Preface Poem by Koh Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Jiri Mountain, Korea

Preface Poem by Koh Jung-hee

I climb the mountain, carrying the weight of my life.
When I collapse at the summit where I cannot climb further,
washing away the sweat that gushes up,
there the mountain takes on the weight of my life
and hangs it green on the ridge:
the mountain

I climb the mountain, carrying sorrow.
When, leaning against the sorrows of the twelve summits rising ahead,
I take off the sorrow as tall as me,
there the mountain takes on the burden of my sorrow
and scatters it over the clean water of twelve valleys:
the mountain, the mountain

I climb the mountain, carrying solitary days,
and when I meet the ridge dizzy with wild flowers,
and bury the loneliness as big as my life,
there it takes on the burden of my loneliness
and makes my heart tender and peaceful:
the mountain, the mountain, the mountain

As we spin the way of revolution from the wheel of history,
do people hold one another’s hands to spin the way of love?
Standing on the mountain path with more mountains ahead,
when I cry over the thought of you that pierces deep into my bones,
there the mountain receives the tears of my love,
and opens the dazzling field of royal azaleas:
the mountain, the mountain, the mountain

(Originally published in The Gwangju News, August, 2011)

Koh Jung-hee (1948 – 1991) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do, and studied at Hanshin University. A passionate feminist, she often offered sharp criticism on modern Korean society, whether it was political oppression or gender inequality. In June, 1991, she died, swept up by a torrential rain, while climbing up the Snake Valley of Jiri Mountain, a mountain she loved a great deal and wrote about often. Known for resistance poetry, particularly based upon the Gwangju Uprising, as well as for lyric poems, she derived many of her poetic inspirations from Gwangju and Jeolla-do (often known as Nam-do). In her lifetime she published at least ten collections of poetry and received the Korean Literature Award in 1983.

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