Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid
Spring Garlic by Jung Kut-byol
Like an obscenity, like a clenched fist,
a white garlic clove writhes;
I rub my burning eyes.
The breath-taking intensity
careens like an explosion:
dark green spring garlic mixed with pepper paste
between lettuce and pepper–
the garlic flower of Namdo, South Province,
white with a garlic scent.
Oh, the fresh spring night.
Feel the sensuous energy
that rolls up–
not a flower,
not a plant.
See how it spews its venom, courageous,
like a guerilla, into the spring sea.
Spring garlic mixed with pepper paste
between lettuce and green pepper–
the Namdo seed garlic, white with a garlic scent.
Jung Kut-byol (1964-) was born in Naju, Jeollanam-do. She is a professor of Korean literature at Myungju University in Seoul. Working as both a poet and a critic, she has published four poetry collections: My Life: a Birch Tree (1996), A White Book (2000), An Old Man’s Vitality (2005) and Suddenly (2008), along with two collections of critical essays: The Poetics of Parody (1997) and The Language of Poetry Has a Thousand Tongues (2008). She has also edited an anthology entitled In Anyone’s Heart, Wouldn’t a Poem Bloom?: 100 Favorite Poems Recommended by 100 Korean Poets (2008).