Rhythm

Kim Hye-sun
Translation by Don Mee Choi

 

There goes a woman carrying a teardrop.
Erasing, erasing the world
there goes one woman carrying a teardrop.
Erasing her own face
there goes one woman carrying a teardrop.

There goes a crippled woman.
She takes out a broken leg
from her broken leg.
There goes a woman, walking.

Tears, there’s a woman that you drag along.
The hot rhythm pulls up a woman.
There’s the faint world erased
by the passing rhythm.

Translated by Don Mee Choi

Kim Hye-sun’s (1955- ) poetry first appeared in the early 1980’s, during
a period of intensified political struggle. South Korea fell under a
dictatorship of General Chon after the assassination of President Pak in
1979, who also came into power by leading a military coup in 1961. As
many as 2000 civilians and students are known to have been killed during
the civilian uprising in 1980. During the 80’s, many prominent writers
were arrested, including Ko Un and Kim Chi-ha, but at the same time,
women’s poetry began to resurface. Distinctive voices of women poets
such as Kim Hye-sun emerged despite the fact that Korean poetry has
traditionally been a closed space accessible to men only. Korean women
began writing publically since the early 1920’s, but only the works by
women that are contemplative and beautiful gained approval and
recognition by the mainstream Korean literary establishment. Kim’s
poetry challenges the criteria of gentleness still expected of women
poets. Her work explores the identity of women in the context of
oppressive patriarchal culture, nation. Kim’s poetry occupies a
marginal, yet critical space in Korean poetry.

She writes criticism and teaches creative writing at Seoul Arts
University, S. Korea. March of2000, she received the Korean
Contemporary Poetry Award. She received the prestigious Sowol Poetry Award, year 2001.

Don Mee Choi was born in S. Korea and came to the U.S. as a student in
1981. She studied art at the California Institute of the Arts. Her
poems have appeared in The Asian Pacific American Journal, Hawaii
Pacific Review, disorient journalzine, and Gargoyle. She lives in
Seattle and translates poetry of several contemporary Korean women
poets. Her translations will appear this year in the fall issues of
Arts & Letters: Journal of Contemporary Culture and Luna.