Hwang Ji-u

 Born in Haenam, South Cholla Province in 1952, Hwang Ji-u graduated from the Department of Fine Arts, Seoul National University. He is at present Professor in the Department of Creative Writing, Hansin University. He began his literary career in 1980 by winning the spring literary contest organized by the Chungang Ilbo with his poem "Yonhyok" (chronology). His published volumes of poetry include Saedulto sesangul ttonanguna (Even the birds are leaving the world, 1983), Kyol-namurobut'o pom-namueiro (Winter--from the tree springtime--to the tree, 1985), Nanun noda (I am you, 1987), Kenun sog ui yonkkot (Lotus in a crab's eye, 1990). At the start of his career, Hwang Ji-u wrote poems marked by a socially involved form of Modernism. He used the various techniques of Modernism as tools with which to criticize reality, perhaps the first Korean Modernist poet to attempt such an undertaking. From the point of view of technique alone, he can be compared with the 1930's poet Yi Sang, yet it was that which enabled him to establish his individuality as a poet. However, in recent years he seems inclined to write more meditative, thoughtful poems about the world.

Lotus in a crab's eyes

First seen, unknown, flower : Why, you must long for a name!
Do you long to find a place in my heart?
While calling your name, coupling with your heart,
I keep yawning.

Unknown flower, too quickly my heart
turns into a cold stone. I fall, tangled in your name,
and the shaking flower shakes in the place of the chilled stone.
I am a beast that can be struck with madness.

Shaking flower : Why, you have become famous!
Why, you have met people!
Wind blowing according to the memory in a stone,
the shaking flower shakes your heart.

Because I called you, you exist.
Far off Stone Age recalling fire,
as fire is introduced to shatter a stone,
extract that name to shatter my heart.


There was no lotus in the crab's eyes.
Like a foam of light
with its long-lashed eyes
the crab sent up a puff of cigarette-smoke.
Yet the crab could see the lotus
that could not get into its eyes.


Wearing a helmet
the crab heads for the sea.

With its legs like mechanical diggers
crossing the mudflats

in and out, in and out,
death and birth, death and birth

far out to sea
there is no sea

balancing on a ladder, the crab
is sitting up there in the Zodiac.

Winter--from the tree  springtime--to the tree

With its own being, a tree
is a tree.
With all its being, a tree becomes a tree.
With all its being, stripped bare, thirteen degrees below zero
twenty degrees below zero, above ground,
rooting firmly all its being, raising high its head
standing as a defenceless naked tree
standing with arms raised, in an attitude of punishment,
with punished body, rising up, with punished life, and yet
not so, that is not what it is.
anguished in all its spirit, burning within, in its being
standing firm, resisting from degrees below zero to degrees above zero,
five above zero, thirteen above zero, above ground
advancing, advancing upward.
All its body blistered, bruised
then splitting and pushing out buds with its own warm tongue,
that slowly, gradually, abruptly turn into green leaves
hitting against the blue skies of April
with all its being a tree becomes a tree.
Ah, a tree
at last, finally, blooming
is a tree blooming with its own being.

Even the Birds are Leaving the World

Before the film starts we all
rise and listen to the National Anthem.
With the Three thousand ri of wondrous rivers and hills
flocks of white birds appear on the screen,
a vast host on the great reedbeds of Ulsuk Island,
honking together
giggling together
in their own world, one row two rows three rows line by line
taking their own world with them as they leave this world,
flying off to somewhere beyond this world.
We too, would love to go flying off together
somewhere beyond this world,
forming one line
taking our own world with us as we leave this world
but with the words Guarded by her people,
ever may Korea stand
we each sit down in our seats again.
Collapse back into our seats.

Stamped in my Heart

Kim Chongsu : left home in May 1980,
not heard from since; call-up papers arrived November 3;
return awaited; anyone knowing him please contact his sister
Tel. 829-1551

Lee Kwangp'il : Kwangp'il, I won't ask any questions;
please come home so we can talk.
Mother's in a bad way.

Cho Sunhye, 21 yrs old : Your father's
waiting, please come home soon.
I was wrong.

I squat down
and shit.

Bitter Regret

I grieve.

Every place where I once loved

all is now ruins.

All those people who once came to me
shattered here or there in various places
have all taken their leave.

In my breast at every moment hazily
a desert is shifting, following the wind;
fallen bushes, roots exposed, and
sand crunching in the ears of drying dead animals

No matter what love, no matter what madness,
it was not possible to enter this dreadful spot
together. My squirming desert, this feverish
ego blazes red and by its groaning
my places of love have all fallen into ruins.

I have never loved anyone :
passing through the world, not knowing if I shall ever come again,
that is my bitter regret;
the fact that I have not loved someone for someone's sake.

As a youth, in a spirit of moral competition
my voluntary suffering was not a sacrifice for someone's sake.
A sacrifice for my own sake, my offering for my own sake, my self-denial

therefore I have not loved anyone.
My ruin, that no one has ever walked into,

only the wind that blows sand into the ear of dead animals.

Winter...spring from a tree...to a tree

(alternative version)

A tree is a tree
with its own being.
A tree becomes a tree with all its being.
With all its being, stripped bare,
thirteen degrees below zero,
twenty degrees below zero, rooting its whole being
in the world, its top held high,
standing as a defenceless naked tree,
standing with arms raised
in the attitude of one being punished,
rising up with its punished body, its punished life
yet this is not what it is, this is not what it is,
disturbed with all its soul, blazing within, within itself
resisting, refusing, from sub-zero temperatures
to super-zero temperatures, five above, thirteen above
it advances into the world, advances upward,
its whole being blistered, having grown haggard
having grown haggard
rending, pushing out buds with its own warm tongue,
slowly, gradually, suddenly, turning into green leaves
knocking at April's azure sky,
a tree becomes a tree with all its being.
Ah, at last, finally
a tree blooming
is a tree blooming with its own being.

The Horizon


A camel scenting water, a cry,
I am thirstier than ever.
Calm this  anguish. I cannot see
the horizon touching your nose.


The cool setting sun subsiding in the Syrian desert.
A camel extends its long neck
and consumes a crimson peach.
Ah, Silk Road,
why, desire has created a road.
It will never end, never end,
this road stretching away from me on and on
then finally suddenly coming up behind my back.