Category Archives: Baek Seok

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

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


Hometown by Baek Seok (고향, 백석)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

I saw a doctor one morning
After lying alone sick in Bukkwan.
The doctor wears a face like Buddha’s and Guan Gong*’s beard
Like a hermit from some country of long ago
Putting out a hand with a long-nailed pinky finger
Feeling my pulse a long time in silence
Suddenly he asks where my hometown is
When I say Pyungando Jeongju
So it’s the hometown of Mr. So-and-so he says.
When I say then do you know Mr. So-and-so?
The doctor smiles a little
We’re bosom buddies he says and strokes his beard.
When I say he’s like a father to me
The doctor once again smiles to himself and
As he wordlessly takes my arm to feel my pulse
His touch is so warm and soft
My hometown, my father and my father’s friend were all there.

**deity name for Guan Yu

poem in original Korean

Me, Natasha and the White Donkey by Baek Seok

(translated from the Korean by geul)


I, a poor man,
love the beautiful Natasha and so
tonight the snow tumbles down


I do love Natasha and
the snow does tumble down
I sit sadly alone drinking soju
While I drink soju, I think
Natasha and I
A night of piling snow, let’s ride a white donkey
and go into the mountains, go into the wailing mountains and live in a hut


The snow tumbles down and
I think of Natasha
Natasha will surely come
Sometime, already, she has come within me quietly and says
Going into the mountains isn’t losing to the world
The world is dirty so you throw it away


The snow tumbles down
The beautiful Natasha loves me
Somewhere the white donkey too will cry heehaw heehaw from joy at the night


the poem in the original Korean

About Baek Seok

Another translation