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Meet the Poets: Choi Seungho and Choi Jeongrye


Choi Seungho


Born in 1954 in South Korea, Choi Seungo has written more than ten books of poetry which have been very well received; Choi has received numerous awards including the Today’s Writer Award in 1982, the Kim Soo-young Literature Prize in 1985, the Isan Literature Prize in 1990, the 2000 Daesan Literature Prize in 2000, and the Midang Literature Prize in 2003.


Although Choi was born in a small rural village and spent many years in the countryside as an elementary school teacher, the focus of his poems is centered on the urban landscape and the life in an industrialized and urbanized society. With a tone of intellect and sophistication, Choi’s poems unreservedly delve into the secular world and expose the vulgarization and loss of human dignity in the modern world. Choi often uses offensive imageries of “waste,” yet his tone is never vulgar but remains thoughtful and meditative, while displaying a metaphysical awareness that can be likened to that of a Buddhist monk.


Buddhist and Taoist ideas have been influential in the formation of Choi’s poetic sensibility. Choi, as an aspiring poet, has employed the method of intense contemplation so as to concentrate with clarity on a chosen topic. Although Choi has approached poetry with fervor and devotion of a religious disciple, his poems are not overtly religious. By identifying his act of writing poetry as a process reaching for the truth, Choi has previously stated that he seeks to merge “the way of poetry” and “the way of the truth.” His endeavor resonates within his works, rendering his poems on urban vulgarity and secular desires to evolve into a philosophical exploration of the profound question: the origin of all creations. 


Choi Jeongrye


Choi Jeongrye was born in Hwaseong, a city near Seoul, in 1955. She studied Korean poetry at Korea University, from which she later received her PhD. She published six poetry and 2 essay books and has received a range of literary awards, including the prestigious Modern Literature Award.


Choi participated in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 2006, and was a visiting writer at the University of California, Berkeley in 2009. English-language translations of her poems were published in Free Verse, The Iowa Review, Text, and World Literature Today, and her poems appear widely in Japanese and Korean literary journals. Published by Parlor Press in 2011, Choi’s English-language collection of selected poems, Instances (which she co-translated with Wayne de Fremery and Brenda Hillman) was well reviewed by a number of literary magazines including the Iowa Review in the United States. She currently teaches at her alma mater, Korea University.


Considered to be one of Korea’s most exacting and innovative poets, Choi writes poems that uncover the startling and strange qualities of the everyday experiences. Readers of Choi’s poetry gain a rare opportunity to follow the stream of thoughts of Choi’s speakers who are, quite like the readers, rooted in the present, but are simultaneously outside it. While employing a highly-suggestive, allusive and delicate tone, Choi’s poems display a strong intensity in addressing profound challenges of human experience, later to encourage readers to question the arrangements of their everyday experiences which are mostly and readily taken for granted. 


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