Oh Sae-Young (1942- ) was born in Yongkwang, South Cholla Province. He graduated from the Korean Language and Literature Department of Seoul National University, where he is at present a professor. He initiated his literary career in April 1965, when poems including "Saebyok" and "Nalgae" were recommended and published in the review Hyondae Munhak. His published volumes of poetry include Pallanhanun pit' (1970), Kajang oduun nal chonyoke (1982), Mumyongyonsi (1986), Pult'anun Mul (1988), Sarangui chocchok (1990), Kkotturun pyorul urorumyo sanda (1992), Orisokun Hegel (1994), Nunmure orinun hanul kurimja (1994).  
He was initially fascinated by Modernism, and attempted to represent inner landscapes of the dislocated self produced by industrial society. From there, he gradually moved in the direction of a quest for an ontological authenticity in life. Later, he attempted to explore the existential meaning of things by means of oriental modes of thought.  
His poetry as a whole is characterized by the pursuit of a harmonious fusion of the lyrical with the ideological, and the desire to give new formal expression to tradition by the techniques of Modernism.  

A Bowl 

A broken bowl  
becomes a blade.  

When might goes astray  
amidst moderation and balance,  
broken circles  
make a sharp edge  
and force open reason's  
ice-cold eyes.  

Ah, potsherd aimed  
at unseeing love,  

I am barefoot now.  
I am flesh  
waiting to be slashed.  
A soul maturing since the wound is deep.  

A broken bowl  
becomes a blade.  
Any broken thing  
becomes a blade. 


When their leaves have fallen  
the winter trees  
turn into musical instruments,  
ringing out at the wind's fingertips  
following the notes hanging in the sky.  

And not only trees.  
Listen to the streams in the valleys.  
Water bouncing off rocks as it flows  
echoing under sheets of ice  
is music too.  

The tree where high notes ring from high branches  
low notes from low branches  
is a stringed instrument,  
the valley where loud notes ring from big rocks  
quiet notes from small rocks  
is a wind instrument,  

On a day like today  
when snow has fallen white over the world,  
the image of the one we yearn for effaced,  
I want to listen to music  
leaning here beside my window.  

Emotions come through the ear  
rather than the eye,  
winter is a rainbow emerging through hearing. 


Only one who has experienced sorrow  
that water can also burst into flames.  
Only look at the crimson blaze  
rising from the horizon on a summer's day  
beside the sea at sunset.  
It's as if it is so sad about something  
that it has wept until its eyes are red.  
White salt  
crystallizing on the mud  
like traces of tears on a cheek:  
salt is the charcoal of love.  
If we say that love is light  
rising as fire,  
sorrow is light rising as water,  
and tears rising gently in the eyes  
make the darkness bright.  

There is darkness in God's heaven too 

Just as I scatter letters one by one  
a, b, c, d...  
on the empty lines of my page,  
God scatters stars  
in the evening sky.  
Why should empty space be so frightening?  
God's space up there,  
eager to stop up with light  
the void of the Absolute,  
while I try to fill it  
with words.  
When I scatter letters one by one  
a, b, c, d... on the empty lines of my page  
the seeds that fall to the ground  
grow into flowers, and plants, and  
trees but yet  
sooner or later they all return  
back into empty space.  
vanishing like the blaze of a shooting star  
in the distances separating you and me,  
and since there is light there is darkness  
in God's heaven too.  


If I shout "ah!" an "ah!" comes back.  
"Ah!" is one thing, "oh!" another  
and the echo in the hills  
unfailingly sends them back differently.  
On wild cherry trees wild cherry flowers blossom  
on wild plum trees wild plum flowers bloom:  
I wonder who called them forth?  
Love and hate are just the same.  
If you call for tears, tears will come,  
if you call for smiles, then smiles will come.  
Standing by the river at sunset in springtime  
yesterday sent you off and today in turn  
sends me off.  
his solitude  
on a spring afternoon, the sky dazzlingly blue,  
as I gaze at my quite empty face  
reflected in the flowing water.  

Translated by Brother Anthony.