Monday, April 23, 2012

Yun Tongju

Yun Tongju (1918—1945) is the national poet of South Korea. He was born in northeast China to a Korean family, and attended university in Seoul and Kyoto. David R. McCann says, in The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry, “The Christian imagery and the idealism of his poetry are easy to perceive, even in translation; less so is the intense focus in his poems upon issues of his identity as a Korean.” McCann says that during the Japanese colonial period, calling Japan “an alien country”, as Yun Tongju did in “A Poem That Came Easily”, would have been considered “a subversive act.”

Yun Tongju was arrested in 1943 as a thought criminal and confined in Fukuoka Prison, where he died. His first collection of poetry — Sky, wind, stars and poetry — was not published in his lifetime for fear of Japanese censorship; it eventually was published in 1948.

The Cross

The sun was following me
but it is now caught on the cross
on top of the church.

How can I get up
that high on the steeple?

No sound comes from the bell:
I might as well whistle and hang around.

If I were permitted my own cross,
like the man who suffered,
the blessed Jesus Christ,

I would hang my head
and quietly bleed
blood that would blossom like a flower
under a darkening sky.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: