Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel
Photography by Jeong Bong-chae
The Ibis by Moon Tae-jun
Stepping in the mountain shadow on the rice paddy
the old ibis
A deep thought lingers on the old ibis’s body and passes
Like I once stared at an empty pond vacantly
Is this how loneliness lingers?
It was the evening when the mountain shadow fully wetted her ankles
Moon Tae-jun (1970-) has published four collections of poetry: Chattering Backyard (2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself. Moon is a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Dongseo Literature Award (2004), the Midang Literature Award (2005), and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007).
Translated by Chae-Pyong Song
The Persimmon Tree by Lee Jae-mu
The persimmon tree is anxious to hear the news,
so it reaches out its branches toward the twig gate,
and gently shakes at the wind
shedding red tears
every fall drop by drop.
The farmer planted it there,
and lived for thirty years;
fifteen years have already passed
since he fled on the train.
The persimmon tree longs for him,
so every spring it sprouts new buds
stretching toward the gate.
감나무 저도 소식이 궁금한 것이다
그러기에 사립 쪽으로는 가지도 더 뻗고
가을이면 그렁그렁 매달아놓은
바람결에 슬쩍 흔들려도 보는 것이다
저를 이곳에 뿌리박게 해놓고
주인은 삼십년을 살다가
도망 기차를 탄 것이
감나무 저도 안부가 그리운 것이다
그러기에 봄이면 새순도
담장 너머 쪽부터 내밀어 틔워보는 것이다
Darcy Brandel, Laurie Kopack, Anne Rashid, and Melanie Steyn read the earlier versions of this translation.
Translated by Chae-Pyong Song
Photography by Chae-Pyong Song
To the Daffodil by Chung Ho-seung
Because you are lonely, you are human.
To live is to endure loneliness.
Don’t wait for the call that’s not coming.
When it snows, walk on the snowy path.
When it rains, walk on the rainy path.
At the reed forest, the black-breasted longbill is watching you.
At times, even God sheds tears, feeling lonely.
Because of loneliness the birds are sitting on the boughs.
Because of loneliness you are sitting by the stream.
Once a day, even the mountain shadow comes down to the village, feeling lonely.
Even the bell rings outward, out of loneliness.
살아간다는 것은 외로움을 견디는 일이다.
공연히 오지 않는 전화를 기다리지 마라.
눈이 오면 눈길을 걸어가고
비가 오면 빗길을 걸어가라.
갈대 숲에서 가슴검은도요새도 너를 보고 있다.
가끔은 하느님도 외로워서 눈물을 흘리신다.
새들이 나뭇가지에 앉아 있는 것도 외로움 때문이고
네가 물가에 앉아 있는 것도 외로움 때문이다.
산 그림자도 외로워서 하루에 한 번씩 마을로 내려온다.
종소리도 외로워서 울려 퍼진다.
Darcy Brandel and Melanie Steyn read the earlier versions of this translation.
Chung Ho-seung was born in 1950, in Hadong, Gyongsangnam-do. Since his debut in 1972 with a poem featured in the Korea Daily News, Chung has published many poetry collections, such as From Sorrow to Happiness, Jesus of Seoul, and Dawn Letter, which has achieved both critical acclaim and mass appeal. His minimal verse style interweaves the everday and the fantastic, proposing the possibility of lyrical revelation in even the most prosaic encounters.