Moon Dok-soo 

Moon Dok-soo was born in 1928 in Haman, South Kyongsang Province. He graduated from the Korean Language and Literature Department of Hongik University, Seoul, and holds doctorates in Korean literature from both Korea University, Seoul, and Skuba University, Japan. He initiated his literary career in 1955 with the recommendation and publication of poems including "Ch'immuk" (Silence) in the review Hyundae Munhak. His published volumes of poetry include Hwanghol (Fascination) (1956), Son.Konggan (Line.Space) (1966), Saebyok pada (Ocean at Dawn) (1975), Yongwonhan kkot'pat' (Eternal Flowerbed) (1976), Saranamun uritulmani 6worul tasi maja (Only We Survived to See June Again) (1980), Tari nohki (Bridge-Laying) (1982), Chogumssik churimyonso (Lessening Little by Little) (1986), Mannamul wihan allegro (Allegro for Encounters) (1990). He has also published a number of collections of critical essays and contributed to many others.  
He has received many major awards and prizes over the years and is one of the leading figures in the Korean literary establishment, having served as director and chief editor of the review Simunhak, president of the poetry section of the Korean Literature Association, president of the Modern Poets'Association, and until recently as president of the Korean branch of International P.E.N. He is at present the president of the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation. He is a member of the Korean Academy of Arts and Letters.  
His early poems are quests for the inner meanings inherent in nature, but later his interests grew wider, even extending to the criticism of civilization. Nonetheless, the main characteristic of his work is the way in which he approaches his topic, whatever it may be, from a specifically "animistic" perspective. All the objects figuring in his poems exist in relationship with living beings while at the same time they are in sympathetic harmony with the poet's own spiritual world.  
In many ways the main poetic quality of his work comes from the ways in which he deconstructs language, setting words in renewed relationship without the usual grammatical framework. By so doing he offers a paradigm of confusion, symbolic of the state of modern Korea, and a hope of harmony as his poems take the reader through a creative process of reading and interpretation.  

The Wall 2 

The sound of thousands of footsteps:  
that indeed is dance.  

The wall,  
a thousand walls outpacing,  
at times soars up, rising abruptly from hiding,  
comes in hot pursuit as if waiting in line to flee far away.  

The wall at times stands square, obstructs  
and at times encloses, an immobile circle;  
walls soar above the wall,  
above those walls other walls rise up,  

and as the walls grow bright like glass  
within them other walls go soaring aloft.  
The city is one gigantic goldfish bowl  
the buildings are fish bowls too, piled floor upon floor.  

Where shall I go?  
I am a goldfish in one such bowl.  

A Butterfly's Ordeal 

Yellow-green, one infant butterfly feebly  
fluttering its way across the road is  
a scrap of colored paper torn up by God.  
It nearly collides with the side of a trundling bus,  
spins in the swirling blast of wind  
from a nimbly speeding taxi  
and writhes as if about to go soaring aloft,  
then narrowly escapes.  
Abruptly caught on the windscreen of a black sedan  
it zooms away as if falling over a precipice,  
before restoring its balance with a sense of relief.  
One infant butterfly,  
snared, dragged off, colliding, is  
a scrap of colored paper torn off by God.  


A rock is rolling, falling  
over a cliff:  
today a rhododendron sees it  

then today, a thousand years  
after that rhododendron withered and faded  
a pine tree on that cliff sees it  

then today, a thousand years  
after that pine grew parched and died,  
a crane visiting its trailing branches sees it  

then today, a thousand years  
after all trace of that crane was lost  
a gull from the far ends of the ocean sees it  

then today, another thousand years  
after that gull passed on its way  

that rock rolling, falling over a cliff,  
catching sight of itself...  

An Empty Glass 

The empty glass  
on the table  
simply stands there, looking the same as yesterday.  
It is neither asleep  
nor open-eyed.  

It simply stands until someone comes stepping lightly  
carefully fills it full of water,  
or until a day later, or a year later,  
an empty hand comes  
and grasps it.  

Beside it an ashtray  
with spent matches,  
a year later again  
beyond it a rusty lighter  
lies abandoned like some dead soul.  

The empty hand that comes and goes as if crossing  
back and forth between this world and the world beyond,  
that transparent skull,  
those thirsting lips:  
while they all lie rotting in the tomb,  

the empty glass  
simply stands there, looking the same as yesterday.  

A Chair 

I sit down on a chair. A chair that the person who sat there before me vacated, leaving it empty, and there is no telling how many people sat and then left it previous to that. I get up from the chair. There is no chair left for me to transfer to. The moment I spent sitting on that chair is the whole of my being, my light and my darkness, my love and my sorrow. The people who are going to sit on the chair I have left are like people queuing up at a bus-stop. I cannot imagine the end of their waiting. I can only feel regretfully my pulse, the moment of its subsiding.  

Translated by Brother Anthony