Sunday, February 26, 2017

MOON TAE-JUN ( TAEJUN ) - POEMS translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid and Darcy Brandel

Moon Taejun (born 1970) is a South Korean poet.

Moon Taejun is a relatively new face on the South Korean literary scene. He has published  has published four collections of poetry:Chattering Backyard (2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself.

Moon's poems employ a comforting language to soothe the wounds of the soul. His poems seek to assuage the pains of those suffering from the violence and oppression of a heartless society. He values "conversation" highly, emphasizing full empathy between two existences, such as when he says, "That over there, is in me here; and I here, am in that over there. Let me respect that which is not me, and therefore those things that are me." The poet aspires to a state in which the subject and object are not distinct form one another, but fused together. In this respect, Moon carries on the traditional lyrical tradition.

Newly emerging poets too often look askance at the old lyricism, seeking instead new language suited to the tastes of the present age; but the result is often an idiosyncratic poetry that is difficult for the reader to understand. Moon’s poetry tacitly challenges this trend, and embodies hope for easy communication with the world through language steeped in lyricism. His poetry employs familiar subjects from the natural world such as flowers, trees, falling leaves and paths, and people from everyday life such as wife, child, and sufferer. But in the familiarity emerges the unique individuality of the poet, bringing to our awareness the fact that the familiar is not “old.” His work has been translated in The Growth of a Shadow detail, and the The American Reader.


    Dongseo Literary Prize (2004)
    Nojak Literary Prize (2004)
    Midang Literary Prize (2006)
    Yushim Literary Prize (2006)
    So-Wol Poetry Prize (2006)


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

A clam at the fish store pushes a bare foot outside its mud hut
sticking out its bare foot
the way the dead Buddha reaches out for the disciple who cries sorrowfully
Immersed long in flatland and water the foot has wrinkled up
When I touch its bare foot with reverence the clam
slowly withdraws as if having the first thought, as if having the longest thought
At that speed even time, even road might have flown
Anyone might have gone out or, separated, might have come back slowly like that
Always barefoot I guess
As the bird having lost its love endures the night with beak buried into chest
so might the clam have endured sorrow with foot buried into chest
When the house cried for food
he might have gone out to beg barefoot, blistered
After all day in the street
perhaps he returned to the hut reeking with poverty
the house content, full of food
its crying stopped, quiet as darkness


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

I gaze at a pair of shoes in the darkening yard.
They resemble the fiddle head that Sister once dried
all day in the shade of the backyard.
The yard of weathered neck!
A powder case a woman used up
is the pair of shoes worn out
from carrying her body for a long time.
Ah, even at the end of the road
there is no transcending suffering.


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

In the temple yard peonies bloom luxuriously
Who opens the flowers’ doors?

With a silent word, the flowers open their petals

The moment I attempt to say,
“opening petals swept by rain all morning,” my tongue is cut off by

the rain


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Oh, my lover
who had pure eyes;
oh, the silver scales
that occupied your eyes.
Tonight snow falls.
Oh, my poor lover
who wrapped my neck
with a white towel and washed my face,
a sacred quiet descends
upon the lonely planet.
I close my eyes
to remember the time
your hands washed my face.


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

Woken up at dawn
the thought of Mother who is ill
cuts me

As a child
when a speck blew into my eye,
Mother cleaned her mouth with cold water
and licked
my eyeball
my soul
with the softest flesh
with her tongue

And when I dozed on and off
while tending  the burning fire hole
in her eyes
fire flashed with worry
from the hole to the chimney

Celebrating the seventh day of the seventh month
she prayed tenderly with both hands
becoming a stone Buddha
The stone Buddha now sits
as her eyeballs

In what life
not inheriting the life from her
could I become an indifferent
fine-tooth comb for her hair?

In what life
could my tongue
wash out
her stone eyeball?

Slowly stretching out my neck to her
I cried and cried
The wet morning


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

To think is to sit down on an empty chair
To sit down in an empty space the flowers left

To long is to sit down on an empty chair
To still leave it empty after sitting like red petals


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

Stepping in the mountain shadow on the rice paddy
the old ibis
standing still
A deep thought lingers on the old ibis’s body and passes
Like I once stared at an empty pond vacantly
Is this how loneliness lingers?
It was the evening when the mountain shadow fully wetted her ankles


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

The yard is quiet
while the flower blooms.

The day is like a sunny floor.

The naked sky
enters the flower
for an entire day.
The flower’s lips become wet.

The sky has laid
fragrant eggs inside it.

If only meeting the person I miss is like that.


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

Even in my insensitivity I come to think of you sometimes
Sorrow moves like a mountain shadow across your eyes

A bird cries like an echo in a glazed pot but the river, a bigger pot, contains her

In the distance between you and me
between the darkness of this place and that of the village beyond
the river like a big round wheel flows

A cow cries at the village across the river
I cannot help the cow whose cries dampen the cold river with drizzle
Perhaps she just lost her baby or her love
I cannot help the cow who cries till her voice gets hoarse
I cannot forget the crying cow’s white round eyes

Even in my insensitivity I come to think of you sometimes


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

I planted young radishes
but being lazy I missed the roots and stems emerging
I barely caught the flowers
white radish flowers were everywhere in the space
Did you plant the flower garden in the vegetable garden?
neighbors asked and I hesitated to answer
After this conversation, one butterfly
and another butterfly along with the first
a flock of butterflies like white radish flowers
landed on white radish flowers
setting down their fragile feet
briefly for three or five seconds or
perhaps an even longer time to them
folding their wings, calming the wind
sitting comfortably
they seemed to sleep a light sleep
This place I gave away so they could set their feet
this knee I gave away so they could sleep a light sleep
I did not have such a place while living
Though my radish garden is a flower garden
at last, I lost even the flowers to the butterflies


Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

The space between flowers blooming and falling
We might call it a breath
The tree’s cry makes flowers bloom
With another cry flowers fall
The space between blooming and falling
We might call it a breath
Even trees have lungs spread like flatlands
One breath and an ebb tide flows in and out
One breath and trees shake once in the wind
Father completes one sixty-year cycle, a life like the measles
We might call it a breath