Winter’s Dance by Kwak Je-gu

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Kang Jang-won

Winter’s Dance by Kwak Je-gu

Before the first snow falls,
I must mend the memory window.
Brushing off the dust of despair and sorrow
piling up during the past seasons,
I must drive a new nail of waiting
into the edge of the creaking window frame.
I must take down the old curtain
hung without meaning,
light a small kerosene lamp
that won’t go out even in below-zero cutting wind,
and learn winter’s cold and shining dance.
The world is a lovely place depending how you look at it—
a place that dreams of the progress of a new world
where passionate love, labor, revolution, and touching go together.
Winter is rather warm if you embrace it.

겨울의 춤/ 곽재구

첫눈이 오기 전에
추억의 창문을 손질해야겠다.
지난 계절 쌓인 허무와 슬픔
먼지처럼 훌훌 털어내고
삐걱이는 창틀 가장자리에
기다림의 새 못을 쳐야겠다.
무의미하게 드리워진
낡은 커튼을 걷어내고
영하의 칼바람에도 스러지지 않는
작은 호롱불 하나 밝혀두어야겠다.
그리고… 차갑고도 빛나는 겨울의 춤을 익혀야겠다.
바라보면 세상은 아름다운 곳
뜨거운 사랑과 노동과 혁명과 감동이
함께 어울려 새 세상의 진보를 꿈꾸는 곳
끌어안으면 겨울은 오히려 따뜻한 것

Kwak Je-gu (곽재구) was born in Gwangju in 1954. He studied Korean literature at Chonnam National University. He made his literary debut as a poet with “At Sapyung Station,” which won the Spring literary award organized by the Joongang Daily in 1982. From 1981 to 1987, he worked as a member of “May Poetry,” a group of creative writers deeply inspired by the Gwangju Uprising in 1980. His poetry collections include At Sapyung Station, Jeonjang-po Arirng, Korean Lovers, A Song of Seoul and The Clear Current. He currently teaches creative writing at Suncheon National University. In 1996, he received the Dongseo Literary Award.

3 thoughts on “Winter’s Dance by Kwak Je-gu

  1. This is beautiful. The first four lines speak brilliantly of the ebb and flow of sadness and despair…And joy and hope. It is only the individual who can change the view out their window.

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