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  • Five Poems
  • Chong Hyon-jong (bio)
    Translated by Wolhee Choe (bio)


Through youI am true, my love.Through youall things breathedanceshineand smile.Luminosity about to burst-the light genesis nonpareil, youpropagate;(in other words)all space is budding to bloom.

Through youall is reborn, my loveis there anything left out?Oh the womb of dawn. [End Page 195] In that splendordreams and hearts are budding,expanding universe.Through youI am true, my love. [End Page 196]

My Mind's Ruin


Nested in me, this ruin beganrippling even beforedistant ancestral froth stirredits sign deepenedwith things pastwith vanishings.Oh gestures and embracestears, smilestime's wind-blown waves.


On this fallen templeaesthetic aspirations alone bestow dignitysome of which may throbin songs built in the voidof my desires' ruined columns. [End Page 197]

This Time without Bottom or End

Time's aspect:nothing to gaineverything to lose.Neither maledictory nor recriminatoryI say time is sorrow.Its depth is without bottom or end,clueless, why argue, reallyno bottom, no end.Even if coal and gold,even the axis of the earth were dug out,boundless sorrowwith desire,without bottom or end,spreads necessity in the world,the necessity neither a flowernor a gaze in the void canactually change.

O time, desire's coveringeven deception and metamorphic magicare of necessity rags of pain.While living, letting goof all cannot be, notbefore you lose time. [End Page 198]

At Dawn

Not switching on the lightI watchto catch the light of dawnto merge with the boundless lightwishing to be drenched. . . .

Oh, body in blue,mind of dawn. [End Page 199]


The more days and years enduredthe tenderer my mind becomes;August's passing is unbearable.September and Octoberunbearable.I cannot bearthings flowing away,cannot bearhuman affairs,changes and pains,cannot bearbeing become nothing,the visible become the invisible.I cannot bear timeany trace of time,shadows of timeI cannot bear.All the traces are wounds,all the flux and changepain and the painful. [End Page 200]

Chong Hyon-jong

Chong Hyon-jong, born in Seoul, Korea, in 1939, is one of the most respected Korean poets. He has published twelve volumes of poetry, including The Complete Works in 1999 and the latest, Unbearable (2003). His works have been translated into English, German, French, Spanish, and Russian and individual poems anthologized in many languages. He is also a translator of Pablo Neruda, García Lorca, Yeats, and others. Chong is a recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Pablo Neruda Medal (2004) and the Kyong-am Award (2006).

Wolhee Choe

Wolhee Choe, Professor Emerita of English Literature at Polytechnic University, is the author of Toward an Aesthetic Criticism of Technology (1989), Golden Ark (1992), Lyric Brush (2004), and co-translator of three books of poems, Brief Songs of the Kisaeng: Courtesan Poetry of the Last Korean Dynasty (1997), Day Shine: Poems by Chong Hyon-jong (1998), and Windflower: Poems by Moon Chonghee (2004).