Bak Shi-bong’s residence, Yudong, Namshineuiju by Baek Seok

(translated from the Korean by geul)


(image source: Soojung Cho Art Gallery)



One day I found myself without a wife, and

without the house where my wife and I lived,

far from the bosom of my parents and siblings,

wandering the end of some lonely and windy road.

As it was getting dark soon,

and the wind blowing harder, the cold coming on,

I rented a frigid room, whose floor was covered in old reed mats,

in a carpenter’s home.

And so, alone I thought of many things day and night

in this cold and damp room that smelled of mold,

and when a bit of burning straw was brought in a clay dish,

I held it, warming my hands, writing some letters in the ashes meaninglessly,

not leaving the room, lying down,

with my hands linked behind my head, lolling about,

I kept chewing the cud of my sadness and foolishness.

When my heart was too full,

and something hot welled up in my eyes,

and my face grew hot and red with shame,

I felt I must die from the weight of my sadness and foolishness.

But after a while I lifted my head,

and gazed at the whitish window and door, or the high ceiling,

then I thought about how hard it is to push myself forward by my own strength or will,

and I thought that there was something higher and bigger that was rolling me along,

In this way a number of days passed,

during which, in my turbulent heart sadness, sighs and things that would settle gradually turned to sediment and settled,

and when only lonely thoughts came to me,

and at evening when the windblown sleet would pelt the window and door,

on such evenings I would move even closer to the brazier, get on my knees,

I would think of that solid and untainted buckhorn tree that’s said to be so uncommon,

standing by its lonesome far off on some mountainside next to a rock,

snowed on as the dark comes on, rustling of the wind

on the dry leaves as the snow falls on them.




* The title is written in a way in which a person renting a room in another’s home might have addressed an envelope.



poem in Korean


Rose-tinted Life by Ki Hyeong-do

(translated from the Korean by geul)

A man in his prime opens the door and enters
As he takes off his hat, his salt and pepper hair,
like his shabby overcoat, is revealed
He pushes all that is his into a creaky wooden chair
he wraps his healthy and greedy hands
around a ridiculously small cup
Has he ever, even once, with those large hands,
grabbed a likely opponent by the scruff of his neck
The man is silent, instead of moving his eyes aimlessly,
he is exploiting certain experiences, focusing on one place,
To unravel the knot of crowded events, how many cruel customers did he glower
like that of those who have tasted doubt and temptation many times over
Those shoulders that resolutely refuse any and all disorder of the body
those lips that seemed to be moved by a certain jealousy
ears hidden by a strand of hair, that certainly would have dreamed of being the
However, who would dare to take on that man’s responsibility
The man continues to remain silent, he pulls something from his thick coat
as if he’d just thought of it for the first time
thrusting aside the dogged resistance of loneliness,
as if steeled for any kind of showdown
the man looks around, the expression that walks above his face
He pushes all that is his into a creaky wooden chair
with it he begins to dig into the tabletop
his burly frame bending forward, ploddingly
but anxiously, supplying strength to his own command

I hate life


poem in Korean

Chungnamdangjin Woman by Jang Jeong-il

(translated from the Korean by geul)

Where could she have gone, the woman from Chungnamdangjin?
She who left me after violating me
snatching the virginity defended for twenty-three years and gifting me with syphilis
Chungnamdangjin woman, I think I’m going to have to hate you
Turning me into a man with her ardor like a power plant
I don’t think I can hate her
Chungnamdangjin woman, my wish was to marry the woman I first slept with
My life’s wish was to live all my life with the woman I first held in my arms
living together without breaking up
having a child with the woman whom I first locked lips with
Naming my first daughter that the woman I first kissed lays in my arms was my my life’s wish
But you got away – “I’m a very bad woman”
Taking a taxi you got away – “Don’t look for me”
Taking a yellow taxi you vanished with your eyes all red
I should’ve memorized the number on the back of the taxi
Where did you hide, Chungnamdangjin woman, with a drop of my saliva
on your small lips, how can you smile with pleasure?
You who said a man and a woman didn’t need a place to lie down
Chungnamdangjin woman, you who laughed haha saying you lived
near a power plant as a child, giggling, Chungnamdangjin woman
Maybe that’s why at the Dangjin thermoelectric power plant in my dream
A woman’s face as black as coal shooting up terrifyingly inside the furnace
Chungnamdangjin woman’s face
under a street light, round like her face, I am standing, I stand tall with regret
Actually what I wanted, what I secretly wanted was that she would go away
Chungnamdangjin woman, she stands under the dim lamp
of the standing-only bar under the lamp that’s freckled with fly droppings
Does that mean I abandoned you rather than you abandoning me?
Or did we secretly abandon each other? and why?
And why is the fate of our 1960 generation such as it is?
The love I made with the Chungnamdangjin woman making the beast with two backs
will become a sordid poem bruited about by idle people
spread around between heaven and earth until one day the rumor reaches the velvety
ears of that Dangjin woman who’ll giggle
And the rumor will reach the ears of my future fiancee
and when she asks in a soft voice “Was she pretty? How was she?”
Love, I shall fall into the abyss of memory, Chungnamdangjin woman
she whose name I’ve forgotten




poem in Korean


Flower (꽃) by Ki Hyeong-do (기형도)

(translated from the Korean by geul)


On a day when my soul flames up

in the garden where your heart grows sick

I will become your blood

hotly spewed all the night

and rise up as a flower.


If it’s you

I would gladly have my waist cut


I will sew up your heart

with my close breath


If I lay my head in the place where the wind blows

I could happily fall asleep standing.


poem in Korean






I like all frustrated things by Kim Kyeong-mi

(translated from the Korean by geul)


Sleet that failed to become plush snow
Cow wheat that failed to become magnolia blossoms
The call that doesn’t come and the plundered savings
*** account.
Your letter
that passes me by to go to another address


I like the attitude of the frustrated
With the forehead to the floor
Things that have looked down at the world of roots
Transparently like a window pane
Like a god in heaven who gets on all fours and looks


poem in Korean