Hwang Dong-kyu

Hwang Dongkyu (1938- ) was born in Seoul. He graduated from the English Language and Literature Department of Seoul National University, where he is at present a professor. He initiated his literary career in February 1958 by the publication in the review Hyondae Munhak of the poem 10wol. His published volumes of poetry include Otton kaein nal (1958), Piga (1965), Samname nerinun nun (1975), Nanun pak'wirul pomyon kulligo sip'ochinda (1978), Agorul chosimharago? (1986), Kyondilsu opsi kabioun chonjaedul (1988), Morundae haeng (1991, Misiryong k'un param (1993).

At first he wrote lyrical love poems, but in the 1970s he began to investigate aspects of Modernism. The poems in his first collection illustrate his earlier mood, those in the collection P'ungjang (Wind Burial) reveal clearly the change he underwent in the 70s. In later poems he successfully portrays, often in satiric mode, the fragmentation humanity undergoes in industrial society. His most noted work, P'ungjang is inspired by his constant interest in the theme of death.

Wind Burial 1

When my life is done, let my body be left exposed to the wind.
Dressed as I am with my electric watch still working
strapped to my wrist
to prevent me feeling sad,
put me into a rented taxi inside a leather suitcase,
so that I don't feel too cold,
then off to Kunsan
or if the searches are too severe
Komso will do
and there transfer me to a barge.

After some time lying quietly inside the suitcase
snug despite my legs being bent,
beyond Sonyu Island, a deserted island, and the engine's throb
passing out for a moment
at the crunch of the keel on the shore,
freed of suitcase, freed of clothes,
in that deserted island's chill late autumn sunshine,
freed of shoes and socks,
secretly letting go of time
as my wristwatch is being broken
let my flesh dry out
while I carelessly gaze as if not really looking
at the seeds that pop from crimson berries ripening in the wind.
Let the rusting gold fillings that cap my molars
likewise glisten in the wind.

Covered with the wind like a quilt
without makeup or deliverance
adjusting the wind as one adjusts a quilt,
until all the body's last drop of blood has dried
let me play with the wind.

Wind Burial 3

One vague track,
like a broad highway opening ahead
after going astray a while in a maze of alleys,
like an aching tooth
that flares up and explodes in the brain
when the wind blows, after vanishing a while in the jaw.

The world is in the midst of being established,
in the midst of being demolished,
in the midst of loneliness, the world
flares up somewhere between
the bar in Kwang-gyo where we met and made merry
and the room where I took refuge and slept
when sleep would not come.

Inwang-san? Or Nam-san? Or perhaps beyond Nak-san?
That bar below Nak-san selling hooch?
Or the wine-jars
that used to stand torrid wrapped in blankets
in the inner room?
Or perhaps our alley, hotter even than us?
In some such alley, we threw off our coats,
stripped off our jackets, draped them over our heads,
bent our backs,
fled from the scorching porch, fled from the yard,
tripped on the sill of the gate, fell sprawling,
the world dry, setting the world alight, we heard
sounds of water being sprinkled over the world.

A Happy Letter


My thoughts of you always involve something trivial, such as a moment with the sun setting somewhere behind where you sit and the wind blowing, but by that triviality, long transmitted from some moment when you wandered in infinite misery, I will summon you.


The reason why I really truly love you is because there was a point when I transformed my love by that infinitely prolonged expectancy. As night fell, it began to snow heavily in our valley. I am convinced that my love too is certain to end at some point. But that is merely a matter of thinking about my expectancy's posture. I am convinced that in the meantime the snow will stop, flowers will bloom, autumn leaves will fall, snow will again fall heavily.

When I see a wheel

When I see a wheel I long to make it turn.
Cycle wheels, pram wheels, rickshaw wheels,
carriage wheels,
I long to make even turning wheels turn.
When I'm climbing a steep hill
I long to make car wheels turn.

On the road everything is unseen
and seen, the childhood days I long to demolish are unseen
and seen, the woods front and back where
different flocks of birds used to chirp.
are seen and unseen, the republic of short breath is unseen
and seen; the tangerines piled on streetside stalls,
the pots upturned in the pottery store, people lying curled up:
before everything collapses, just once,
I want to make them turn, on the flying road.

One flower and another flower

One flower lying behind the bars,
one flower lying before the bars,
one flower lying beside the bars,
one flower lying beside that one,

All around the sky is cloudy.
Flowers here, flowers there.
One flower lying behind the bars
open the bars, an even higher wall will appear.
We will appear, simply dying and living.
Flowers will be seen walking,
not walking in time, but singing in time.
Even in winter they will be seen.

One flag is there, not slipping down the pole
but poised in the middle of the flagstaff.
One flower lying behind the bars.

Translated by Brother Anthony of Taize