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    Title: Whisper of Splendor Rights Sold

    Author: Jeong Hyon-Jong

    Genre: Korean Poetry

     

    LTI Korea staff: Alex Baek (alex_b@klti.or.kr / +82-2-6919-7733)

     

    The copyright of this title has been sold. (Translation and publication supported by LTI Korea)

Description

  • About the book

     

    Jeong Hyon-Jong is the author of Whisper of Splendor, his ninth collection of 60 poems that appeared in various literary magazines from 2003 to 2008, and the reader recognizes in it the familiar, captivating voice, sometimes singing his own will and passion for finding the root of life itself, or his highest admirations, sometimes even playing up his arch humor. Thoroughly unaffected and fond of the soul’s bareness, always in deference to Nature and life—enraptured by them, singing them in blithe measure—he has brought on to modern Korean poetry an umbrage and forged a magnetic field; poetry writing over the span of five decades, considerable as it seems in its own light, has resulted in this great` achievement. Far above the anxious praises and accolades by hordes of critics and readers alike, Jeong’s reputation by and large rests upon the masterful way he continues to employ immensely powerful poetic diction, and innovative aberration from norms, as witnessed in his latest work.

     

    It is noteworthy how in this book, once more, the persona speaks and gesticulates with the intention first to eliminate the cobweb of formulas within the sphere of consciousness, then to take things as they are, and as they move about and act. The poet now elects not to interpret things from outside, longing for the union of poetry and things. As the literary critic Park Hye-Kyung pointed that Jeong “empties himself out in order to take in the hidden meaning of things that send silent messages by their waves or breaths,” his poetry abandons the authority to fix things in their formulated interpretations, and instead,  chooses to be an innocent team-player and then join them. Hence the frequent recurrence of words such as “undulation, waves, daylight, infinity, cerulean light, brimming, windy, springs,” and so on, throughout the book.

     

    Accompanying his quest for a way to transcend, through the vital relationship between self and things, between the weight of existence and the pain of living, is perhaps a longing to be a soul that wheels freely through the vast sky. Embodied in the Whisper of Splendor is this longing. “The poems I write hereafter/ will not be in a book/ all of them/ I’ll fling to the wind/ or somehow totally let go/I sure will” hardly conceals his wish to be relieved of the weight of poetry even, then he goes on to exclaim, “Oh what a relief.”  This expresses his adamantine belief that poetry can be one with the universe—all things therein—only when it departs from linguistic structure and poetic restraints. Thereupon he affirms “the birth of life” as the egg of the earth cracks it open and emerges, and “the first light” causing the sensation of time, and “the light for which nothing’s impervious” surges on. And concurrently comes to a self-doubt on poetry writing, “it may well be that I no longer think / it’ll be lost unless put down.” (From “Poetry Came Surging and Surging”). These are the verses produced by the poet who is ever so steeped in poetic contemplation, and whose entire day-by-day life itself distills into poetry.  So he bursts into singing of the enrapture and happiness at the moment one, who’s been cooped in a closed space, ventures out into an open space to blend with Nature and thus have his life voice and gestures restored. “When one walks out of his room into the wood, how happy / to hear the birds singing and wheeling on their wing! / Breathing the same air they breathe / you are thoroughly one with them, / sharing the same ground with them / your motions join theirs: / all things in one wave / shaping an infinite exterior”. (“Infinite Exterior”).

     

    In this book, nonetheless, there is despair swallowing up Jeong’s enrapture and happiness. He well knows the axiomatic truth that the birds singing, branches moving, fishes swimming, crimson ivy runners, the quiet in the wood, and other things, so vividly portrayed throughout the book, take on marvelous poetic splendor only in their natural state; that the glory, however, fades off by degrees as soon as they are represented by the medium of language. “The splendor / of the movement of Time / as the day draws to an end / in the gloaming; /nothing wanting / so are solitude or seeds / one separate universe each, / (which is  splendor of all splendors), / could poetry, I wonder, / join in that movement. // [….] The sky’s windy edge still suffused / with all the past breaths, / could poetry breathe somewhere there. / (O splendor of breaths and winds)”. (From  “Whisper of Splendor”). Jeong Hyon-Jong inevitably schools us: grounded that poetry reveals the presence of splendor by singing such despair, a poet is someone who dreams of complete freedom from that despair, who is destined to write poems just because he cannot ignore the whisper of splendor omnipresent in the universe. “One’s desire to write poetry / by itself/ is enough to kill it, / says Henri Michaux! // O poetry you don’t even starve to death.” (“Poetry-Killing Poetry”).

     

    To sum it up, we can rightly conclude that Whisper of Splendor is the culminating body of “poems that portray the dream of daylight incessantly undulating.” As liberating as can be, and bounding for the heaving rhythm of nothingness, which is infinity beyond human consciousness constantly straining after something, Jeong’Hyon-Jong’s poems thereby tend to be easygoing and terse in form; but, as he consistently maintains, their depths and  beauty can be fully regaled when read aloud. 

     

    About the author

     

    Jeong Hyon-Jong was born in Seoul in 1939, but at three moved with the family to Shindo, Kyong-gi Province where he spent his adolescence. Entered Yonsei University in 1959 to major in philosophy, and, on May 1964, was initially commended to “Hyundae Munhak” by Prof. Park Du-Jin in Korean Lit. Dept., who acknowledged his talent made manifest in the two poems, “Harmony” and “To a Corpse,” published in “Yonsei Chronicle.” Soon after graduating from the University in 1965, made his debut with “Solo Dance” in March, then “Songs of Summer and Winter” in August, thus completing the entire course of three commendations, as was the convention then. Launched in 1966 a coterie magazine called “Four Seasons,” with Whang Dong-Gyu, Park Yee-Do, Kim Wha-Young, Kim Ju-Yon, Kim Hyon and others as members. Worked for the Seoul Daily as cultural desk reporter from 1970-73, then for the Central Daily assisting in monthly publications from 1975-77. Left the Central Daily and joined the faculty of Creative Writing Dept. at the Seoul College of Art to teach Poetry. Transferred to and served Korean Language Dept. at Yonsei University in 1982 until retirement in 2005. 

     

    Oeuvre  :  Dreams of Things (Minum Press, 1972) book of poetry

                     Call Me Mr. Star (Moonji Press, 1978) ditto

                     Like a Ball Bouncing upon Falling (Moonji Press, 1984i) ditto

                     Not Enough Time to Love (World Press, 1989) ditto

                     A Flower (Moonji Press, 1992) ditto

                     All the Trees in the World (Moonji Press, 1995) ditto

                     Both Thirst And Fountain (Moonji Press, 1999) ditto

                     Can’t Bear It (Poems and Poetics Press, 2003; Moonji Press, 

                     2012) ditto, awarded by the first Midang Literature Prize

                      Festival of Pains (Minum Press, 1974) selective poems

                     There’s an Island between People (Mirae Press, 1991) ditto

                     Dew (Moonji Press, 1996) ditto

                     Selected Poems by Jeong Hyon-Jong, I&II (Moonji Press, 1999)

                     Breaths and Dreams (Moonji, 1982) essays on poetry

     

    He also translated into Korean several poetry books by well-known foreign writers.

     

    A member of the Korean Institute of Arts and Letters since 2012, Jeong Hyon-Jong continues to compose poems with the same undiminished, characteristic fervor as when he began five decades before. It is he that “innovated the age-old, convention-bound Korean lyric poetry” to give fresh breath and body to it; this places him among the old masters whose accomplishments are truly “momentous for the sake of the country’s modern poetry.”     

     

    About the translators

     

    Cho Young-Shil, a retired English teacher, now works as a poet and translator. She has received several grants from the Korea Literature Translation Institute for the English translation of poetry books and young adult novels by prominent contemporary Korean authors. Her translation of One Day, Then Another, a poetry book by Kim Kwang-Kyu, was published by White Pine Press in 2013; her translation of A Warm Family, a poetry book by Kim Hu-Ran, by Codhill Press in 2014. Korean Folk Tales for Children, translated by her, is currently in print by Changbi Press in Seoul, Korea. Poems for young adults written by Cho have appeared in various literary magazines in Korea since her debut in 2007. The books she authored include Flower Going to Seeds—poems written to her mother’s memory, and, Jesus in the Manger—poems, essays, and translated works.

     

    Media Response/Awards Received

     

    The Korean Writer’s Prize, the Yonam Munhak Prize, the Yeesan Munhak Prize, the Hyundae Munhak Prize, the Daesan Munhak Prize, the Midang Munhak Prize, the Kyungahm Academy Prize (in the area of Arts), etc.

     

    Whisper of Splendor frequently takes the pass through which the author’s creative skill is concealed under the array of plain words.                  

    –The World Daily

     

    Whisper of Splendor is filled with poems with ample dose of highly condensed antidepressant that spurts endorphin endlessly in your body.      

    - Chosun Daily

     

    The poet cogitates that the aesthetic senses as well as the poetic mind inhere in the proclivity for having empathy with every living thing in Nature, to full unity. Conjoined thereby, the two create fluid waves and tides, which constitute these poems.                                                                          

    - Hangyorae

     

    Keeping to himself away from the order of the world, yet seeing through it cool-headedly— this is the eye we perceive in the Whisper of Splendor.

    - Central Daily

     

    This book, devoid of weighty metaphor, is still thoroughly simple and honest. Nevertheless, the author has penned lines charged with sharp resistance against reality, without freezing, by ideality, life’s elasticity.                   

    - Gookmin Daily

     

    Vital sparks irradiating in much lighter poetic cadence this time.       

    - Seoul News

     

    The poet, who is unconstrained by the internal or the external, self or others, things or poetry, conjures up a world immeasurable and beyond the border.    

    - Yeonhap News

     

    Jeong Hyon-Jong’s poetry teems with breaths and dreams of things, and of life. Each line evinces an appetency for total union with things, along with the concomitant sharp resistence against the inhibitive reality. His poems, therefore, do not freeze the elasticity of things and life into abstract statements but manifests it by means of buoyant poetic language, instead. This language has vibrant energy to restore the dreams of things, as broken as they are in modern world, and holds the power to buoy up human pains and despair, thereby enabling us to live a pure life. His erotic imagination attains cosmic rapture as man, objects, and life lay themselves bare for each other.

    - Lee Kwang-Ho (literary critic)

     

Translated Books (14)

News from Abroad (5)