Born in Kokso※ng, South Cholla Province, in 1941, Cho T'ae-il graduated from the department of Korean Literature and did his postgraduate studies at Kyunghee University, Seoul. He began his career as a poet when he was a sophomore in university, receiving the 1964 Spring Literary Award from the Kyonghyang Shinmun with the poem "Morning Shipping.' In 1965, he published his first book of poems, Achimso※nbak (Morning Shipping). Since then, he has published seven volumes of poetry: Shikkallon (An Essay on a Kitchen Knife,1970), Kukt'o (Motherland, 1975), Kago※do (1993), Chayuga shiindo※ro※ (From Freedom to a Poet, 1987), Sansogeso※ kkotsogeso※ (In the Woods, in the Flowers, 1991), as well as "Wild Flowers Will Not Be Broken" (1995) and "It was Burning Alone" (1996). He has also published works on poetic theory such as Static Poetry and Kinetic Poetry and Poetics for Poetry Writing. He has received the first Pyonwoon Literary Award and the 10th Manhae Literary Award. He is currently teaching in the creative writing department of Kwangju University.

His poetry up to From Freedom to a Poet is characterized by the intense political consciousness embedded in it. "Motherland" and "Kagodo" were banned by the government, and the poet was imprisoned, perhaps more for his involvement in the launching of the Writers'Association for Freedom of Action than for his writing itself.

An intense longing for his hometown which has always been the primary source of his inspiration and imagination, the grief deriving from that longing, the deliberation on this grief and the search for its solutions, the wish to stay young are the elements of his poetry which, at the end, arrive at the ongoing and ultimate question of the disordered reality.

However, from In the Woods, in the Flowers, Wild Flowers Will Not Be Broken, his poems turn toward nature. This probably reflects the general tendency of Korean poetry of the 1970's, which begins to turn its eye from reality toward the order of nature. Poets find the truth and order of life in natural phenomena formed by water, grass, wind and insects rather than in the reckless social reality created by human beings.

In his eighth volume, It Was Burning Alone, the awareness of socio-political reality is further removed. Stepping back from the reality, in lyrical poems on motherly love and nature, the poet finds a new perspective on natural phenomena, and reveals himself longing for Mother and the origin of his being. The land, trees, flowers, hometown, and mother that occupy the poetic space may indicate the wisdom of age and the peace in the mind of the poet.








Like Dew


Like dew,

like dew,

only if I can make jewels

by crying all night long


I would gather all the tears I've shed in my life

and all the tears I'll shed until my death

and I would become waves

to lap this world.


I would lap and lap

in front of the poor dew

hanging with the whole world in it.






Winter Flowers


At a secluded spot

in a wintry field

the flowers dry as a bone,


some looking up at the sky,

some looking around,

some looking down at the earth,


are casting their swinging shadows

on the white snowy field.


They are sobbing

barely holding the crooked world

and their crooked body.






Evening Glow


Look at the evening glow.

Look at the evening glow.


Everybody carries

the evening glow at the sunset

on his head and wanders the streets

here and there.


In the chilly wind the bush clovers

are swinging with the evening glow

on their heads.


Look at the evening glow.

Look at the evening glow.


Someone's set a fire on the west sky.

Someone who still misses this world

must have built the fire on his way to the other world.


Look at this.

Look at this.


On the west side of my mind

a fire has started, too.






A Cabin


Over the autumn leaves eager to dress up with new colours

is the pendulous sky hanging high.

All kinds of birds are singing

into the heart of autumn.

All kinds of insects are competing

to sing about summer.


The water flows without break

time flows along with it.

When the heart overflows to find nowhere to stay


everything with life

everything without life


at the end of their radiant solitude

I build a rough cabin

for the warm winter sleep.


Beside everything that sings

beside everything that looks for a place to sleep

I build a singing cabin.

You build your own cabin.






The Words of the White Snow


White snow is falling murmuring.

It is continuously falling

and falling and falling.


Covering the ochre

covering the colours of the whole world, it is falling.

It is falling fearlessly.


As if it would tell the world that

the spirits are still wandering in Hades

it is endlessly falling in Mangwol-dong.

It is falling into the bosom of the Mudeung Mountain.


Fluttering its whole body

it is falling on every part of the world

on the mountains and the field

on the Hanla Mountain and the Baekdu Mountatin

on the land beyond the truce line.


Relentlessly erasing every border

even the border between a mind and a mind

it is falling and falling.


Upon all the living and the dead

upon all those lying and walking

Without discrimination

it hastens to fall.

On the crocks and on the stables

it is falling and falling

and falling ceaselessly


The white snow is falling murmuring.

It tells everything on earth

to open its eyes, open its eyes, open its ears, open its ears.

Shutting up its mouth, fluttering its cold body

it is falling and falling.