3 poems by Choi Dong-ho  최동호

Translated by Brother Anthony

Born in Suwon, Gyeonggi province, in 1948, Choi Dong-ho graduated from the Korean Department of Korea University. In 1976 he published a first collection of poems, ‘Yellow Sand Wind’ then in 1979 he won the prize for criticism in the Chungang Ilbo Spring Awards. Also in 1979, with the publication of poems in the revue Hyeondae Munhak he received full recognition as a poet. Since then he has published 2 collections of poetry, several volumes on poetics and other volumes of literary criticism. He has received the Socheon Literary Criticism Award, the Siwa Sihak Award, the Kim Hwan-tae Literary Criticism Award, the Daesan Literary Award, the Park Tu-jin Literary Award, etc. He is currently a professor in the Korean Department of Korea University.




새벽바람 불 러오는

목탁 소 리


먹물 그 림자를

지우고 있 는 사람


마당을 북 처럼 두드리다

꺾 인 빗방울


피뢰침 머 리에 피뢰침 꽂 고

요절 시 인

Raindrops  1


The sound of a monk’s wooden gong

blown along on a daybreak breeze.


People erasing

mountains’ ink-black shadows.


Raindrops striking the yard like a drum

and breaking their necks.


A prematurely dead poet

who fixed a lightning rod on a lightning rod’s tip.



남창 초 등학교



방과 책 가방


도시락 속 에서 동무삼아 달 그락거리던 숟가락소리,


강아지 꼬랑지 달 리던 꼬부랑 논 둑길,


봄물 가득 끌 어들이던, 논두렁숨소리 들리던흙냄새


*남 창초등학교 : 경기도수원시 팔달로남창동에 있다.


Namchang Primary School in Suwon


Once school’s over, my book-bag.


From inside the lunch-box the spoon’s clatter keeping me company.


The tortuous path along rice-field embankments the puppy’s tail raced along,


The earth’s smell, spring water flooding in, echoing the breathing of the banks.



반구대 향 유고래의 사랑노래


주체할 없 는 사랑을 머 리에 이고

산다는 것은 슬 픈 일이다

머리통에 저장한새우 기름의

풍요로운 향기가

바다 멀리 바 람을 타고 퍼 져 나가

작살을 인 간의 욕망을 피 할 없 는 것이

그들의 운명적인 최 후이다


선사시대 향유고래가살아 있는암각화,

춤추는 샤먼과 함 께 경건하게 제 를 올리던 고 대인들이

어떤 마음으로 그 들을 검고 단 단한 바위에

새겨 놓았는지는 없 지만,

머리통에 향유를가득 담고 뜨고 잠자는

종족들이 지 닌 슬픈 전 설을 그들도

분명 알고 있 었을 것이다


파도를 타고 들 려오는 북방의

가냘픈 시그널을 전 하는

향유고래의 이빨로 만든피리를 불고

신에게 제물을 바 치던

선사시대 사람들도그들의 생애가, 낮 은

휘파람 소리를 듣 고 멀리 있 는 연인을 찾 아가다

죽음을 맞이하는 향 유고래처럼,


세상의 파도를 이 겨내며 사랑하고 상처입어도

자식을 위해 끝 내 살아가야만 하 는

지상의 향연을 기 리기 위해

새끼 업은 고 래의 형상을 바 위에 새기고,

죽음을 애 도하며

신에게 바치는 비 탄을 노래했을 것 이니


사랑 없는 시 대를 살아가는 인 간의 비애는

멸종의 위기에 처 한 향유고래처럼

이루기 힘든 사 랑의 열망을

가슴 가득 지 니고도,

불의의 작살이 날 아와 꽂혀도 물 살을 헤쳐 나 가며 

의연하게 운명을맞아들이기 위해

덧없는 순간을 영 원처럼 살아가야한다는 것이다

Bangudae Catchalot’s Love Song


It’s a sad thing, living

with a love they can’t cope with loaded on their heads.

A rich smell

of shrimp oil stored in their heads

drifts far out to sea borne on the wind

and being unable to avoid the greed of men with harpoons

is their ultimate fate.

Rock carvings where prehistoric catchalots still live--

there’s no knowing with what kind of heart ancient folk,

who used to offer sacrifices fervently with dancing shamans,

carved them on the black, hard rock,

but clearly they too must have known

the sorrowful legends those tribes possessed

that slept with one eye open, heads filled with perfumed oil.


The prehistoric folk who as they offered sacrifices to their gods

played flutes made from the long teeth of catchalots

that transmitted faint signals from the distant north

borne on the waves,

their lives like catchalots meeting their death

after seeking their far-off loves

on hearing a whistling sound


Loving as they vanquish the world’s waves, and though wounded

still obliged to live on for the sake of their kids

in order to celebrate this world’s banquets

they carved the shape of whales carrying their babies in rock

then mourning those deaths

they surely sang the grief they offered to god.


The sorrow of humans experiencing an age without love,

like catchalots threatened with extinction

though hard to achieve love’s longing

fill the heart,

though harpoons of injustice come flying, pierce their skin,

they plow on through the waves,

and in order to bravely welcome their fate

they are obliged to live fleeting moments like eternity.