Pak Seong-yong


Pak Seong-yong was born in 1932 in Haenam, South Jeolla Province. After attending high school in Gwangju, he entered the English Department of Jungang University in Seoul, but he left university in 1956 without completing the course. In the same year he made his debut as a writer with two poems published in Munhak Yesul (The Literary Art) through the recommendation of Yi Han-jik. He worked as a reporter for a number of magazines and newspapers before 1972, when he joined Seoul Sinmun (The Seoul Daily News), where he held a post as subeditor.

Pak Seong-yong has published several volumes of poetry and one collection of essays. His first collection was Gaeure ireobeorin gotteull (Lost in Autumn, 1969); this was followed by ChunhaChudong(The Four Seasons, 1970), Dongbaekkkot(Camellias. 1977), Huiparamsae(Whistle Bird, 1982), Kkotsangyeo (Flower bier, 1987) and Gohyangeun ttangkkeut(Home at World's End, 1991). He has received a number of awards, including the New Writer Award from Hyeondae Munhak in 1964, the Simunhak Award in 1982, the Honam Literature Prize in 1986, and the Korean PEN Award in 1989.

In much of his work, Pak evokes the unending cycle of the natural universe through depictions of some minute aspect of it : a tiny flower, leaves in autumn, grass growing.... In often unspoken contrast he sets the world of human affairs, doomed to decay and death. Since no life can exist without the sun, giver of heat and light, his poems are frequently full of images of light.

In later work he expresses an increased joy in his realization of being alive and part of this wonderful universe which God has made. The expression of faith in God as Creator is an important aspect of his work. At the same time, he is deeply concerned over the destructive aspects of human activity, especially the environmental pollution that threatens the very life of the planet. He looks for healing and hope in the essential order of nature.




On Top of a Mountain


The grey landscape stretches below,

Beyond an expanse of foggy rain.


Upon this height I can caress softly with my hand

The world that I left down there.


Somewhere in the air, I hear the great rocks vibrate:

I hear, all around, the mountains, hand in hand,


Sitting or standing, repeat some ancient,

Earthy tales in deep, low tones.


The grey streets stretch below,

Beyond an expanse of foggy rain.


Gently I caress, softly, softly with my hand,

The world down there:


The thick forest of windows, the steep crags of walls.




The Fruit Tree


Nothing astonishes me more than the fact

That ripe fruit hangs upon a fruit tree.


Rooted in the reddish yellow barren earth

And swaying its branches in mere wind and rain,


That tree alone comes to enjoy the grace of rapturous

Colour and weight in this shearing autumn of all seasons.


Nothing, indeed, astonishes me more than the fact

That ripe fruit hangs upon a fruit tree.


Often in the autumn of a year yielding no poetry,

I recover my vision before this miracle of the fruit tree.




White Magnolia


Not so much lamps that will ever be on

as ones that know when to be off--

the white magnolia flowers that have been lit for several days

are falling quietly

in a corner of my garden today.

In these glorious spring days that I while away,

almost holding my breath--for only a few days,

whenever I step out of my entrance in the morning,

their lamps have shed cool light on my forehead;

but today they have become aching flesh,

falling and scattering

in a corner of my garden.





At Summer's End


Late in this night near summer's end,

the roll of thunder that has shaken heaven and earth

seems to be receding beyond the ridges of the mountains,

like drops of sweat evaporating from our foreheads.


So past midnight

and into the weary hours of dawn,

I should strive to overcome drowsiness

in order to hear the stirring songs

of insects which herald the coming of autumn to this land.


Some are meant to sound with the melancholic sheen

of silk threads, some with the clicking sound

of a pair of rusty scissors and some,


as if caught in a fine gossamer;

but they have already formed in some places

deep wells and in others

the ringing of icy streams.


Late in this night near summer's end,

I shall stay awake till the roll of thunder

has receded beyond the mountain range

and the stirring songs of insects have flown into river or sea;

Only then shall I fall asleep in the clear morning of autumn.


I shall fall asleep

in that autumn morning

when the whole world is as clear as a wine glass.





An Extra Drop of God


I am an extra drop

of God.


I am grateful to Him

for having dropped it

on this weary land of Korea,

of all lands.


I am grateful to Heaven and earth

that I am the last drop of God

dropped on the impoverished village

of Land's End in Haenam,

of all the Korean Peninsula,


ever burdened with a troubled history,

but proud of an unbroken lineage of blood.

I was merely a bubble

of that poor seaside village

or a dewdrop settled in a furrow

of the green barley field

on that upland of yellow earth;

but I am grateful

that I am an extra drop of God.