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  • Confession, and: A Poem Easily Written, and: Self-Portrait
  • Yun Tong-ju
    Translated by Kim Jong-Gil (bio)


Is it because my face is a remnant of some dynasty that it remains in a green-tarnished copper mirror as such a disgrace?

Let me reduce my confession to one line: —With what hope have I lived for twenty-four years and one month?

Tomorrow or the next day, or on some happy day I shall have to write another one-line question: —Why did I make such an embarrassing admission then, at such a young age?

Every night, let me polish my mirror with the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet.

Then the back of a sad person walking alone under some meteor appears in the mirror. [End Page 145]

a poem easily written

Outside the window the night rain whispers; this six-tatami room is a foreign land.

I know being a poet is a sad fate, still, shall I write a line of poetry? Receiving the money sent from home, smelling of sweat and love,

I got to hear the lecture of an aged professor with a university notebook under my arm.

When I think of it, old companions are all gone, one after another.

And with what hope am I only sinking down alone?

They say life is so hard to live, thus it is embarrassing, poetry is so easily written.

This six-tatami room is a foreign land, with night rain whispering outside the window.

Turning the light on to drive out a little of the dark, the final I, awaiting the morning that will come like an age,

thrust a small hand out to myself, the first handshake clasped in tears and consolation. [End Page 146]


Turning a mountain pass and coming across an isolated well, I quietly look in.

Inside the well the moon is bright, clouds float by, the sky is blue, the blue wind blows, and there is autumn.

There is also a man. Somehow that man disgusts me, so I leave.

On second thought, as I go back, the man becomes pitiful. Returning to the well, I find the man still there.

Again the man disgusts me, so I leave. On second thought, as I go back, I miss that man.

Inside the well the moon is bright, the clouds float by, the sky is wide, the blue wind blows, there is autumn, and there is the man like a memory. [End Page 147]

Kim Jong-Gil

Kim Jong-gil is one of Korea’s leading twentieth-century poets and a prolific translator of many of the most important contemporary British and American poets into Korean, as well as of many Korean poets into English. His recent books of translation include Among the Flowering Reeds: Classic Korean Poems Written in Chinese. Kim is an emeritus professor of English at Korea University, in Seoul, and a member of the Korean Academy of Arts.



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