Monthly Archives: February 2017

Home by Jeong Ji-yong

(translated from the Korean by geul)


Home, home I’ve come back to, but
it’s not the home I’ve missed.

The mountain pheasant is brooding;
the cuckoo cries in its season, but

my heart is forgetful of home,
a cloud wandering toward distant harbors.

Today too up the mountain alone
white spotted flowers smile kindly;

the grass flutes I blew in my youth don’t sound
and are oh so bitter to my parched lips.

Home, home I’ve come back to, but
only the sky I’ve missed is high and blue.


original Korean poem

About Jeong Ji-yong


Cigarette by Kim So-wol

(translated from the Korean by geul)

Always-remembered comrade of
my long sighs, my cigarette!
I have met people who say
you grow on the grave of a miss
born, and as soon passed away,
so long ago the story is forgotten.
Dark smoke undulating and collapsing
before my eyes
ember that only burns to vanish.
Ah, this my anguished heart.
My endless days of melancholy
let them pass with you as one.

original Korean

Coming Out of the Old Palace One Day by Kim Soo-young

(translated from the Korean by geul)

Why do I only fly into a rage at little things
instead of at that king’s palace, instead of at
   the debauchery that went on there
I fly into a rage because I got a hunk of fat for the 50-
   won rib I ordered
I fly into a petty rage and cuss out the pig-faced
   bitch owner of the seol-leong-tang* place
Petty cussing out

Just once, upright,
for the writer dragged away
demanding the freedom of the press and protesting
   soldiers sent to Vietnam
which I haven’t managed to do
Is it that I can only despise the night watchmen who
come back three, four times to get their 20 wons?

My petty tradition is of long-standing and now obstructs me
   as sentiment
So, for example, this happened
When I was at the 14th field hospital in the POW
   camp in Busan
an informant seeing that I was making sponges
   and folding gauze with the nurses
made fun of me – shouldn’t I be in the prison police,
   how could a man do such work?
In front of the nurses

My resistance now isn’t a bit different from making
the sponges and folding the gauze
At the howling of a dog, I yelp
I lose to the tantrums of a whipper snapper
The leaves falling from a ginkgo tree are
   a bed of thorns that I traverse

In any case I stand aside and do not stand
at the peak, very probably I stand a bit off to the side
And I know that standing aside a bit is a bit
of a cowardly thing to do!

And so I resist, in this petty manner,
the barber
not the landlord but the barber
not the county clerk not even the village clerk
but the night watchman, all for 20 wons, 10 wons
Isn’t it hilarious? For 1 won

Sand, how small am I?
Wind, dust, grass, how small am I?
Really, how small am I . . . ?

poem in the original Korean

*beef and rice soup

At the Billionaire’s Birthday Party


At the billionaire’s birthday party there
were acrobats,
Olympic athletes doing tricks,
camels doing tricks.
There was talk of contentment
of harmony
of contributions to humanity.
Who made that speech?
I think it was the president of Yale.


A Long Time from Now by Kim So-wol

(translated from the Korean by geul)

A long time from now, if you were to look for me
then my words would be, “I have forgotten you.”

If you were to inwardly reproach me
“After much longing, I have forgotten you.”

If you were to still reproach me
“I have forgotten you because I could not believe it.”

I have not forgotten you today nor yesterday and
a long time from now, then, “I have forgotten you.”


original Korean

Winter Sky by Seo Jeong-ju (동천, 서정주)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

When I washed clear with a thousand nights’ dream
the lovely brow of my beloved
and planted it in the sky
a fierce bird flying in coldest winter
gesturing in recognition
veers as it passes

original Korean

Favorite Poems: The Black Messengers (Los Heraldos Negros) by César Vallejo

(translated by Rachel Benson)

There are some blows in life so hard… I don’t know!
Blows that seem to come from God’s hatred; as if before them,
the backwash of all suffering
were welling into my soul…I don’t know!


They are few, but they are… They open dark furrows
in the toughest faces and the strongest backs.
Perhaps they are the colts of barbarous attilas;
or the black messengers sent us by Death.


They are the grave downfall of the soul’s Christs,
of some adorable faith that Destiny curses.
Those bloody blows are the crackling
of bread heating for us at the oven door.


And man… Poor… poor man! He turns his head
the way we do when a hand is clapped on our shoulder;
he turns his crazed eyes, and all living
is damned up in that glance, like a puddle of guilt.


There are some blows in life so hard… I don’t know!


read the poem in the original Spanish

Listen to Che Guevara read the poem in Spanish

Another reading of the poem in Spanish


Night Snow by Gi Hyeong-do (밤눈, 기형도)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

When your insides are opened the silver threads that froze up and melted oh how many times and that changed places with yet another movement each time the wind blew are tangled up crying.  On the ground the rotten branches under the ice lay prostrate with eyes slivered.  In what color did you dream of yet another love as you nailed low in the sky piece by piece the light that could be given to no one? The savage and silent night in which no one clothed your soul, what remained on the frozen land that kept launching your dance into the air? In the sky in all the spaces you have passed the wind is blowing.  Oh, oh, world full of shadows of poplars, at its end with a temperature unable even to take a first step toward death you are roaming through yet another sky.  When your insides are opened.

poem in original Korean