Dialogue between Australian and Korean Poets in Seoul

By | 7 June 2011

Next up, Ivy Alvarez read her poems The Pastoralist Speaks and Curing the Animal. Kim Ki-Taek was particularly taken by the latter poem, and it was interesting to hear his reaction to it, given his own work’s preoccupation with similar themes.

The third Korean writer to introduce us to his work was Shim Bo-Seon (pictured), who was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1970. He made his debut in the Chosun Ilbo Annual Spring Literary Contest in 1994 and published his first collection, Fifteen Seconds without Sorrow, in 2008. He is also a member of the 21st Century Prospect Writer’s Group. The title poem from his first collection was particularly fascinating:

A cat is happily nibbling flower petals.

A woman is sipping chamomile tea.

They seem quiet and peaceful.

I stand aimlessly in the middle of the street.

A man is crying while passing by on a bicycle.

He is destined to fall in the end.

Dizziness blossoms in the dream garden of our mind.

Now about fifteen seconds have passed without sorrow.

I should move my feet and go somewhere,

but no matter where, the end is a disappearing path.

After reading this poem, Shim Bo-Seon answered several questions from the Australian poets about the place of animals and machines in his work, and mentioned that while he does not necessarily assign a living spirit to these non-humans in his work, he nevertheless views them as a necessary part of the world he seeks to observe in his poetry.

Following on from this, Terry Jaensch read his poems Air and Letter from Sungai Buloh, and spoke briefly about the process of collaboration with Singaporean poet Cyril Wong.

The final reader for the day was Kim Un, who was born in Busan, South Korea in 1973 but now lives in Seoul. He made his debut as a poet in the winter volume of the literary magazine Poetry & Thoughts in 1998. His collections include A Breathing Tomb, The Giant and Let’s Write a Novel, which was published in 2009. In the same year, he received the Midang Literary Prize and the Colleagues’ Choice Award for the Young Poet of the Year.

Kim Un read two poems, including the prose poem ‘Real Story’:

… When all the money that you spent like water calls up a countless number of memories, I become certain that there are many more mes walking around the streets. More mes and more yous are wearing more shoes and walking around together. We have never met but there are many more places where we have parted. In a place where no one would compromise, we accomplished at more of these meetings and were happy.

Kim Un spoke about the difficulties of translating his works, even going so far as to (somewhat humorously) apologise for the hard work he had caused them.

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