• Book
  • English(English)

그 말이 잎을 물들였다

  • Author
  • Country
    Republic of Korea
  • Publisher
  • Published Year
  • Genre
    Literature - Korean literature - Contemporary poetry



    Title: The Words Stained the Leaves

    Author: Ra Heeduk

    Genre: Korean Poetry


    LTI Korea staff: Alex Baek ( / +82-2-6919-7741)


  • About the book

    Depicting the meaning of life with particular attention given to those existences that inhabit the periphery, this collection, Ra Heeduk’s second work, has recived the most love among her publications over the past thirty years since her debut. The compilation of 59 poems, which capture the cross-sections of life with a sharp sensibility and gental scrutiny, leaves a lasting impression in the reader’s mind, making it clear that life, seemingly tightly-woven, in fact has many rifts and blind spots.


    The flowers we bloomed in a fever/hurt hurt hurt from last night’s cold rain/But I worry that it’s hard for you/so I can’t hurt too/Nor can the rain drops slipping/down the railing all night/drip one last drop/and are suspended in midair/In order to fall in order to shrink away/are those suspended things of mine/by the weight of their tearfulness/so dazzling?/Is this torturing hunch/the same as the sweet scent/the withering flowers emit?/But I worry that it’s hard for you/so to my heart’s content I can’t be fragrant either


    At the top of the poem the day after the rain is depicted and, in the falling of the cold rain, the poet’s feelings, as if palpable in the hand, are made clear. As the blossoms that were beaten by the previous night’s cold rain speak their pain, the poet also feels tempted to voice her’s. If the poet confesses her hurt without reserve, then her pain will disappear too. However, because she is worried it will be hard for the “you,” the poet is bound from saying “I hurt.” However, arriving at the end of the poem where such restraint is demonstrated, the pain is transformed to “fragrance.” Inside of the body of the poet who cannot hurt, this fragrance ripens and it’s scent grows. If at the verge of falling away, in the moment of living just before wilting, the weight of a life endures, then the weight of that tearfulness, held inside the gleam of the heart, overtime transforms into the persistant scent of fermentation. Additionally, even as the fragrance overflows in such a way, the state of not being able to be fragrant to the heart’s content marks the poem’s peak of beauty.


    The poet Kim Kitaek employed the word “robust” to describe such a poetic attitude. In citing the phrase from Ra Heeduk’s debut work, To the Roots, “I am just pale soil freshly ground,” Kim states that her poems are born from “just pale soil freshly ground. To the extent that the young plant sprouts from a seed, to the extent that that plant can proudly grow, the body that is stiff is gently broken and the body that is barren is mixed with manure and the earth is made fertile. When winter melts away, from the shimmering heat that the earth emits, the ground is made moist and warm.” He goes on to say that because of their abundance, pleasure, placidity, wholeness and the beauty of the “robustness” that Ra possesses, in other words because they hold a wealth of feeling, the richness of her poems flows outward toward those living life weakly in the periphery and provides nourishment, and any wounds without exception are healed. In this world in which the majority of poems originate not from a state of “robustness” but from a state of “ailment,” Ra’s robustness, kneaded in poems of intense introspection and self-examination, warmly embrace and wounds or pain, providing the most profoundly moving impression.

    About the author

    The poet Ra Heeduk was born in Nonsan city in Chungnam Province, South Korea in 1966. She graduated from Yonsei University where she went on to complete graduate coursework in the field of Korean Literature. In 1989 her poem, “To the Roots,” was selected for award by Joogang Daily for their annual spring literary contest and her career as a writer began. Her collections of poetry include To The Roots, The Words that Stained the Leaves, Not Far From There, Darkening Thing, The Disappearing Palm, Wild Apple, and When the Horses Returned. Outside of those, she’s published two works of literary criticism, Where Does the Purple Go? and A Plate of Poetry, the poetry anthology To Her, the essay collections Half a Bucket of Water, Remember Those Lights, and I  Will  Walk There by Taking One Step, along with the illustrated picture books The Patchwork Quilt, Everyone Falls Asleep, and more. She balances her prolific producion of writing by currently holding office as a professor in Chosun University’s Creative Writing Department.


    In 2006, the collections Darkening Thing and The Disappearing Palm, were published in the United States under the translated titles, What is Darkening and Scale and Stairs. In 2015, her collection Wild Apple was translated into English and Spanish and published in the United States and Costa Rica. Her collaboration, Poetry and Creation, written with the poet Lee Moonjae, was translated into Japanese, and her poems are included in the leading English language anthologies of Korean poetry, The Colors of Dawn: Twentieth-Century Korean Poetry and A GALAXY OF WHALE POEMS. Ra’s poetry is representative of a warm and modest esthetic. Even while examining life’s intrinsic darkness, her poems capture the many layers of feeling within and, in seeking the depths of life’s meaning, percieve the imagery of regeneration in the midsts of life’s finiteness and quiet sorrow.

    About the translators

    Lauren Albin is an English language poet and translator of Korean poetry. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry and literary translation from Arizona State University in 2016. Her poetry and translations have appeared in The Nashville Review, The Southeast Review, and Bitter Oleander, among others. Her co-translation of Kim Hyesoon’s collection, A Cup of Red Mirror, is forthcoming from Action Books in winter of 2018. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia where she teaches English Composition and Creative Writing at Agnes Scott College and Georgia Gwinnett College.

    Media Response/Awards Received

    The 17th Annual Kim Sooyoung Memorial Prize, 1998

    The 12th Annual Kim Daljin Literary Award, 2001

    This Year’s Young Artist in Literature Award, 2001

    The 48th Annual Modern Literary Award, 2003

    The 17th Annual Yi San Literary Prize, 2005

    The 22nd Annual Sowol Literary Award, 2007

    The 10th Annual Ji Hoonsang Prize in Literature, 2010

    The 6th Annual Imhwa Literature Award for the Arts, 2014

    The 14th Annual, Midang Literary Award, 2014


    From her debut to her most recent work Ra’s published a high standard of poetry and has continued to receive literary awards of the highest authority in Korea. In 2007 the panel of judges for the Sowol Literary Award said, “The work of poet Ra Heeduk stands out for its sketch-like descriptions of the harmonious world of humans and nature and its ecological interpretations” in disclosing their reason for selecting Ra’s work, while in 2014 the panel of judges for the Imhwa Literature Award for the Arts in estimation of her essay collection, When the Horses Returned, stated, “The linguistic texture of Ra Heeduk’s poetry speculates on death and ‘that beyond’  while developing a clear and robust process of moving past despair and injury in a quietly determined voice.”

Translated Books (10)

News from Abroad (7)