Climbing Over Jirisan Mountain by Kim Jun-tae

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Lee Gye-du

Climbing Over Jirisan Mountain by Kim Jun-tae

I need to talk to the clouds.
I need to talk to the wind.
I need to talk to the stepping stones by the stream.
I need to talk to the trees.
I need to talk to the cigarette butts.
Even though my words may, absurdly,
become clouds or wind,
or shake as trees at the end of December,
or fly away as sleepless birds,
or even if they become cigarette butts
that one throws away without any thought,
I need to name my words,
like the water in a kettle that overflows when it boils,
I need to scatter all of my words
over every corner of the world.
In fact, my words are their words;
my songs are their songs.

智異山을 넘으며/ 김준태

나는 구름에게 말해야 한다
나는 바람에게 말해야 한다
나는 시냇가 디딤돌에게 말해야 한다
나는 나무에게 말해야 한다
나는 담배꽁초에게 말해야 한다
내가 한 말이 어처구니 없이
구름이 되거나 바람이 되거나
저무는 12월 나무로 흔들리거나
혹은 불면의 새로 날아가버릴망정
무심코 던져버리는 담배꽁초가 될망정
나는 나의 말에게 이름을 붙여주어야 한다
주전자에 물이 끓으면 넘치듯이
그렇게 그렇게 나의 모오든 말을
세상 곳곳에 뿌려주어야 한다
사실은 그들의 말인 나의 말을
사실은 그들의 노래인 나의 노래를.

Jirisan Mountain is located in the southern region of South Korea, spanning three provinces: North and South Jeolla, as well as Gyeongsang. Throughout Korean history, the mountain has taken up a variety of different meanings, reflecting many writers’ desires and needs of different moments in time. For some Korean writers, Jirisan Mountain is a tragic figure of tumultuous modern Korean history. For others, it has been a figure of the magical, the sacred, the abundant, and the motherly.  For others, Jirisan Mountain has been metaphorized as a mountain of the people and resistance, but also as a mountain of death and resentment, where fierce battles were fought between the end of Japanese colonial rule and the Korean War, slaughtering many Koreans. And still yet, for others, the mountain is a space of life and hope that renews the lives of today and tomorrow.

Thrashing the Sesame by Kim Jun-tae

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Illustrated by Jam San

Thrashing the Sesame by Kim Jun-tae

At the corner of a farm where the mountain shadow descends,
I thrash the sesame with Grandmother.
In my eyes, Grandmother strikes the stick slowly.
But I, the young one, want to go home before dark,
and strike with all my strength.
I find rare pleasure in thrashing the sesame–
difficult to find in worldly affairs.
Since I have lived in the city for almost ten years,
it is an exhilarating thing
to watch, even with one stroke,
innumerable, white grains rushing out.
I thrash bundle after bundle, whistling.
When I am lost in thrashing,
thinking that there might be many things
that would rush out like sesame
if you gleefully strike anywhere,
Grandmother pitifully chastises me:
“Honey, don’t thrash at the necks.”

참깨를 털면서 /김준태

산그늘 내린 밭 귀퉁이에서 할머니와 참깨를 턴다.
보아하니 할머니는 슬슬 막대기질을 하지만
어두워지기 전에 집으로 돌아가고 싶은 젊은 나는
한번을 내리치는 데도 힘을 더한다.
세상사에는 흔히 맛보기가 어려운 쾌감이
참깨를 털어대는 일엔 희한하게 있는 것 같다.
한번을 내리쳐도 셀 수 없이
솨아솨아 쏟아지는 무수한 흰 알맹이들
도시에서 십 년을 가차이 살아본 나로선
기가막히게 신나는 일인지라
휘파람을 불어가며 몇 다발이고 연이어 털어댄다.
사람도 아무 곳에나 한 번만 기분좋게 내리치면
참깨처럼 솨아솨아 쏟아지는 것들이
얼마든지 있을 거라고 생각하며 정신없이 털다가
“아가, 모가지까지 털어져선 안 되느니라”
할머니의 가엾어하는 꾸중을 듣기도 했다.

(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 SesameI Saw GodThe Rice Soup and HopeFire 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.

Persimmon Flowers by Kim Jun-tae

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Persimmon Flowers by Kim Jun-tae

When I was young, I counted the falling persimmon flowers.
During the war, I counted the heads of the soldiers.
Now I count money, with spit on my thumb,
and wonder what I will count in the distant future.

감꽃/김준태

어릴 적엔 떨어지는 감꽃을 셌지
전쟁통엔 죽은 병사들의 머리를 세고
지금은 엄지에 침 발라 돈을 세지
그런데 먼 훗날엔 무엇을 셀까 몰라.

(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.

One Bean by Kim Jun-tae

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

One Bean by Kim Jun-tae

Who spilled it?

Did it come out of
the parcel with a hole
the wrinkled country-side grandmother
was carrying on the way to see her youngest daughter?

One green bean
rolled around, trampled
on the asphalt
of the station plaza.

I picked up the tremulous life,
went outside the city,

and planted it deep, deep
into the farm furrow across the river.
Then, from every direction,
the evening glow was watching me.

콩알 하나/김준태

누가 흘렸을까

막내딸 찾아가는
다 쭈그러진 시골 할머니의
구멍 난 보따리에서
빠져 나왔을까

역전 광장
아스팔트 위에
밟히며 뒹구는
파아란 콩알 하나

나는 그 엄청난 생명을 집어 들어
도회지 밖으로 나가

강 건너 밭이랑에
깊숙이 깊숙이 심어 주었다
그때 사방팔방에서
저녁 노을이 나를 바라보고 있었다.

(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.

Sword and Soil by Kim Jun-tae

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Sword and Soil by Kim Jun-tae

If sword and soil
fought,
which would win?

The sword
that pierced the soil
will rust soon,
held by the soil.

칼과 흙/김준태

칼과
흙이 싸우면
어느 쪽이 이길까

흙을
찌른 칼은
어느새
흙에 붙들려
녹슬어버렸다.

(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.

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.

A Song Dedicated to Gwangju by Kim Jun-tae

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Melanie Steyn

Mangwol Cemetery in Gwangju

A Song Dedicated to Gwangju by Kim Jun-tae

In May, that year,
even the moon was bright in Gwangju, the City of Light
when the vampires rushed in like a  gang
in chartered Honam-line trains and helicopters
to turn the whole city into a ruin.

But in Gwangju,
even the moon was bright and full
when at every door, on every street
invaders like automatons
were running around, hungry for blood.

In May, that year
Gwangju was a vast sea,
a sea where seagulls were flying,
sails were rising,
waves were rolling
where islands were wailing like people.

In May, that year
Gwangju was a solitary cross
where slaughterers were laughing
till they became bright red while they were roasting a yellow dog,
where they took away priests and monks
and beat them up till their testicles burst.

In May, that year
Gwangju was a broken cross.
It was the Buddha’s naked body thrown away.
But in May, that year
Gwangju, the phoenix,
rose up again many times!

Ah, in May, that year
in Gwangju even the moon was bright.
People’s hearts ran like a river of water–
even the roadside trees put their arms around them,
all the people dancing in a circle, united in this new world.

Even when the devils armed with guns and bayonets
were poking everywhere as if crazy
and the whole city rolled like a barley field,
people cared for each other,
waved the flags of flesh and bone
along the road this land should follow.

Ah, in Gwangju, in May, that year
they knew the pleasure of living together–
joy was flapping like a sky, like a sky
where they rose up together again
even as they collapsed, dying.

광주에 바치는 노래/ 김준태

그해 5월
광주는 달도 밝았다
호남선 특별열차로
헬리콥터로 떼몰려온 흡혈귀들이
온 시가지를 쑥밭으로 만들 때

광주는 그러나
달도 둥그러이 밝았다
집집마다 거리마다
침략자와 같은 몽유병자들이
피에 굶주려 날뛸 때

그해 5월
광주는 끝없는 바다였다
갈매기가 날으고
돛이 오르고
파도가 나는 바다였다
섬, 섬들도 사람들로 울부짖는

그해 5월
광주는 고독한 십자가였다
학살자들이 황구(黃狗)를 그슬리며
시뻘겋게 웃을 때
신부와 스님들도 잡아가서
부랄이 깨져라고 두들겼을 때

그해 5월
광주는 부러진 십자가였다
발가벗겨 내팽개쳐진 부처의 알몸이었다
그러나 그해 5월
광주는 또 다시 볓 번이고
치솟아오르는 불사조!

아아, 그해 5월
광주는 달도 밝았다
사람들의 마음이 강물처럼 흐르고
길가의 가로수도 어깨동무 해주고
사람 세상 통일 세상 강강술래였다

총칼뿐인 악마들이
사방팔방 미친 듯이 들쑤셔도
온 시가지가 보리밭으로 출렁이고
사람들은 서로를 아껴주고
이 땅의 갈 길을 향하여
살과 뼈의 깃발을 흔들었다

아아, 그해 5월 광주는
함께 사는 즐거움이 있었다
함께 쓰러져 죽으면서도
함께 일어나 살고야 마는
하늘 같은 하늘 같은 펄럭임이 있었다

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 SesameI Saw GodThe Rice Soup and HopeFire or Flower?, and Sword and Soil. He is known as the progressive poet of “Oh, Gwangju! The Cross of Our Nation!,” a poem of the Gwangju Uprising he published on June 2, 1980, in The Chonnam Daily; this poem has been acclaimed as the first poem that attempted to represent the uprising. He is a protest poet committed to writing about destroyed hometowns, national liberation, and the decolonization of culture.