“This is a bilingual (Korean-English) poetry collection, a dual-language edtion, translated into English by Insoo Lee and with an introduction by Sung-Il Lee. Yi Sang-hwa (1901‒1943) was a forerunner of modern Korean poetry. But he was also a cultural intermediary, for his works incorporated the imagery of Western poetry, especially the symbolism and the sensuality observable in it, entailing nihilistic mood and tone, which characterized it during the age preceding his birth and growth as a poet. His poetry, however, was not only the product of one who merely indulged in the trend of Western poetry preceding his growth as a poet. The pessimistic view of life intensified by the bleak conditions of the nation is one of the traits of his poetry. But the intellectual sinew and strong verbal resonance felt all along his lines make him a poet that transcends the zeitgeist and the decadence and nihilism of the Western poets who preceded him.” ―From the translator’s Introduction
Poetry. Asian & Asian American Studies.
Yi Sang-hwa (1901-1943) Born in 1901, when Korea's last dynasty was on its rapid decline finally to allow Japan to seize the country as a colony, and dying in 1943, only two years before the country regained her national sovereignty upon Japan's losing her war against America, Yi Sang-hwa lived in the darkest age of all Korean history. His life was a turbulent and tumultuous one; yet most glorious was it, for, as man and poet, he scaled the whole gamut as a man of action and in the spiritual realm of poesy. Although the number of Yi Sang-hwa's poems that have survived is small, he is one of the most inspiring Korean poets of the modern times. He participated, both in deed and in writing, in the independence cause of his country, for which he was frequently imprisoned and always under police surveillance. His poems may be considered as an expression of his ardent feelings. Few of Korean poets have been as tongue- tied as he. On account of his political ideologies he suffered such tortures from the Japanese police that he never recovered his health again, to end his life in his early forties.
Sung-Il Lee (b. 1943) studied English literature at the University of California at Davis (M.A., 1973) and Texas Tech University (Ph.D., 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: Four Modern Korean Poets (1989), The Moonlit Pond: Korean Classical Poems in Chinese (1998), The Brush and the Sword: Kasa, Korean Classical Poems in Prose (2009), Blue Stallion: Poems of Yu Chi-whan (2011), The Crane in the Clouds: Shijo, Korean Classical Poems in the Vernacular (2013), The Vertex: Poems of Yi Yook-sa (2014), Nostalgia: Poems of Chung Ji-yong (2017), and Shedding of the Petals: Poems of Cho Jihoon (2019). His dual-language edition of Beowulf containing his Modern English verse translation of the poem, Beowulf in Parallel Texts (2017), is now at the Bodleian Library.