Poetry. Translation. Asian & Asian American Studies. This is a bilingual (Korean-English) collection of poetry by Shin Sok-jong (1907-1974), translated into English by Sung-Il Lee.
"Critics have pointed out that Shin Sok-jong's poetic spirit is attuned to Utopian idealism, Taoist transcendentalism, and longing for pastoral leisureliness. And it is quite true that he was a poet who played a major role in building up the tradition of lyricism in modern Korean poetry. But the "lyricism" in his poetry, one must remember, is not an inborn trait of his poetic writings, but a way of attaining poise and calm and eventually, consolation in coping with and coming to terms with the harsh realities. Quite often he sounds like a dreamer; but the "dream" he indulges in is often the world of fantasy and surrealism he conjures up for self-hypnotism."—Sung-Il Lee, From the Introduction
"Shin Sok-jong is the kind of poet who manages to weave together into a seamless unity nature, desire, and dreaming. His landscapes are filled with concrete images as well as inscrutable mist and fog. He constantly identifies himself and even metaphorically transforms himself into the commonplace, outdoor objects that he scrutinizes, such as mountains, flowers, fossils, trees, or bamboo. His love poems shiver with a deepening intensity of tenderness rather than passion: 'Within my heart / There's a river that flows, meandering, / With my first love thrown in it like a pebble' or 'In your eyes / Loom the dear faces / That I shall see again on a far-off day.' And yet, an underlying note of melancholy resonates in his writing in lines like 'You and I are white peach blossoms deprived of spring...' or 'My heart is dark as night...' His dreams, however, permeate these poems like fireflies that dazzle a summer night. He is constantly ready to head out into the unknown, restless to escape, to transcend mundane reality, yet his limitations frustrate his departure: 'I can neither fly like a white crane, / Nor waver like a flower in the wind.' Nevertheless, his poetry leaves the senses tingling with heightened expectation."—Bill Wolak
"Every poem in this collection is seemingly a stroll through a pastoral garden with birds chirping and lilies blooming. However, this tranquility, surreal and dreamlike, exists in a place even the poet never knew, a never-land so far away, like his motherland he could only dream about, because in reality he only witnessed her endless sufferings and tortures under the feet of the invaders. Shin Sok-jong, a poet born and lived through the annexation of Korea by Japan for 35 years and the Korean civil war for three years and their aftermaths. His poems are filled with the Korean Han, the pain from the overwhelming helplessness in such a turbulence. He could only depict this loveland in his poems, retreat to his dreamland for a little peace, where he could, like a little boy's drawing, choose only what he loved, trees, flowers, birds, sun, wind, etc. All his pastoral themes and its lyrical song style are actually the disguise of the heavy sentiment of Han. Fortunately Sung-il Lee understands the poet's pessimistic idealism in depth. While singing together with the poet about the beauty of nature, he precisely captures and masterfully expresses into English the poet's Han, the pain of Korean people, the suffering of the Korean nation, and the hope for the future."—Hong Ai Bai
Sung-Il Lee studied English literature at the University of California at Davis (MA, 1973) and Texas Tech University (PhD, 1980), and taught at Yonsei University, his alma mater, where he is now professor emeritus. He has published a number of volumes of Korean poetry in English translation: The Wind and the Waves (1989), THE MOONLIT POND (Copper Canyon Press, 1998), THE BRUSH AND THE SWORD (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2009), ,em>Blue Stallion(2011), The Crane in the Clouds (2013), The Vertex (2014), NOSTALGIA (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2017), SHEDDING OF THE PETALS (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2019), and DO YOU KNOW THAT FARAWAY LAND? (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2020). His dual-language edition of Beowulf containing his Modern English verse translation of the poem, (2017), is now at the Bodleian Library.
Author City: USA
Shin Sok-jong's poetry overflows with Utopian idealism, Taoist transcendentalism, and longing for pastoral leisureliness. He was a poet who played a major role in building up the tradition of lyricism in modern Korean poetry. But the "lyricism" in his poetry is not an inborn trait of his poetic writings, but a way of attaining poise and calm eventually, self-consolation in coping with and coming to terms with the harsh realities. Quite often he sounds like a dreamer; but the dream he indulges in is often the world of fantasy and surrealism he conjures up for self-hypnotism. Shin Sok-jong lived through an age filled with national tragedies: loss of the national sovereignty, followed by an oppressive colonial rule of his homeland by a neighboring country intent on military expansionism, which lasted for three decades and a half; the tragedy of a civil war in his country, which incurred massive slaughter among compatriots; and a military regime's dictatorial rule, which, though it somehow paved the road to escaping national poverty, left many a wound while it lasted. A poet cannot but suffer, while witnessing his compatriots suffering. And Shin Sok-jong's poetry is a summation of the suffering of the Korean nation, as well as of the hope for the future he wished to impart to his compatriots.
Author City: KOR