Born in Hwanghae Province in 1936, Yu Ky˘§ong-hwan graduated from Yeonse University and received his doctorate in journalism from Dongguk University. He began his career as a poet in 1957 when his work was first published in the journal Hyeondae Munhak. In 1970 he received the Hyeondae Munhak Literary Award. For forty years he worked as a journalist, mainly with the Joseon Ilbo and the Munhwa Ilbo newspapers, where he was above all editor in charge of cultural matters and editorialist. He was long active in the World Poets' Congress and served as President of the Korean Association of Writers of Children's Literature. He is at present Professor of Journalism at Yeonse University and head of the Korean Academy for Children's Literature.
Yu Gyong-hwan has published eleven volumes of poetry, beginning in 1969 with Gamjeong jido(Map of feelings). Other volumes include San noeul (Mountain dusk, 1972), I Jageun naui saeneun(My little bird, 1977), Honjaseon namu(Tree standing alone, 1985), Noraero kan˘§un pae (Boat driven by song, 1991). His most recent volume is Wonmi-dong sijip (Wonmi-dong poetry book, 1997).
Yu Gyeong-hwan's poetry is marked by a lyric lightness of touch. He is almost Wordsworthian in his relationship to his own childhood, drawing on a vast store of childhood experiences, memories, and dreams as he evokes an experience of nature filtered through the eyes of a lost innocence. In poem after poem he stresses that nature is the realm of childhood and leads the reader to a freshness of experience by employing only very delicate poetic means.
Tree Standing Alone
A child is gazing up
at petals floating high
above a tree, without a breeze.
A child is hanging by its chin
from the edge of a cloud that rises and falls
above a spire, without any breeze.
When there was no one the child could tell
that the thing it most wanted to do
was to go floating high
it would dream in broad daylight in an empty village
dreams as tall as the telegraph poles,
soaring higher than petals or clouds.
That child is myself, alone until now,
determined not to grow old.
Sending the name of the one I yearn for
high up like a kite
calling that name
though I walk
a full half day
my legs do not ache.
and earth must touch
calling that name
the narrow path
finally vanishes in the grass
like the one I yearn for.
What shall I draw?
What shall I draw
with my birthday present crayons?
As I color thickly a torrential forest,
the toy ball beside me
looks on with eyes that say: That's not right.
As I draw a daytime moon,
the sky turns into an ocean and the moon, like a bead,
from which a toy rabbit is looking down.
As I draw one really huge tree,
the bird in the calendar
longs to fly down and perch there.
The rainbow-like bridge
at Sonam Temple in Cholla's Sungju County
is a rainbow in stone.
It sends all sorrowful things flowing down
in mountain streams
and ever lives on nothing but breezes.
Lovely mountain light released as tinted leaves
for a long long time
remains caught in the stream's clear shadows.
In evenings when stars are most lovely,
murmuring that this world and that are united:
water babbling under the stone rainbow.
While a star comes to me
While I am looking at one star,
that star is likewise looking at me.
I wonder if you are thinking of me as much
as I am thinking of you?
While the star is coming to me,
the nights are short as short can be.
On winter nights, more than in summer,
the star comes closer to me.
Now it's winter for me.