Born Lee Wonrok, Lee Yuk Sa (1904-1944) took his pen name from his prison cell number “264.” A first-generation modern Korean poet, he wrote vernacular free verse accessible to everyone, and his poems illustrate the resilience of the human spirit in the face of colonial oppression. A member of the resistance movement known as the Korean Liberation Army, Lee Yuk Sa is also one of the most revered poets of the Japanese colonial period. Throughout the pages of THE BITTER SEASONS’ WHIP, a bilingual collection of Lee Yuk Sa’s complete works, Sekyo Haines’ exquisite English translations bring to us the late poet’s inner voice as he lived during one of the most fraught periods in Korean history. Despite existing under oppressive forces and enduring many imprisonments, during the last of which he died, Lee Yuk Sa’s poetry is not bleak. His verse is calm and reflective, offering undercurrents of hope. His persistent search for a life of tranquility transcends time and place, continues to speak to today’s tumultuous world.
Lee Yuk Sa (1904-1940) was part of the first generation of Modern Korean poets. A member of the resistance movement known as the Korean Liberation Army, he remains one of the most revered poets who wrote during the Japanese colonial period. He died in a Japanese prison in Beijing. During his short life, he endured several arrests and imprisonments which involved physical torture. Nonetheless, he was able to complete 36 poems. Lee Yuk Sa is the pen name of Lee Wonrok. The pen name is taken from his prison cell number "264" which in Korean reads "lee yuk sa." The collection Poetry of Yuk Sa was first published in 1946, two years after his death.
Sekyo Nam Haines, born and raised in South Korea, immigrated to the U.S. in 1973 as a registered nurse. She received her undergraduate degree in American literature and writing at the Goddard College ADP, and continued her study of English literature at the Harvard Extension school and of poetry with the late Ottone M. Riccio in Boston, MA. Her poems have appeared in the anthologies Do Not Give Me Things Unbroken, Unlocking The Poem, and Beyond Words; and in the poetry journals Off the Coast, Lily Poetry Review, and Constellations. Her translations of Korean poetry have appeared in The Harvard Review, The Seventh Quarry Poetry Magazine, Brooklynrail: InTranslation, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Ezra, Circumference, Massachusetts Review and Notre Dame Review. Her translation of Yuk Sa's poem "Dire Pinnacle" has appeared in The Massachusetts Review Anthology of Best Works in Translation and International Writing. Sekyo lives in Cambridge, MA with her family.