Kim Kwang-rim


Born in Wonsan, South Hamky¢§ong Province, in 1929, Kim Kwang-rim graduated from Kukhak University in 1961 and served as a Professor in Changan Technical College. He became president of the Korean Poets' Association in 1994. After he came down to the South in 1948, he began his literary career with the publication of a poem in the Y¢§onhap Shinmun.

He has published more than a dozen volumes of poetry, including Sangshimhan¢§un ch¢§opmok (Grieving grafted tree, 1959), Hak ¢§ui ch'urak (Fall of a crane, 1971), Kalt¢§ung (Conflict, 1973), ¢§On¢§oro mand¢§un sae (A bird made of words, 1979), Ch'¢§onsang ¢§ui kkot' (Flowers in heaven, 1985). He has also published a number of volumes of critical essays including Chonjae ¢§uie hyangsu (Longing for Being, 1974) and On¢§ur ¢§ui Sihak (Today's Poetics, 1979), as well as volumes of personal essays.

Kim's works have appeared in translation in a number of volumes. He was included in Rainbow in the East, which was published by the same title in Chinese and Japanese in 1989. A volume of his poetry in Japanese has been included in Seizusha's World Poets Series (1995). He is also included in Modern World Poets, a multi-volume series published in Japan in 1998. He was awarded the Korean Poets' Association Prize in 1973 and the Republic of Korea National Literature Award in 1985. He also received the 21th Jikyu award in Japan.

In his early poems, he expresses anguish in the wake of the Korean War, torn between the harshness of social realities and his private awareness of the enduring beauty of nature. His later work sets out resolutely in the direction of an esthetic exploration of existence, where language remains under firm intellectual control and refuses the emotional outpourings of much lyric verse of the time. He is essentially an imagist and his poems often have the quality of rapid sketches in which human sensitivity combines with a strict poetic control. Many critics have commented on his fundamental humanism, his affection for the world and everything in it. He recognizes the power of materialism in modern society, but seems to overcome it by his spirit of tolerance and forgiveness.





The Desert


The barrenness of a world that wants a desert

A city filled with contamination and pollution

has neither room for sunlight

nor energy to make a sand-fire

It is unable to lead a group of merchants

The back of Orpheus running on a highway is cold

Everything is improvisatory

A circus troupe finished with a show

In the world


that wants a whirling desert

you are seized with a nameless thirst

The tolling bell that gets thirsty because of Sundays

The religion that used to carry faith with him

is just about to drown

Only a soul that leaps from the highest place

can save it

We have to find a man who threw away his flesh

In the middle of the night at a mental hospital

laughter yet to be segregated is coming bursting out

A clock with a broken spring is telling a space


The painter Lee Jungs¢¨ob went to a desert

stark-naked and

had the lower part of his body bitten by the sharp claw of a crab

He displayed the bloody miracle of the bitten innocence in the tinfoil of a

cigarette box








Withdrawing all the money

people say

it's an empty bankbook

and they throw it away

Nevertheless it still has

a number 0 in it


Affirming yet


or neither of them

the empty world still remains

Neither being alive

nor being dead

free even, of such notions

is this quiet emptiness


Nevertheless to withdraw the 0

I go to the bank

yet, no place to collect it in this world

no way to make the bankbook



Although I' ve withdrawn everything

a number still remains

it is a world that

can never be deleted






A Stake


A stake wasn't coming out easily

Broken in half

Tangled up in severed barbed wires

Like a piece of unexhibited sculpture

As a puppy with his hind leg raised

Pissed and ran away

The cough of Malarme was heard

Who vented his anger at the Eiffel Tower

Raindrops were incessantly falling

From the tin roof

Between the rusting barbed wires

Were new leaves sprouting

There's nothing uglier than

The boundary between neighbours





Imaginary Pain



depends on where it comes from

but pain

coming from no where

is the most horrible.


We always

live measuring pain

The pain of being pricked by thorns

cannot beat the pain of having knees scraped


A bone

tied up by a leather strap and

smashed under the iron wheel

one day



the man who had his life saved

by having his arm cut


started to whine for the pain in his fingers



the pain

in a thing that is not

is more horrible





Sharing a Taxi


The black colour

that blocks my lust from the very beginning

I share a taxi

with a woman like a penguin

the next stop

a woman colourfully dressed

swelling up like my lust

If you insist on calling the denial of other's

sexual emotion chastity

If you regard snatching other's

sexual belt as unchastity

In one moment I approve of woman's denial of the male sex

In another I disapprove of woman's acceptance of the male sex

Then I get confused

I stagger

at the absurd dilemma that

denial is chastity

acceptance is unchastity

like a reversed line in a poem

Something must have arrived

A sudden


At that moment I lost my balance

I fell upon the two women

After having committed acceptance

after having committed denial

I am exhausted

Women are instinctively sensitive

about their hair and appearance

One steps back from me

the other turns her back