Born in 1936 in Sangju (North Kyo※ngsang Province), So※ng Ch'un-bok grew up in Pusan and graduated from So※ngkyunkwan University in Seoul. His first poems were published in 1959 in the review Hyo※ndae Munhak and his first collection of poems (Ojihaeng, Journey to the interior) was published in 1965. Since then he has published many volumes, including Kongwo※n pagoda (Garden pagoda, 1965), Honja puru※nu※n norae (Song sung alone, 1995). He has received a number of major awards, including the Wo※lt'an Award (1965), the Korean Poets' AssociationAward (1986), the Pen Literary Award (1993), and the Seoul City Cultural Award (1997). He is currently the Chairman of the board of the Korean Writers' Association, the Vice-president of the Association of Korean Artists, and a member of the administrative committee of the Korean P.E.N. Center.
In his earlier work, we follow his progress through a crucible of repeated suffering, related first to the Korean War and then to the political turmoil of the 1960s and 70s. While conscious of the inevitable pain, he refuses to restrict himself to a sense of loss and failure; instead he struggles in his work to overcome the destructive images inspired by the contemporary world. In the early 1980s, after a tormented search for an "unknown world" seen as his poetic source and ultimate salvation, he finally perceives the call of love, childhood, and faith. This gives him the creative imagination needed to restore his wounded soul. In his most recent work, he undertakes ironic journeys toward the outside world, and thereby comes to a fuller realization of his true self.
Running we flew away from that bitter winter
and reached an island.
That island of ours was mighty hot
and since it was almost all a sandy waste
it roughened up our hands and hearts.
We cultivated a pretty big expanse of meadow of sorts
and set long-necked beasts pasturing there
while sometimes we made caves and taught
varieties of birds of prey, ever eyeing people's necks,
ways of living with special gestures and noises.
Evenings, following the calls of elephants
we would gather up the innumerable falling stars,
things like nostalgia for the landscape back home,
only suddenly unfolding inappropriately the flapping folds
in Isai Miyake's black pleated waistcoat quilting that lingered deep
in my friend Kim Yong-tae's heart,
staring at the red eyes full of heat and transfixed with dread
of the local inhabitants only half my height,
retching at the even worse effluent,
yet something seems still to be lacking: rehashing tales
of those strong people catching, eating, chewing crocodile or zebra
or ostrich, or this and that other tale of life
as if there was nothing wrong... as if we had never been anywhere,
quite unfazed, returning back, sitting down
A Cuckoo Laments
A cuckoo laments.
Treading my dream's dark stairway,
on the hill that turns to lie down at nightfall
somewhere in the that hill's trees
unbearably sad, a cuckoo laments.
I am always alone
in my remote small room, even on moonless nights
feeling how cold such things as fate are
somewhere a cuckoo laments.
The last traces of twilight decline
the red glow draws on,
flowers blossom and wither
snow flakes chill in my heart
a cuckoo laments.
A few glimmers of starlight
my heart deepens by sickness
this solitude in tears
Ah, dear love!
I too, sad like some wild flower, the cuckoo laments
Dreaming of You Here
This evening again, I saw you.
Hills and lakes all hidden
I saw you racing away
from the deep black burnished dark.
The nights are long in this place I live
and near the apple orchards at the foot of the Alps
thinly strewn with white grass after snow flakes have flown
I saw you hidden in the white mountains' shadows.
Two days ago, clouds came low,
mists of dawn that half hid my body;
I anxiously went out in search of you, I fell,
troubled by dreams, I spent a sleepless night.
Last night, dragging a wide skirt
over a coat embroidered with spring flowers
I shouted out as you turned and moved coldly away
and my weeping woke me from my dream.
My dear: just tomorrow, please,
I want to select a spot that is not frozen,
show myself to you as I walk holding your hand
toward the peach-tinted dusk of my native land.
Someone for Me
Someone seems to be weeping.
Hidden in one corner of my room
and pouring out tears.
The day is already declining
and my ears are growing deaf
but someone seems to be calling me.
Like a beast that has lost its path
crying out as if in fever
someone seems to be seeking me.
If it's not a matter of dying,
when the time comes we will no doubt meet
but then it will be just a breeze deep in petals.
Someone seems to be weeping me.
They seem to have enveloped me secretly and are
heading for some spot in the world beyond.
The Remaining Day
The remaining day
with no way to go
and no way back in sight,
installed as the waters of the great sea, all vanished and gone,
after endlessly scratching just your pale back,
expressing in ballad form
my unending destiny,
I collapse in the moonlight of the tearful cosmos:
What shall I do? How can I perform this task?