The Snowy Night by Moon Tae-jun

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid


Photography by Anne Rashid

The Snowy Night by Moon Tae-jun

Oh, my lover
who had pure eyes;
oh, the silver scales
that occupied your eyes.
Tonight snow falls.
Oh, my poor lover
who wrapped my neck
with a white towel and washed my face,
a sacred quiet descends
upon the lonely planet.
I close my eyes
to remember the time
your hands washed my face.

눈 내리는 밤/ 문태준

말간 눈을 한
동공에 살던 은빛 비늘이여
오늘은 눈이 내린다
목에 하얀 수건을 둘러놓고 얼굴을 씻겨주던
가난한 애인이여,
외로운 천체에
성스러운 고요가 내린다
나는 눈을 감는다
손길이 나의 얼굴을 다 씻겨주는 시간을

moontaejunphotoMoon 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).

The World’s Spine by Jung Kut-byol

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

A man giving his shoes to a homeless girl in Rio de Janeiro

The World’s Spine by Jung Kut-byol

Someone gives me her bosom,
Someone supplies me money,
Someone offers me her lips,
Someone lends her shoulders to me

To provide is
to lift you up to a higher place,
stroking the end of your branches that shove in blindly,
shivering on a deserted mound;
it is to wait for you, lying down low
waking up the root end of you, who has been buried alone in the ground

Like providing water to a rice field
Like offering tears to a wound
Like serving as a bottom to a bottomless bottom–
to become holy rice
to an open mouth
that has sowed and reaped a life

rather than saying I love you

세상의 등뼈/ 정끝별

누군가는 내게 품을 대주고
누군가는 내게 돈을 대주고
누군가는 내게 입술을 대주고
누군가는 내게 어깨를 대주고

대준다는 것, 그것은
무작정 내 전부를 들이밀며
무주공산 떨고 있는 너의 가지 끝을 어루만져
더 높은 곳으로 너를 올려준다는 것
혈혈단신 땅에 묻힌 너의 뿌리 끝을 일깨우며
배를 대고 내려앉아 너를 기다려 준다는 것

논에 물을 대주듯
상처에 눈물을 대주듯
끝모를 바닥에 밑을 대주듯
한생을 뿌리고 거두어
벌린 입에
거룩한 밥이 되어 준다는 것, 그것은

사랑한다는 말 대신

Jung Kut-byol is a professor of Korean literature at Myungji University in Seoul, South Korea. Since 1988, she has worked as both a poet and a critic. She has published four poetry collections, My Life: A Birch Tree (1996), A White Book (2000), An Old Man’s Vitality (2005), and Suddenly (2008) and two collections of critical essays, The Poetics of Parody (1997) and The Language of Poetry Has a Thousand Tongues (2008). She has also edited an anthology titled In Anyone’s Heart, Wouldn’t a Poem Bloom? 100 Favorite Poems Recommended by 100 Korean Poets (2008).

A Door Opening by Ra Hee-duk

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

A Door Opening by Ra Hee-duk

A door opened
and the snow covered the heaven and earth for several days
and a thousand doors closed,
and all the feet were stranded.
Dry grasses
have buried their cold feet in the snow
and cannot even take a step.
Even sounds are trapped.
Somewhere I faintly hear a sound.
I squat down in front of water
because only the running water hasn’t closed its door,
though its edges are frozen.
With a thousand doors closed,
only the floodgate flowing toward you remains open.
Though I attempt to catch the snowflakes,
they disappear as soon as they touch water.
The wet snow within the wet eyes–
I, too, step toward the open door.

門이 열리고 / 나희덕

한 개의 門이 열려
며칠째 눈발이 천지를 메우더니
천 개의 門이 닫히고
발들은 모두 묶이고 말았네
마른 풀대도
시린 발목을 눈에 묻고
한 걸음도 내딛지 못하네
소리들도 갇혔네
어디선가 희미하게 들리는 소리,
가장자리는 얼어가지만
흐르는 물만이 門을 닫지 않아
나는 물소리 앞에 쪼그려 앉았네
천 개의 門이 닫히고
당신에게로 흐르는 水門만이 남았네
눈송이를 낚으려 하나
물에 닿는 순간 사라져버리네
젖은 눈 속에 젖은 눈,
그 열린 門으로 나도 따라 들어가네

Ra Hee-duk (나희덕) was born in 1966 in Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do. She received her Ph.D. in Korean literature from Yonsei University in 2006. She has published six books of poetry: To the Root (1991), The Word Dyed the Leaves (1994), The Place is Not Far (1997), That It Gets Dark (2001), A Disappeared Palm (2004), and Wild Apples (2009). She also published one collection of essays, A Half-filled Water Bucket (1999), and a volume of literary criticism, Where Does Purple Come From? (2003). Among her many literary awards are the Kim Suyoung Literature Award (1998), Modern Literature Award (2003) and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007). Growing up in orphanages, because her father was an administrator at an orphanage, she developed her strong sympathy for the less fortunate others. She currently teaches creative writing at Chosun University in Gwangju.

You are so lovely by Kim Yong-taek

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

Photography by Hye Hyon

You are so lovely by Kim Yong-taek

On a spring day
because of your love
I saw the pleasing sight of sunlight shining
into my shadowy backyard.

Out of darkness to the fireside of love
you gently called me,
and smiled as purely as a wildflower,
standing in front of me in the bright, shining light
that only someone who has passed through darkness can make.

just to think of you–

참 좋은 당신/ 김용택

어느 봄날
당신의 사랑으로
응달지던 내 뒤란에
햇빛이 들이치는 기쁨을 나는 보았습니다

어둠 속에서 사랑의 불가로
나를 가만히 불러내신 당신은
어둠을 건너온 자만이 만들 수 있는
밝고 환한 빛으로 내 앞에 서서
들꽃처럼 깨끗하게 웃었지요

생각만 해도


(Anne Rashid and Melanie Steyn read the earlier versions of this translation.)

Kim Yong-taek (1948- ) was born in Imsil, Jeollabuk-do. With lyrical (often regional) vernacular, he has written many poems about undamaged agricultural communities and the profound beauty of nature. His poetry collections include The Sumjin River,A Clear DaySister, The Day Is Getting DarkThe Flower Letter I MissTimes Like A RiverThat Woman’s House, and Your Daring Love. He also published essay collections such as A Small Village,What’s Longed for Exists behind the MountainA Story of the Sumjin River, and Follow the Sumjin River and Watch. He was awarded the Kim Soo-young Literary Award (1986) and the Sowol Poetry Award (1997). He currently teaches at Woonam Elementary School.