From Winter Tree to Spring Tree by Hwang Ji-woo

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel


Photography by Chae-Pyong Song

From Winter Tree to Spring Tree by Hwang Ji-woo

A tree is a tree
In its body.
With its whole body the tree becomes a tree.
All the body naked,
At thirteen degrees below zero,
At twenty degrees below zero,
Rooting the whole body into the earth,
Lifting its head,
Standing as a defenseless naked tree,
Standing in a posture of punishment, lifting its two hands,
Ah, in a punished body, in a punished life,
Standing up, but
Saying, this is not it, this is not it,
It suffers in all of its soul,
It burns inside, inside the body,
Resisting, rejecting, from below zero,
To above zero, five degrees above zero,
Thirteen degrees above zero, moving above earth,
It pushes, it pushes up,
Till all its body breaks down–
Breaking down, blisters forming,
Breaking out, with its hot tongue,
It pushes the shoot
Slowly, steadily,
Suddenly the shoot becomes a green leaf,
Bumping into a blue April sky,
The tree becomes a tree in its whole body.
Ah, finally, at last,
The blooming tree is a blooming tree
In its body.

겨울―나무로부터 봄―나무에로 / 황지우

나무는 자기 몸으로
자기 온몸으로 나무는 나무가 된다
자기 온몸으로 헐벗고
영하(零下) 십삼도(十三度)
영하(零下) 이십도(二十度) 지상(地上)에
온몸을 뿌리박고 대가리 쳐들고
무방비의 나목(裸木)으로 서서
두 손 올리고 벌 받는 자세로 서서
아 벌 받은 몸으로, 벌 받는 목숨으로
기립(起立)하여, 그러나
이게 아닌데 이게 아닌데
온 혼(魂)으로 애타면서 속으로 몸속으로
버티면서 거부하면서 영하(零下)에서
영상(零上)으로 영상(零上) 오도(五度)
영상(零上) 십삼도(十三度) 지상(地上)으로
밀고 간다, 막 밀고 올라간다
온몸이 으스러지도록
으스러지도록 부르터지면서
터지면서 자기의 뜨거운 혀로
싹을 내밀고
천천히, 서서히, 문득, 푸른 잎이 되고
푸르른 사월 하늘 들이받으면서
나무는 자기의 온몸으로 나무가 된다
아아, 마침내, 끝끝내
꽃피는 나무는 자기 몸으로
꽃피는 나무이다

(Melanie Steyn has read the earlier version of this translation.)

Hwang Ji-woo (1952 – ) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do. He studied aesthetics and philosophy at college. He began to write poetry in 1980 and has published several books of poetry including Even Birds Leave the World (1983), From Winter Tree to Spring Tree (1985), and I’ll Sit in a Cloudy Tavern Some Day (1990). Among his prestigious literary awards are the Kim Sooyoung Literary Award, the Hyundae Literary Award, the Sowol Poetry Award, and the Daesan Literary Award. He currently teaches at the Korean Academy of Theater.