Fire or Flower? by Kim Jun-tae

Translated Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Hye Hyon

Fire or Flower? by Kim Jun-tae

Some follow a road of fire,
others follow a road of flowers.
Some say fire is history,
others say flowers are history.
Some follow a road of cries,
others follow a road of song.

For you, what is the true life, fire or flower?
What is a true way of love, fire or flower?
Fire lights the darkness of night,
but flowers light the darkness of day.
Fire melts the blood-stained sword,
but flowers clean the blood-stained sword.

Some follow the road of fire,
others follow the road of flowers.

Some follow the road of cries,
others follow the road of song.
Some follow both roads of cries and song,
while others follow both roads of fire and flowers.

불이냐 꽃이냐/김준태

어떤 사람은 불의 길을 가지만
어떤 사람은 꽃의 길을 간다
어떤 사람은 불을 역사라 말하지만
어떤 사람은 꽃을 역사라 말하고
어떤 사람은 아우성의 길을 가지만
어떤 사람은 노래의 길을 간다

너희여 참 삶이란 불이냐 꽃이냐
사랑의 참 길이란 불이냐 꽃이냐
불은 밤의 어두움을 밝히지만
꽃은 낮의 어두움을 밝힌다
불이 피 묻은 칼을 녹여버릴 때
꽃은 피 묻은 칼을 닦아내는 것이다

어떤 사람은 불의 길을 가지만
어떤 사람은 꽃의 길을 간다

어떤 사람은 아우성의 길을 가지만
어떤 사람은 노래의 길을 간다
어떤 사람은 아우성과 노래의 길을 한꺼번에 간다
어떤 사람은 불과 꽃의
길을 한꺼번에 한꺼번에 간다

(Originally published in Gwangju News, June, 2012)

Kim Jun-tae (1949- ) was born in Haenam, Jeollanamdo. He studied German literature at Chosun University. He made his literary debut in 1969 with the publication of “Thrashing the Sesame” and other poems in The Poet. His poetry collections include Thrashing the Sesame, I Saw God, The Rice Soup and Hope, Fire or Flower?, and Sword and Soil. He is known as the progressive poet of “Oh, Gwangju! The Cross of Our Nation!,” a poem about the Gwangju Uprising he published on June 2, 1980, in The Chonnam Daily. With the publication of this poem, the newspaper was forced to shut down, and he was laid off from his teaching at Chonnam High School. This poem has been acclaimed as the first poem that addressed the uprising. He is a protest poet committed to writing about ruined hometowns, national liberation, and the decolonization of culture.

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