Monday, February 5, 2018

Ku Sang

Ku Sang (1919—2004) is a highly respected Korean poet. Although he was born in Seoul, he grew up in what is now North Korea. Shortly after WWII, when opposition to his poetry arose from the Communist authorities, he escaped to the south. His book Wastelands of Fire (1956), concerning the suffering caused by the Korean War, established his reputation.

He was a lecturer at Chung-Ang University in Seoul. His work has been translated into English, French, German, Swedish, and Italian. His style is direct, rarely using abstract symbolism. His poems are grounded in his Christian faith.

The following poem is from Wastelands of Fire; the English translation (1989, Forest Books) is by Brother Anthony.

In a Winter Orchard

In the orchard white with snow
like sprinkled salt,
a plum tree raises thick black branches
in a victory sign,
outlined with flowers in full bloom,
like an Easter garland.

"Behold, whoever puts his life in me,
even though he dies, will never die;
do not be doubtful
of invisible realities."

Playfully, a single magpie
hops from branch to branch.

Beside a hole gaping
like a cavity in a lung,
stiff as a corpse
an apple tree lies, a full arm's girth.

A man comes by, dark as shade,
with a frame bound upon his back;
he lops the dead branches with an axe,
splits the trunk, and bears it all away.

"Behold, a figure of the dead
who will tomorrow be cast
into perdition's flames;
beware, then, lest the roots of your existence
become infected!"

A crow flies cawing
across the frozen sky.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.