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About the Translator

Brother Anthony of Taizé Born in England, Brother Anthony received his PhD from Oxford University, joining the Taizé Community, a monastic order, in 1969. Later, he came to Korea and worked at Sogang University as an English professor. He became a naturalized citizen of South Korea in 1994. He has published thirty books containing his English translations of Korean poetry and fiction, including work by Ko Un, Seo Jeong-ju, and Ku Sang. He was recognized for his literary efforts in 2008, when he received the Okkwan Literary Medal.

Ynhui Park’s poems are not difficult; they are usually simple and suggestive, inviting the reader to share an experience of some moment, some scene, in which the underlying void seems to have yielded to value and meaning…. His poems very often re-enact a search for consolation and peace, faced with the meaninglessness and absurdity of human existence. Many Korean poems are in some sense poems about being Korean… but his poems are fascinating for their open universality. His anguish is that of the modern world’s consciousness of the cosmic void; his hope cannot be formulated, and yet it remains a hope for the victory of humanity over blind cruelty. His poetry is neither dark nor despairing; instead it is often humorous, light, and fanciful. Brother Anthony of Taizé, Translator Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Sogang University

www.seoulselection.com US$18.00 12,000 won 51500

This book was published with the support of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea).

9 781624

120275

ISBN 978-1-62412-027-5

ISBN 978-1-62412-027-5

About the Author

Ynhui Park Born in 1930, Ynhui Park graduated from Seoul National University with a bachelor’s degree in French literature and received a PhD in philosophy from the Sorbonne in Paris. After spending 30 years as a professor in France, Germany, Japan, and the United States doing research and teaching the next generation of scholars, he returned to Korea and continued to teach at Pohang University and Yonsei University. Renowned around the world for his philosophy and poetry, Park is highly regarded as an original Korean philosopher. He advocates three principles: intellectual transparency, emotional passion, and moral integrity. His writings, which draw upon his vast knowledge and wide experience, are adored by people of all ages. Park has published numerous books, including Roadmap to a Green Korea and The Journey Isn’t Over Yet.


Shadows of the Void Copyright Š 2014 by Ynhui Park All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. Published by Seoul Selection 6 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea Phone: 82-2-734-9567 Fax: 82-2-734-9562 Email: publisher@seoulselection.com Website: www.seoulselection.com Printed in the Republic of Korea ISBN: 978-1-62412-027-5 Library of Congress Control Number: 2014936638

This book was published with the support of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea).


Shadows of the Void

Poems by Ynhui Park Translated by Brother Anthony of TaizĂŠ


Contents Introduction

11

I. Snow on the Charles River (1979)

17

Church Buried in Snow Fields Deep in Snow Heart’s Hill On a Snowbound Road A Butterfly’s Dream Anti-Poem Between Languages Rondo Zazen Things Invisible Though I Follow and Follow Wounds

18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 28 30 31 32

II. Dream of a Butterfly (1981)

35

Skies Strewn Flying Soundlessly Away Shadow Empty Letterbox Nightmare

36 37 38 40 41


Escape Broken Fragments No Words Echo Rootless Fatigue Foreign Land Snowflake Words Fall Snow-soaked Wound Reflection in the Mirror Clams’ Laughter Sensations Song of Love Isolated Light Disrespectful Children Clear Bright Sky Nirvana Meaningless Meaning Hymn to a Pine One Christmas Eve

III. Shadows of Things Unseen (1987) Nameless Grave Shadows of Things Unseen Eyes and Ears Tombstone Fallen Leaves Why I Can’t Be Happy

43 44 46 48 49 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66

69 70 71 72 73 74 75


Silent Void One Sleepless Night Shadow Immense One Mount Auburn Cemetery Cologne Cathedral The Ruins of Rome Pilgrimage to Cemeteries Chartres Cathedral Glimpsed from a Train

IV. Echoes of the Void (1989) Stars’ Rumor Public Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts Gravestones The Pain of Writing Poetry Before Mother’s Grave Little Nightmare Too Frightening Conversation with a Puppy Destination Echo Bird and Gravestone There Hunting in Snow Principles of Nature New World Stars of Language One Life

76 77 78 79 81 83 84 86 88

91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108


Ethiopian Children The Stars’ Story A Foreign Land Poetic Words Squirrel, Seagulls, and I on a New England shore A Lonely House Dreaming Star Debris Writing Poems without Meaning The Order of the Stars

109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117

V. The Fury of Elephants Raised as Orphans (2010)

119

The Fury of Elephants Raised as Orphans That’s Nothing, Since it’s Nothing Life Things Everlasting Snowscape What Am I Really Hoping For? My Meditation My Wish

Epilogue

120 122 124 125 126 127 128 129

131


Introduction

Ynhui Park, Poet of the Meaningful Void

Born in Korea in 1930, Ynhui Park (Pak In-H i) completed M.A. studies at Seoul National University in the years following the Korean War, before going to study and teach abroad. He received a doctorate in French literature from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1964. He then went on to take a second doctorate, in philosophy, at the University of Southern California (USA) in 1970. From 1968, he taught in Simmons College, Boston, until his retirement in 1993. Then he returned to Korea and for several years taught philosophy at Pohang University of Science and Technology. From 2002 he taught philosophy as a Distinguished Professor in Yonsei University, Seoul. He publishes in English and French as Ynhui Park, that being his original given name, but his writings in Korean he publishes using the pen name Yeemun Park (Bak I-Mun). In 2012 he was the first recipient of the newly established Tanso Cultural Award for his life’s work in philosophy. One of Korea’s most highly esteemed philosophers, he has published widely, including books and papers on philosophical topics in both French and English, and even more in Korean. He has also published a number of volumes of poetry in Korean: the translated titles are Snow on the Charles River (1979), Dream of a Butterfly (1981), Shadows of Things Un-

Introduction 11


seen (1987), Echoes of the Void (1989), Morning Stroll (2006) and The Fury of Elephants Raised as Orphans (2010). Morning Stroll earned him the 2006 Incheon Award. In 1999 he published in Korea, using the name Yeemun Park, a volume of poems that he had written in English, Broken Words. This was translated into German and published as Verbrochene Wörter in 2004. Almost all the poems translated in this present volume were published in Korea as a volume of selected poems, Gongbaekui geurimja, (Shadows of the Void) in 2006. Ynhui Park is a unique figure among Korean intellectuals and poets, first of all, by reason of his multilingualism and his international career. First, he mastered French and devoted years to writing a dissertation for the Sorbonne about the great French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé. He then moved to the United States and wrote a second doctoral dissertation, this time on the French phenomenological philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Ynhui Park was encouraged in his decision to move to America by the great French poet Pierre Emmanuel and the immensely influential thinker Jacques Derrida, who wrote a very warm recommendation letter on his behalf. It is significant that he was invited to teach philosophy in the U.S. even before he had completed his doctorate. The phenomenological philosophy of Merleau-Ponty helps us to see why Ynhui Park writes as he does, for the discovery of meaning in human experience was his main interest, and he wrote about perception, art and politics. Ynhui Park’s poems are essentially echoes of his concern to find meaning within experience. With such guides, it is perhaps only natural that Ynhui Park

12

Shadows of the Void


should have become a poet as well as a thinker and philosopher. At the same time, his life in foreign lands meant that his poetry was not subject to the same influences and constraints as poets living in Korea underwent. Although he has always written poetry more freely in Korean, the topics and style of his work are strongly influenced by his North American lifeexperience and his deep familiarity with modern western philosophical and scientific questions. However, it is also important to stress that Ynhui Park was born in Korea in 1930, during the Japanese colonial period. He was an adolescent during the Pacific War (1941–45), and above all he was already twenty years old when the Korean War began. The Korean War brought a full share of death and horror, which deeply marked such a sensitive soul. One of his poems in Broken Words, “War Memories,” records time spent in a military hospital in Busan after being wounded, his heart full of hatred and bitterness. Before he left France, Ynhui Park wrote an extended personal essay, “N’écoutez pas la voix d’un cochon” (Do not listen to the voice of a pig) which was published in the Nouvelle Revue Française in 1967. The final section is translated at the end of this volume. In its anguish and intensity, it gives an indication of the fundamental direction of our poet’s later career, both as philosopher and as poet. “Why is there no answer? Why are the world and God silent before this question? Nobody knows anything, everyone repeats the same question: What is life? Does it have meaning or not? And everyone, despite their total ignorance, absolutely everyone continues to give birth to chil-

Introduction 13


dren who will repeat the same things.� The philosopher seeks to formulate the conditions necessary for truth and meaning to emerge. The poet seeks words with which to express an experience of glimpsed meaning. The human person is ever poised between the meaningless void and the meaningful moment. While his philosophical writings challenged erroneous certainties, poetry offered him a more positive form of expression. Ynhui Park’s poems are not difficult, they are usually simple and suggestive, inviting the reader to share an experience of some moment, some scene, in which the underlying void seems to have yielded to value and meaning. Like Merleau-Ponty, Ynhui Park emphasizes the body as the primary site of knowing the world, and maintains that the body and that which it perceives cannot be separated from each other. Even more than Merleau-Ponty, however, he refuses to posit an eternal, divine dimension which would somehow negate the essential Void. Ynhui Park is a poet inhabited by a compassion born of the suffering he witnessed and experienced in childhood and youth. His poems re-enact a search for consolation and peace, faced with the meaninglessness and absurdity of human existence. He is often found looking up at the stars, contemplating the vastnesses of cosmic space. Many Korean poems are in some sense poems about being Korean. Ynhui Park is completely Korean, writing in Korean even while living far from home, but his poems are fascinating for their open universality. His anguish is that of the modern world’s consciousness of the cosmic void; his hope cannot

14

Shadows of the Void


be formulated, and yet it remains a hope for the victory of humanity over blind cruelty. His poetry is neither dark nor despairing, instead it is often humorous, light and fanciful. It is thoughtful and it will, I hope, appeal to thoughtful readers. Ynhui Park is a very special person, deeply loved by many for his kindness and sincerity. These poems reveal much about his heart: Now I am white-haired, I live on, simply writing poems that even I do not understand.

Brother Anthony of TaizĂŠ (An Sonjae) Translator

Introduction 15


Snow on the Charles River (1979)


Church Buried in Snow

Everywhere fields woods villages deep in snow buried alone white space soaring erect dazzling golden church spire New England parkland declining sun like the Holy Mother’s face

18

Shadows of the Void


Fields Deep in Snow

Everything the snow touched was buried by it one vast sheet of white paper waiting for a poem What poem? Wind sun sea stars and all write poems with clouds not words

Snow on the Charles River 19


Heart’s Hill

My heart flutters in the breeze a tattered flag white hair covers my forehead Is my empty heart weeping this evening? A breeze passes like a cloud glides past as darkness before my backward-looking gaze one star shines bright

20

Shadows of the Void


On a Snowbound Road

The banks of the Charles River lie buried knee-deep in two days’ snowdrifts Strange winter is coming to an end again As I walk down the deserted snowy road to the rustle of countless snowflakes my footprints are instantly covered by snow My shoulders are warm under fast falling flakes trees follow the river banks my heart is drawn onward by the snowy road At every step faint faces from the past drift before my eyes hard questions come crowding in succession transient answers melt away like the snow On this white snowy road in pale twilight my heart blazes like a flame a white wisdom devoid of contours Night falls on a snowy road in a foreign land the snowflakes melt on my brow the white space grows yet more silent

Snow on the Charles River 21


About the Translator

Brother Anthony of Taizé Born in England, Brother Anthony received his PhD from Oxford University, joining the Taizé Community, a monastic order, in 1969. Later, he came to Korea and worked at Sogang University as an English professor. He became a naturalized citizen of South Korea in 1994. He has published thirty books containing his English translations of Korean poetry and fiction, including work by Ko Un, Seo Jeong-ju, and Ku Sang. He was recognized for his literary efforts in 2008, when he received the Okkwan Literary Medal.

Ynhui Park’s poems are not difficult; they are usually simple and suggestive, inviting the reader to share an experience of some moment, some scene, in which the underlying void seems to have yielded to value and meaning…. His poems very often re-enact a search for consolation and peace, faced with the meaninglessness and absurdity of human existence. Many Korean poems are in some sense poems about being Korean… but his poems are fascinating for their open universality. His anguish is that of the modern world’s consciousness of the cosmic void; his hope cannot be formulated, and yet it remains a hope for the victory of humanity over blind cruelty. His poetry is neither dark nor despairing; instead it is often humorous, light, and fanciful. Brother Anthony of Taizé, Translator Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Sogang University

www.seoulselection.com US$18.00 12,000 won 51500

This book was published with the support of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea).

9 781624

120275

ISBN 978-1-62412-027-5

ISBN 978-1-62412-027-5

About the Author

Ynhui Park Born in 1930, Ynhui Park graduated from Seoul National University with a bachelor’s degree in French literature and received a PhD in philosophy from the Sorbonne in Paris. After spending 30 years as a professor in France, Germany, Japan, and the United States doing research and teaching the next generation of scholars, he returned to Korea and continued to teach at Pohang University and Yonsei University. Renowned around the world for his philosophy and poetry, Park is highly regarded as an original Korean philosopher. He advocates three principles: intellectual transparency, emotional passion, and moral integrity. His writings, which draw upon his vast knowledge and wide experience, are adored by people of all ages. Park has published numerous books, including Roadmap to a Green Korea and The Journey Isn’t Over Yet.


Shadows of the Void