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 "Yo※nhyo※k" (Chronology). His published volumes of poetry include Saedu※lto sesangu※l tto※nanguna (Even the birds are leaving the world, 1983), Kyo※l-namurobut'o※ pom-namueiro (Winter--from the tree springtime--to the tree, 1985), Nanu※n noda (I am you, 1987), Kenun sog u※i yo※nkkot (Lotus in a crab's eye, 1990).

At the start of his career, Hwang Jiwoo 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.






WinterΑfrom the tree springtimeΑto 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.