Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Bride by Seo Jeong-ju


(translated from the Korean by geul)



The bride, in an emerald jeogori* and crimson skirt, with only her hair undone, was yet sitting up with the groom on their wedding night when the groom suddenly had to pee and got his clothes caught on the door hinge when he started up and ran out. The groom hastily concluded that his bride was lascivious and couldn’t wait and was grabbing him from behind; thinking only this he left without turning around to look.

Having left a torn piece of his clothing caught on the door hinge, he peed, and afterwards, deciding it won’t do, ran away.

Then forty or fifty years passed and unexpected business caused him to pass by the bride’s house, and out of curiosity he opened the door and looked into the room: the bride was still sitting just as before with only her hair undone just like on their wedding night, in her emerald jeogori and crimson skirt.

Taking pity he patted her shoulder and it was then the bride turned into stinging ash and fell down with a poof.

Fell down into emerald and crimson ash.



**jeogori – the separate top part of the traditional Korean dress

original poem in Korean


Paradise Lost


When the day came into view today
I mean I felt its soft warmth
I felt the world relent
or that’s how it felt.
I remembered that I was once young and happy.
Of course then I didn’t know I was young
because I didn’t know what old was.
And I didn’t know I was happy because
I didn’t know what the world was.
Now I just remember and call it happy.
I’m not happy, I can’t be happy anymore but
I can remember being happy.

The Buddhist Nun by Baek Seok

(translated from the Korean by geul)



The nun put her hands together and bowed.
She smelled of wild asters.
Her melancholic face was old, as of old.
Sorrow overcame me like scripture.

Goldmine deep in some mountain in Pyeongando
I bought an ear of corn from a pale woman.
Beating her young daughter, the woman wept coldly like the autumn night.

Ten years passed as she waited for her husband who’d taken off like a wasp.
The husband did not return and
the young daughter went to a stony grave for the love of bell flowers.

There was a day when the mountain pheasant too cried sorrowfully.
There was a day when locks of the woman’s hair fell together with teardrops in a   ***corner of a mountain temple.


poem in original Korean


I shall be born a cat by Hwang In-suk

(translated from the Korean by geul)


Next time I shall be born as a cat.
I shall be born
as a black patterned cat that glistens, gleams like oil.
I shall be born as a small cat
that knows how to roll like a ball and
looks like a big crow when running nimbly.
I shan’t be dozing on the veranda.
I shan’t be licking milk from a porcelain bowl.
I shall slither through a thornbush and
go out onto the wide open plain.
There I shall run and play with the field mice.
When I’m hungry I shall stealthily
pounce on a flock of sparrows.
Startled, they’ll probably fly off flap flap.
I shall scamper scamper chase them.
I shan’t catch the kid sparrow.
I shall only scare the panting kid
with a light tap of my front paw.
And then I’ll dart off and
catch the biggest one.
Soon after, the sun will go down,
the wind will probably get dreary.
The field mice and the sparrows will leave
and I shall be left alone on the plain.
I shan’t return.
I shall lick the darkness and look for a hay rick.
It should be cozy and warm smelling of straw.
I shall leap up easily and snuggle in deep.
My bedchamber should shine silver
in the moonlight.
Cold rain together with a strong wind
might range over the empty field, perchance.
Even so I won’t get a whisker wet.
I shall dream.
A dream of chasing the sparrow that got away
dashing across the bright field.



original poem in Korean

Dance of Pain by Choi Seung-ja

(translated from the Korean by geul)


World dominated by wind.
That savage wind fleet,
Man-eating blue-backed shiver of sharks.

My bladder ballooning up reflexively.
Tonight’s fight will be close.
I feel it.

Thus the dazzling
dance of pain begins,
O sorrow, look,
matching your rhythm
I dance
these pliant arms and legs,
all my life how well
my body’s been
disciplined to your rhythm.

original poem in Korean

The Shitty Autumn by Choi Seung-ja

(translated from the Korean by geul)


The shitty autumn bursts in.
Autumn like syphilis.
And death comes upon twilight,
that one paralyzed leg.


Everything loses moisture
the boundaries of all the roads crumble.
The recorded voice of yesteryear’s singer wilts
Hello? Isn’t this Juk-seon? It’s Juk-seon, right? Juk-seon
The telephone line loses the receiving end in mid-air
and lovers that have left don’t ever return even in dreams.


And — and memory’s pooling sewage
in the cheap motel of time stinking eternally of horse piss
I ask in a groggy voice returned from the dead
How far have we come? How far still to go
before the river becomes the sea?


poem in original Korean

about the poet

Sunlight through Prison Bars by Kim Nam-ju


When I put out a hand
sunlight that comes to my hand, growing lovely.
When I turn a cheek
sunlight that comes to my cheek, warming.
Together with the deepening fall
it grows longer and longer
as long as a squirrel’s tail.
When it wraps itself round my neck
it becomes a scarf my sister knit for me.
When it comes to touch my lips
it also becomes love
a girl and I used to share long ago.


(translated from the Korean by geul)

original in Korean