Tag Archives: translations of Korean poetry

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

 

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Poor Maiden by Heo-nan-seol-heon (1563-1589)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

Wielding metal scissors
Ten fingers numbing in the night cold
Making wedding clothes for another
They say she lives alone
as one year turns into the next

 

poem in Korean


Early on I by Choi Seung-ja

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

Early on I was nothing
Mold on dry bread
Stinking stain on a wall pissed on, again and again
a thousand year corpse covered in maggots still.

*

No parent raised me
Falling asleep in rat holes, leeching off the poor
dying ceaselessly in any old place
early on I was nothing.

*

When we brush past momentarily
like shooting stars, therefore,
don’t say you know me.
Idon’tknowyou Idon’tknowyou,
youanddearanddarling, happiness
you, dear, darling, love

*

That I am alive,
that’s no more than an eternal rumor.

 

poem in Korean


On a Melancholy Day by Kang Yun-hu

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

Often I want to tell you how I am
how even after you left I’m doing just fine
industriously going through the world’s food supply
wearing an expression that life couldn’t be better
meeting people, brazenly making up lies
as not to be found out and when I get drunk
boasting confidently
Often, yes, very often I want to let you know
of those days that are as sorry as my boasts
About how I’m full of suspicion as ever and that sordid
cheapness that can only be honest only after I
achieve some peace and fall asleep stupidly
raggedly of my squalid waiting
I want to tell you and decorate your happiness
About living without being sad or sorry in the least bit
a troubled time when only the migratory birds keep promises
though I strew about empty promises to any
woman who comes along
As when a pencil lead breaks if you press too hard
still like an opium addict while gathering
memories of you I abruptly take a misstep and
vainly lean against the wind and open my ears
because it seems maybe from some far off
place where I can’t see you, often you’re sending me a
telegram about how you are

 

poem in Korean


Confessions (참회록) by Yun Dong-ju (윤동주)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

Of what dynasty
could the tarnished green copper mirror be a relic
that my face lingering within it
brings on such disgrace

*

Let’s reduce the confession to a single line.
— Twenty four years and one month
for what happiness have I lived?

*

 Tomorrow or the day after or on any joyful day
I have to write another line of my confessions.
— Then, at that young age
why did I make such a shameful confession?

*

Each night let’s clean the mirror
with the palm of my hand, with the sole of my foot.

 *

Then the back of a sad person
walking alone under some shooting star
appears in the mirror.

 

poem in Korean