Doodling by Shin Dal-ja

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Kang Jang-won

Doodling by Shin Dal-ja

A poor drawing of a train and dizzy writings
occupy an old wall of my parents’ home–
a solitary room of my heart that couldn’t be kept down.
These crippled writings couldn’t stand up yet,
and the train that faded away never moved, even once.
It was so slow that my heart stood up
and hurried to Seoul. The torn wings of the doodles
once in a while flutter in my heart.
Beneath the fluttering faster than the pulse,
the rice seed of imagination burst fully.
Green spirit,
that was the epicenter of my art.

낙서/ 신달자

고향 집 낡은 벽
어지러운 글씨 본 적 없는 어설픈 기차 그림
어디에도 내려놓을 곳 없었던 내 마음의 외딴 방
앉은뱅이 글씨는 아직도 일어서지 못하고
흐릿하게 지워진 기차는 제대로 한번 움직이지 못했다
너무 느려 마음 먼저 일어나
서둘러 서울 와 버린 낙서의 찢긴 날개들
내 심장에서 가끔 퍼덕거린다
맥박 소리보다 더 빠른 퍼덕거림 밑에
상상의 볍씨 하나 오롯하게 터진다
푸른 정신
예술의 진원지가 거기였다

Shin Dal-ja (1943- ) was born in Geochang, Gyeongsangnam-do. She studied Korean literature at Sookmyung Women’s University. She taught creative writing at Pyongtaek University and Myungji College. Her poetry collections include Father’s Light, Passionate Love, The Long Talking Relationship, and Paper.  She also has written several collections of essays including The Poet’s Love, You Remember These Three Things, and At Forty,  I Learned the Baby-Steps of Life. Her literary awards include The Korea Literature Award, the Modern Buddhist Literature Award, and Youngrang Poetry Award.

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Blank Paper: Part One by Shin Dal-ja

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Blank Paper: Part One by Shin Dal-ja

If you want to calm anger like cast iron,
if you want to calm resentment like a rock,
jump down on the blank page.
If you want to open your spirit to the first nature
that is endless however many times you enter
and is wide open without bottoms or walls,
if you want to taste the ecstasy of all of your body becoming a blank page,
soaking slowly into the blank page,
if you want to wash up the dirt of the world
and be clear like spring water in a forest,
if you want to experience the white light, deeply cool, even without bleaching
that accepts everything and lets it go,
if you want to enter into such a path of goodness
where with the first step you step on eternity
and with the second step the past and future worlds merge into one way,
if you want to meet the spirit of the spirits
that has no weight nor smell nor conflict,
lightly jump down on a blank page.

It is such a path
where the origin leads your hand—
the origin in which there is nothing but there is everything,
where you find meaning even though you followed without a purpose,
where pure hearts stand up,
where gallant people with conviction
never get thirsty however long they journey.

백지 1/ 신달자

무쇠 같은 분노를 삭이려면
돌덩이 같은 한을 삭이려면
그곳에 들어가 보세요
들어가도 들어가도 끝이 없는
바닥도 벽도 없이 확 트인
최초의 자연에 정신을 열어보고 싶다면
백지에 스르르 스며들어서
온몸이 백지가 되는 황홀을 맛보고 싶다면
세상의 먼지를 깨끗하게 씻어
산속 샘물같이 맑아지고 싶다면
표백은 없었지만 시리게 깊은 흰빛
다 받아들이고 다 쏟아내는
첫 발자국에 영원이 밟히고
두 발자국에 과거와 내세가 하나의 길로 열리는
그런 선한 길로 접어들고 싶다면
무게도 냄새도 충돌도 없는
정신의 정신을 만나고 싶다면
훌쩍 백지 위로 뛰어내려 보세요

아무것도 없지만 뭐든 있는
그런 근원의 출발이 손을 이끄는
무작정 따라가도 마음 잡히는
청정한 마음이 기립해 서 있는
소신 밝아 늠름한
가도 가도 목이 마르지 않는 그런 길

(Originally published in Gwangju News, July 2012)

Shin Dal-ja (1943- ) was born in Geochang, Gyeongsangnam-do. She studied Korean literature at Sookmyung Women’s University. She taught creative writing at Pyongtaek University and Myungji College. Her poetry collections include Father’s Light, Passionate Love, The Long Talking Relationship, and Paper.  She also has written several collections of essays including The Poet’s Love, You Remember These Three Things, and At Forty,  I Learned the Baby-Steps of Life. Her literary awards include The Korea Literature Award, the Modern Buddhist Literature Award, and Youngrang Poetry Award.

Prologue by Shin Dal-ja

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Kang Jang-won

Prologue by Shin Dal-ja

Rumors are spreading.
Is paper disappearing?

I walk out to an empty field.
A desolate page comforts it after a harvest.
I open it carefully.
I walk out to a trail in a forest.
A small concert plays with the words of whispering leaves
and with the songs birds make with their beautiful sentences.
I go, and stand by a small pond in a beautiful yard of a Korean house
waiting for calligraphy many fish write with their bodies.

What replaces paper?

I hold it dear.
Paper is the spirit of humanity;
I worship paper as the pure spirit.
What would the poet write on it?

서시/ 신달자

입소문이 파다하다
종이가 사라진다고?

그래서 빈 들에 나갔지 추수 끝난 뒤에 헛헛한 들을 달래고 있는 적막 한 페이지
조심스레 펴 보았지
그래서 숲 속 작은 골목길로 나갔지 나뭇잎들이 수군거리는 말 새들이 단정히
문장 만들어 자작곡을 붙이는 작은 연주회
그래서 가 보았지 수려한 한옥 마당에 작은 연못 안의 물고기들 온몸으로 일필휘지하는
휘호 하나 기다리며 나 서 있으니

종이를 대신하는 것이 무엇인가

그리워라
종이는 사람의 정신
정한 신이라 우러르니
거기 무엇을 시인은 적을 것인가.

(Originally published in Gwangju News, July 2012)

Shin Dal-ja (1943- ) was born in Geochang, Gyeongsangnam-do. She studied Korean literature at Sookmyung Women’s University. She taught creative writing at Pyongtaek University and Myungji College. Her poetry collections include Father’s Light, Passionate Love, The Long Talking Relationship, and Paper.  She also has written several collections of essays including The Poet’s Love, You Remember These Three Things, and At Forty,  I Learned the Baby-Steps of Life. Her literary awards include The Korea Literature Award, the Modern Buddhist Literature Award, and Youngrang Poetry Award.

Analogue by Shin Dal-ja

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Analogue by Shin Dal-ja

A door of the latest brand
opens smoothly with a password.
Even this is not urbane enough.
The top of the line door that opens immediately,
saying yes, yes if only you put your fingerprints upon it gently.
Even this is not easy enough.
Now the door opens as if greeting an emperor
even when it detects the voice saying, “it’s me.”
That’s right.
It’s a matter of time before the door clanks open
the moment it smells the owner
standing in front of the door.

But I like the mundane things—
when you press the bell with a tired hand,
the door that rushes to you and greets you with a smile
and a human voice and human hands;
and, if I can’t have that,
the lovely twig gate of my maternal grandparents’ house
that stands only up to my knees, open day and night.

아날로그/신달자

비밀번호를 누르면 스르르 문이 열리는
최신식 문
그것도 촌스럽다며 지문만 슬쩍 대면 네 네 네 하며
자르르 열리는 최고급 문
그것도 번거롭다며 “나야” 목소리만 감지해도
이제는 제왕처럼 문이 열린다
그렇지 이제는 문 앞에 주인이 서면
냄새를 훅 하고 맡는 순간에 철커덕 문이 열리는
날이 바로 내일이지

그러나 나는 우둔한 것이 좋다
피로에 지친 손으로 벨을 누르면
얼른 달려와 미소로 열어 주는
사람의 목소리와 사람의 손으로 반기는 따뜻한 문
그것도 아니라면
아예 정강이 밑까지만 가린, 밤낮 열어 두는
외갓집 정 깊은 사립문이거나.

(Originally published in Gwangju News, July 2012)

Shin Dal-ja (1943- ) was born in Geochang, Gyeongsangnam-do. She studied Korean literature at Sookmyung Women’s University. She taught creative writing at Pyongtaek University and Myungji College. Her poetry collections include Father’s Light, Passionate Love, The Long Talking Relationship, and Paper.  She also has written several collections of essays including The Poet’s Love, You Remember These Three Things, and At Forty,  I Learned the Baby-Steps of Life. Her literary awards include The Korea Literature Award, the Modern Buddhist Literature Award, and Youngrang Poetry Award.

The Gourd Dipper by Shin Dal-ja

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

The Gourd Dipper by Shin Dal-ja

From a temple well deep in the mountain,
I drink water with a gourd dipper.
Living trees, waking stars.
As I drink water
which has flowed for thousands of years since antiquity,
I become awake.
So this is a gourd dipper.
They took down the round moon
floating above the thatched roof,
scooped out the inside like white rice,
and from it made a bowl of nature.
The beggars used it to ask for rice,
and, when it cracked apart,
my maternal grandmother sewed it up
to hold life again.
It looked poor but gentle.

바가지/ 신달자

산속 깊은 절간 우물에서
표주박으로 물 마신다
살아 있는 나무 깨어 있는 별
수천 년 흘러온 태곳적 흐르는
물 마시니
나 깨어난다
그래 이거 바가지다
초가지붕 위에 덩그렇게 뜬 둥근달을 내려
흰쌀밥 같은 속 파내고
그것으로 자연의 그릇을 만들어 사용했다
바가지로 거지들 밥 얻기도 하고
바가지 금 가면
외할머니 바늘로 꿰매어
다시 삶을 담았다
궁핍했으나 순해 보였다

(Originally published in Gwangju News, July 2012)

Shin Dal-ja (1943- ) was born in Geochang, Gyeongsangnam-do. She studied Korean literature at Sookmyung Women’s University. She taught creative writing at Pyongtaek University and Myungji College. Her poetry collections include Father’s Light, Passionate Love, The Long Talking Relationship, and Paper.  She also has written several collections of essays including The Poet’s Love, You Remember These Three Things, and At Forty,  I Learned the Baby-Steps of Life. Her literary awards include The Korea Literature Award, the Modern Buddhist Literature Award, and Youngrang Poetry Award.

Suncheon Bay by Shin Dal-ja

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Suncheon Bay, South Korea; photography by Jung Yun-seok

Suncheon Bay by Shin Dal-ja

Have your eyes become opaque?
Let’s go to Suncheon Bay.
Has any part in your body become calcified?
Let’s go to Suncheon Bay.
Does sticky black blood come out when you spit?
Let’s go to Suncheon Bay.
At Suncheon Bay, let’s ask what living is.
When you go out toward the wetlands by Ecology Hall,
you will meet hooded-crane families.
Let’s ask them why they live there.
When you meet swans, yellow-beaked spoonbills, and black headed seagulls,
let’s ask why they resist the temptation of the warm city to spend winter there.
Let’s ask the reeds who weather the cold, brushing off their dry bodies—
reeds who lean their dry bones into one another,
as though they want to share one another’s warmth,
and swallow up toxic phlegm.
Let’s strain our ears to that moist wetland
that constricts its body densely, stretching out its black limbs as much as it can,
stepping closer with palpitations of loud quiet, clean breath of life.

순천만/ 신달자

눈앞이 슬슬 흐려지는가
순천만 가자
몸 안 어느 곳이 석회처럼 굳어지는가
순천만 가자
침을 뱉으면 끈적끈적한 검은 피가 나오는가
순천만 가자
순천만 가서 우리 살아 있는 것이 무엇인지 물어보자
순천만의 자연 생태관을 거쳐 갯벌 쪽으로 나가면
흑두루미 가족을 만나 왜 거기 사느냐고 물어보자
큰고니며 노랑부리저어새며 검은머리갈매기를 만나
왜 따뜻한 도시의 유혹을 물리치고 거기에서 겨울을 나느지
마른 몸들끼리 부딪치며 추위를 이기는 갈대들
서로 온기 나누려느지 서로 마른 뼈를 기대고
밭은기침을 삼키는 갈대들에게 물어보자
검은 사지를 있는 대로 뻗으며 촘촘히 제 몸을 조이는
저 촉촉한 습지에 귀 기울여 보자
깨끗한 생명의 숨소리가 왁자하게 고요한
울렁거림으로 다가서서

Shin Dal-ja (1943- ) was born in Geochang, Gyeongsangnam-do. She studied Korean literature at Sookmyung Women’s University. She taught creative writing at Pyongtaek University and Myungji College. Her poetry collections include Father’s Light, Passionate Love, The Long Talking Relationship, and Paper.  She also has written several collections of essays including The Poet’s Love, You Remember These Three Things, and At Forty,  I Learned the Baby-Steps of Life. Her literary awards include The Korea Literature Award, the Modern Buddhist Literature Award, and Youngrang Poetry Award.