For the Bruised Souls by Koh Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Dianne Cho (Gwangju, Korea)

 For the Bruised Souls by Koh Jung-hee

Under the sky even the bruised reed
shakes freely for one season—
if a tree is deeply rooted
even if the trunk is sawed off, new buds sprout.
The bruised souls, let us shake fully,
let us suffer, shaking fully.

Even the floating weed that moves without root,
it will bloom, where water collects around it.
Like everywhere in the world a brook will run,
like everywhere in the world a lamp will get lit.
Let us go, suffering ones, putting our skin side by side.
If we decide to be lonely, won’t we be able to go anywhere?
If we risk our life to go, would the setting sun be a problem?

Passing over the land of suffering and sorrow,
let us stand on the field deeply rooted.
Even if we block it with two arms, the wind will blow.
There are no eternal tears,
there is no eternal lamentation.

Under the sky even in the pitch dark night
a hand comes along that we can get hold of.

상한 영혼을 위하여/ 고정희

상한 갈대라도 하늘 아래선
한 계절 넉넉히 흔들리거니
뿌리 깊으면야
밑둥 잘리어도 새 순은 돋거니
충분히 흔들리자 상한 영혼이여
충분히 흔들리며 고통에게로 가자

뿌리 없이 흔들리는 부평초잎이라도
물 고이면 꽃은 피거니
이 세상 어디서나 개울은 흐르고
이 세상 어디서나 등불은 켜지듯
가자 고통이여 살 맞대고 가자
외롭기로 작정하면 어딘들 못 가랴
가기로 목숨 걸면 지는 해가 문제랴

고통과 설움의 땅 훨훨 지나서
뿌리 깊은 벌판에 서자
두 팔로 막아도 바람은 불듯
영원한 눈물이란 없느니라
영원한 비탄이란 없느니라

캄캄한 밤이라도 하늘 아래선
마주잡을 손 하나 오고 있거니

(Originally published in The Gwangju News, August, 2011)

Koh Jung-hee (1948 – 1991) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do, and studied at Hanshin University. A passionate feminist, she often offered sharp criticism on modern Korean society, whether it was political oppression or gender inequality. In June, 1991, she died, swept up by a torrential rain, while climbing up the Snake Valley of Jiri Mountain, a mountain she loved a great deal and wrote about often. Known for resistance poetry, particularly based upon the Gwangju Uprising, as well as for lyric poems, she derived many of her poetic inspirations from Gwangju and Jeolla-do (often known as Nam-do). In her lifetime she published at least ten collections of poetry and received the Korean Literature Award in 1983.

1 thought on “For the Bruised Souls by Koh Jung-hee

  1. No one should miss the poetry translations of my colleague, “JP” Song…prize-winning poetry translator. We teach in the Marygrove College Social Justice Program. His work is a light for the soul. Please visit his blog site. Sharon

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