Self-portrait by Seo Jeong-ju (So Chong-ju)

(translated from the Korean by geul)


Pa was a servant. The night deepened, still he didn’t come.

Only standing was Grandmother, old as onion roots, and one flowering jujube tree.

Though, Ma, moon-bellied, said she craved just one green apricot…

Inside the earthen walls, under the kerosene lamp light

Mother’s son with the blackened nails

Was it the year of the Gabo Reform? Grandfather who said I’m not coming back from the sea, whose thick head of hair and those big eyes they say I take after.


What’s brought me up these twenty-three years is eight-tenths the wind.

The world’s just shameful the more I look.

While some read a felon in my eyes and

Others read a fool on my lips

I won’t repent a thing.


On any morning splendidly springing to

In poetry’s dew beading my forehead

Always a few drops of blood mixed in

Be it sunshine or shadow tongue lolling out

Like a sick dog, panting have I come.


original poem in Korean

Gabo Reform


One response to “Self-portrait by Seo Jeong-ju (So Chong-ju)

  • Anonymous

    Dear geul,

    Thank you for this amazing translation. It is a piece of work! I wonder whether I can use your translation for the term paper I am currently writing (I am a PhD student at Boston University). I am not going to use it for publication or any type of profit-making. I don’t see any copyright notice here, but wanted to make sure before I actually use it. Please let me know via email:

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