Stars by Kim Nam-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Jung Jeong-im

Stars by Kim Nam-ju

The night falls,
and the world is quiet all over.
There is one thing that stays awake
all night, glowing
with longing, unable to sleep.
People call it a star,
a promise, a hope.
When the night deepens
and people suffer most,
they become stars one by one
and cry Mother, Mother.

별/ 김남주

밤 들어 세상은
온통 고요한데
그리워 못 잊어 홀로 잠 못 이뤄
불 밝혀 지새우는 것이 있다
사람들은 그것을 별이라 그런다
기약이라 소망이라 그런다
밤 깊어
가장 괴로울 때면
사람들은 저마다 별이 되어
어머니 어머니라 부른다

Kim Nam-ju (1946-1994) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do and studied English at Chonnam National University. He is known as one of the major resistance poets in South Korea, leading the people’s movement in the 1970s and 80s that ultimately toppled the dictatorship in Korea. Because of his activism, he was imprisoned twice, for more than ten years in total. In prison where paper and pencil were not allowed, he wrote many poems on milk cartons with the nail he made by grinding a toothbrush. These poems were later published in two collected volumes of his prison poetry, The Sunlight on the Prison Bar. His poetry bears witness to the tyranny of dictatorship and the hardships of the oppressed. He published such poetry collections as Requiem, My Sword My Blood, One Fatherland, The Weapon of Love and In This Lovely World. He received the Yun Sang-won Literary Award in 1993 and the National Literary Award in 1994. His poems have also been memorialized by Korean activist, rock singer An Chi-hwan in his album entitled Remember.

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