are you? Then I can tell everyone that you really exist!
And he replied (it’s useful to note here that the “time sent” indicator gives evidence of a time-zone with a nine-hour difference):
My real name is Sungyon, Hong ???.
Ak-Uh is my pen name.
It means crocodile as you indicate.
I use Ak-Uh olny because of its sounds.
How can I prove the big theorem that I am the person I am.
It is so weird situation.
I attach some pictures of mine.
And you can read the korean version of my works at www. xqqqx. com.
I don;t have money to study in USA, I really want to.
I prefer writing to other kinds of art, since it can be done without money.
I am in the Peking university preparatory course.
Professors here are disgusting. They have heart-less ideas about art and study.
All I am doing is learning Chinese 25hours a week and exams 3 times a week.
I can’t afford to compose a new poem.
Furthermore, I must join the army as Korean law unless I am in a college.
The most important fact is I am going to be fired from that course.
This was quickly followed by another email:
I omit something to tell you.
Ak-Uh is not good enough at English to write English mails like this.
I am the best friend of Ak-Uh. But all the messages were Ak-Uh’s. I
traslated them with my poor English. I am a mathematics-major-student
I attach my picture too for clarifying.
I think Ak-Uh is a gifted artist. He really need some help.
But he doesn’t have money. Ooh, it is a very difficult request…
Anyway I and AKUH are waiting for your explanation to other people
that Ak-Uh is
Ak-Uh. Someone who wants to lie never write this kind of mail asking for help.
(I won’t appear in later mails. You understand that ‘I’ is AKUH.)
I then wrote asking him if he would mind if I posted his pictures and emails on my blog. He happily gave permission. So… here’s the evidence; you can judge for yourself. I also wrote asking him to send his phone number in Korea, where he will return next month. If he’s not real, then I salute the hoaxer for his techno-affective bravado. If he is real, I would like to help him find a way to study in the USA.