Ho※ Yo※ng-ja was born in Hamyang, South Kyo※ngsang Province, in 1938. She graduated from the Korean Language and Literature Department of Sukmyo※ng Women's University, where she went on to complete her Ph.D.. She is now a professor in the Korean Language and Literature Department of So※ngshin Women's University, Seoul. She has published several volumes of poetry, and anthologies of various kinds, beginning with Kasu※m entut nun entut (Painful as a gouged breast, a gouged eye, 1966) and including Ch'incho※n (For your eyes only, 1971), Pinu※tu※lp'an l ko※ro※kamio※n (Walking through an empty field, 1984), Kkotp'inu※n nal (The day flowers bloomed, 1987), Aru※mdaumu※l uihayo※ (For beauty, 1989) and Amch'o※ngu※i munsin (Tattoo in dark blue, 1991). Her work was awarded the Woltan Literary Award in 1986.

Ho Yong-ja is noted for her delicate lyricism, often inspired by some aspect of Nature. She has resisted the tendency of many writers to link her poetry with contemporary Korean society, in even indirect ways and her poetry in entirely centered on her inner world of emotions. Her poems are almost entirely solitary in their reference; other people do not figure, the poet seems to be completely alone in the world, and to need no human relationship or external event to produce her work. Restraint is the key word, both in tone and in length, and the condensed poetry that results gains thus in intensity, albeit many Korean critics have categorized her as an essentially






The White Towel


I wince,

wiping my face with a white towel

in fear

lest my sad and shameful portrait

should be impressed on it.


I wince,

wiping my hands with a white towel

in fear

lest the grime of my shameful life

should smear it.








Where are they now,

those men of thunder and lightning


whose every step awakens

a gust of excitement


and whose whistling, O whose whistling,

bestirs your heart so?


This autumn field

is a ruined kingdom,

guarded by a scarecrow

leaning on a stick


like an old soldier

who has survived alone.






To a cricket



O cricket,

stop crying, do.


If you go on

sobbing so

deeply grieving


my heart

like ice

will surely crack


my heart

like quartz

will surely break.






The scourging


Water stinking in the ditch,

back in the sky again,

turns into a lovely cloud.


Worm-eaten leaves

when autumn tints them

flame and glow in dazzling hues.


So life too,

that painful, shameful



seen in distant days

may prove a flowering cumulus?

Or a warm, and dear, pink flame?






Gathering seeds


In the autumn garden

eager for seeds

I cupped my hands.


Autumn plants, our grey-haired mother,

long surviving from days of old

buffeted by rough winds and rain!


Busily busily

I went

up and down the streets


but on my return I had got


but a shabby, dirty body.


You provided


faithful fruitful golden life!


In the autumn garden

I hoped for seeds from the labours of youth;

my hands have no sense of shame

at all.