Reflections that are incomparably old and new, Korean and universal.
The first-ever dual-language collection of sijo poems by Kim Ilyeon in Korean and English.
Since the beginning of her writing career in 1980, Kim Ilyeon has published collections of sijo poetry every two to four years, for over four decades thus cementing herself as one of the most pivotal figures working in the genre. ALL THE DAUGHTERS OF THE EARTH, her first dual-language poetry collection featuring her original Korean sijo alongside their English translations, devotes its first section to verses about Kim’s parents and her daughter who lives overseas. This emphasis on universal human sentiments of familial love is an attempt to connect with readers in other countries. As in her past collections, Kim uses a delicate and warm tone to offer her own unique interpretations of objects and life. While her work stays true to the traditional sijo framework, the 66 poems in this collection are also presented in free and contemporary ways.
A new collection of sijo poems has been published in Korean and English by Seoul Selection, a Seoul-based publishing company that specializes in Korean literature in translation.
ALL THE DAUGHTERS OF THE EARTH by poet Kim Il-yeon and translated by Brother Anthony of Taize, also known as An Son-jae, contains 66 sijo in Korean and English, side by side. The dual language translation was something Kim thought of to promote sijo internationally.
“Sijo itself is such a long tradition, and it takes hundreds and hundreds of years to build a tradition,” said Kim in an interview with The Korea Herald in April. “We have this precious tradition, which boasts some 800 years of history. But not many people are aware of it.“
Kim, who has been writing sijo since her literary debut in 1980, is also the president of the International Sijo Association.
The basic form of sijo, called “dan-sijo,” is usually a three-line poem. In terms of content, a typical sijo introduces a situation in the first line, develops it in the second and concludes with a twist in the final line. For the final line, a three to five syllable rule is observed.
“It’s like writing a drama consisting of ‘gi (beginning),’ ‘seung (development),’ ‘jeon (transition)’ and ‘gyeol (conclusion).’ That is very universal.“
Indeed, Kim’s sijo are “ancient” in form, but free and modern in content and universal in their message.She talks about familial love, nature, her spirit and her sentiments as she goes about her daily life. In particular, she devotes the first section of the book to verses about her parents and her two daughters. She conveys her love to the global community -- thus the title ALL THE DAUGHTERS OF THE EARTH. While strictly adhering to the sijo form, Kim’s poems capture the essence of life with vivid sketches of nature and everyday life.
“Sijo is poetry and poetry holds a simple universal message. It’s just a prejudice that poetry is difficult. If you read the verses, the hints are all there,” she said.
As part of her efforts to promote sijo within and outside Korea, Kim also runs a YouTube channel called Sijo-Tube.
Review @ Korea Herald
Brother Anthony of Taizé (An Sonjae) was born in 1942 in the UK. He studied at Oxford University and in 1969 he joined the Taizé Community in France. He came to Korea in 1980. He is an emeritus professor at Sogang University and a chair-professor at Dankook University. Since 1990 he has published more than sixty volumes of translated works by such esteemed Korean authors as Jeong Ho-seung, Kim Seung-Hee and J. M. Lee. He was President of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea for ten years. In 2015 he was awarded an honorary MBE by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to Anglo-Korean relations.
Kim Ilyeon was born in 1955 in Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Korea. After graduating from the College of Education at Kyungpook National University, she worked as a middle school teacher and later as a reporter for Maeil Shinmun, a daily newspaper based in Daegu. Having published poems from the age of 15, Kim became a sijo (a form of Korean traditional poetry) poet after being introduced in the journal, Sijo munhak (Sijo Literature), in 1980. Her books include sijo collections such as The House on the Empty Field, The Road to the Western Regions, When the Flowers Bloom on Their Own, Burning the Moon House, Master Singer, Watching the Stars While Lying on My Belly, Flower Precipice, A Spring Day Spent with You, and A Clean Climax, and her children's storybook, Footprints in the Sky.
She has won a number of awards including the Yusim Literature Prize and the Gosan Literary Award. As part of an effort to promote sijo in and outside Korea, she founded and is running a YouTube channel called Sijo-Tube.