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    Title: Delights of Life

    Author: Hwang Tong-gyu

    Genre: poetry

     

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

Description

  • About the book

     

    This is the author’s fifteenth poetry book; he has been writing poetry for over fifty years since his debut in 1958 at the age of twenty years old. To understand an author’s works, it is natural to go back to his past works to see continuity and distinction between works. However, this process seems to be challenging, with hundreds of poems in his fifteen books of poetry. Besides, the title of this book is Delights of Life: readers of this book will empathize with the everyday delights of living reflected in the eyes of the elderly poet, whose edged attitude about world affairs has become blunted and whose anger has been appeased. The poetic tones in this book are quite different from his memorable “A Letter of Delight” or “A Small Love Song.”

     

    He asks himself after he retired from teaching, “What should I do from now on? What on earth is living?” (“What Should I Do?”). Since his retirement, his life is full of trivial routines like reading, walking and simple travels with his friends. However, the time given to the poet in his old age makes it possible for him to discover the mysteries hidden in life. One day he imagines an Indian ink blanket, watching a shadow-pattern of orchids on the living room floor when he opens the door to the sunroom to warm the plants there on a freezing winter day. He is fascinated by the pattern he notices for the first time in twenty years of living in the apartment. He goes “into” the blanket, lies down, and whispers “warm regardless of the feeling” (“India Ink Blanket”). He feels these trivial but warm senses also in the moments that make his heart leap; new daily experiences like the little sounds of birds he hears during his walk, or snowflakes in the hair of a woman who almost falls in front of him at a highway rest area.

     

    While we read his poems, we share his feelings, and are touched by his imaginative and dramatic expressions. We lie with him on the India ink painting, are surprised with him by poetic lines dancing on the computer screen, reminding him of the area of Hongik University crowded with young people on a Friday night. This empathy comes from the daily lives we all live. The poet is excited with common delights, the simple and pure scenes created by time, and he discovers radiances of life in a world which has become dull and quiet, covered with piles of layered hours.


    Walking into the deep fog
    is good since nothing is walking in front of me.
    When I take steps
    no thoughts or crumbs of thoughts are stepped on.
    . . .
    I will shoulder it a little further even though I’m almost done with it.
    (“The End of Fog”)

     

    Even after his retirement, the poet continues reading voraciously, drinking with friends, taking walks, and traveling, but he seeks to empty his mind of feelings and images from the world. He feels sadness from his aging body. When he sees green buds come up from boughs of a sagging old pine tree covered with yellow withered leaves. “To keep living, do you have to do this much?” Then the tree responds, whispering. “I don’t do that to keep living. / With a sick body lying in bed, I’m just trying to look out at the world where I am living, slightly through openings.” (“I Don’t Do That to Keep Living”). Green leaves in a dying tree buds show the greatness of life, suggesting the flavors of pain come from life, and life keeps fulfilling its role despite age and poor health.

     

    The author’s personal philosophy, which he has described as a blend of Zen Buddhism, Christianity and Nietzsche, allows his poems to reflect the “Delights of Life” during feelings of loss and aging. “The delights of life are trivial and itch like bug bites / I’ve tried and tried to get out but can’t” (“Delights of Life”).

     

    About the author

     

    The poet TongGyu Hwang has swept the major South Korean literary awards, including the Contemporary Literature Award, Yisan Literature Award, Daesan Literary Award, and Midang Literary Award. His poems have been printed in textbooks and have also provided inspiration for movies, establishing him as a well-known poet in Korea, beloved by whole generations of readers.

     

    His poetry book, I Want to Roll a Wheel When I See One, is ranked by Moonji Publishing as the top book of their Poetry Selections. His early poems such as “A Letter of Delight” and “A Small Love Song” are regarded as representative Korean poems, remembered and loved by different genders and ages.

     

    “There’s no person who is exactly the same as someone else, each person is new and different. Creativity gives meaning to these differences,” he says. Believing that, he writes poetry, and loves people and the world, without losing his curiosity. Hwang has published a poetry book about every three year, even in his later years, and stands out as a symbol within the circles of Korean poetry.

     

    He makes efforts to spread Korean poetry by attending prestigious international poetry meetings for poets. His poems have been translated into English, German, and Spanish. He is the de facto representative poet in South Korea.

     

    About the translators

     

    South Korea. Ji graduated from Keimyung University and is a freelance translator specializing in contemporary Korean poetry. Parker was a journalist for 13 years, has an M.A. in English Literature from Murray (Ky.) State University, and taught at universities in the USA from 1993-2001. He has been teaching at Keimyung University since 2001 and is currently an assistant professor for the English Language & Literature department. HeeDuk Ra’s The Wild Apple (White Pine Press, 2015) is their first poetry publication. White Pine Press will publish two more of their translated books, Someone Always in the Corner of My Eye by BoSeon Shim (2016) and We, Day by Day by EunYoung Jin (2017).

     

    Media Response/Awards Received

     

    When Delights of Life was published in South Korea, several newspaper companies, broadcasting companies, and portal sites introduced the book, and asked for interviews. He says he’ll stop writing poetry when his poems lose energy, and makes efforts to keep his poems “young” with great tension and insight. That way, he dreams of communicating with young people about “life.” At the same time, he writes poetry to live a true life, with his broad-minded perspective of being free from death. He earns empathy from younger readers and his own generation, speaking for his poetry by saying, “ As we admit our limitations, both life and beauty deepen.”

     

    “Romantic sentiment and intelligent moderation coexist.”

    -Hankook Ilbo

     

    “Great tension, intelligent insight . . . TongGyu Hwang’s poetry doesn’t get old.”

    -Munhwa Ilbo

     

    “A green emerald found in the old age . . .”

    -Kukmin Ilbo

     

    “It is interesting that TongGyu Hwang’s poems of his later years actually face toward delights of life, beyond the philosophically transcendental view about life and death.”

    -Hankyoreh Shinmun

     

    “This is the book written in front of a doorway, a realization that the time that has passed is much more than the time left to him. There is still some time left until he opens the door to leave, but for the time being he will reach for the long years already passed and the short time approaching in the shadow of the door.”

    -Yonhap News

     

Translated Books (14)

News from Abroad (2)