Kim Hyŏn-sŭng


Kim Hyŏnsŭng (1913-1975): born in Kwangju, South Cholla Province. Graduated from the Humanities Department of Sungsil Junior College. Initiated his literary career in March 1934 with the publication of the poem "Ssŭlssŭlhan chŏnyoki ol ttae tangsindŭl" in the "Donga Ilbo".  His published volumes of poetry include "Kim Hyŏnsŭng sich'o" (1957), "Onghojaui norae" (1963), "Kyŏngohan kodŏk" (1968), "Chŏldaekodŏk" (1968). In his early years, Kim Hyŏnsŭng strove to rise above the situation of the country under Japanese occupation by a kind of individualism that might be termed nationalistic romanticism, and for almost ten years wrote nothing; after Korea's Liberation in 1945, he began to write poems pondering on the meaning of existence in speculative language. The question he most directly focussed on was human solitude, and his poetic individuality consists in his use of clear and convincing imagery within concrete structures. In later years, having joined a particularly puritanical brand of protestantism, he pondered the solitude of the individual person before the Absolute Being. Yet paradoxically, having once hypothesized the existence of an Absolute Saving Being, he arrives at the ironical conclusion that that solitude can never become an absolute solitude.




Winter Crow


Bird of my soul.


Other again

than you, with your great eminence

or you, so deeply experienced,


that truly beautiful things

and things remaining alone

are able to draw close to:

speech originally

nobly born out of silence,


whose fruit

was once flowers,


wrapped in your own and your ancestors' hue.


Sitting on my dry branches

as I rise slender in December's empty fields,

sitting alone in my branches

rooted in firm responsibility,

staring blankly

even at the darkening sky, even the sky,


with a voice biting, ah, at your soul's mud walls,

striking against the walls,







A Jewel


Love is the heart's

jewel, the eye's



Something with eyes closed at the climax

of flames burning and night breathing.


Something with pure lips

utterly detached from even the soul's meaning.


That composes a tight pattern on the ground of old memories,

as carbon-hued sighs pile higher and higher.


That is a touching image, invariably glorious,

in those icy crystallizations.


That bursts in the midst of a contented breast

with an impact more violent than any shot.


In order to turn these things into an intoxication

more lovely and more solid still,

one day I tossed them all

toward the blazing sun!

Yet this eye, the tongue's first word from open lips,

the vows stubborn as any enemy

with nothing left to crumble,

burn ever more new

every day, every day, in that light's blazing heart.







rises like a breath

from nearby ground.



comes surging like an icy wave

from distant heaven.


Unlike the spring that, grinding petals,

shapes the flesh,


that trims and cleans stars by thought,

creates my heart's jewels.


If we say that spring is blind,

autumn's lips are sealed.


In the midst of words, spring

selects your song,

while autumn scatters your song

and selects my words' interstices

in the silent night.






Absolute Solitude


At last I have succeeded in touching the far

end of eternity that I have been meditating on.


Arriving there, I rub my eyes

and finally wake from prolonged slumber.


At the tips of my touching fingers

eternity's stars scatter and lose their light

but at the tips of my touching fingers

I gain a new sense of bodily warmth

drawing yet closer to me.

By that warmth I hug to my breast all alone

my eternity that is finishing with me.


Then I finally send flying like dust from my fingertips

the wings of my words

that support me inwardly as dreams


Stroking stroking with my wrinkled hand

the beautiful eternity

that is now finishing with me,

at my fingertips that can advance no farther

at last I close my lips -- and my poem, too.







On my breakfast table

a roll of bread,

a glass of water.


O, God,

making me most beautiful

by poverty.


O, God,

leaving winter's dry leaves

on your branches' very tips.



O, God,

O, quiet sunlight,

laying a hand on my dry crust

this bright morning.