Translations by Chae-Pyong Song

Chae-Pyong Song, who brought The Language of Blood to Korea as both the translator and the connection to the publishing house, is now translating Korean poetry into English along with Anne Rashid and Melanie Steyn. They have done a whole series on the Gwangju Uprising, which you can read on the Korean Poetry in Translation blog.

Here is one poem in particular that grabbed me:

Park Geun-hye burns incense for victims of the Gwangju Massacre (for which Chun Doo-hwan was responsible) in July.

I Reject Your Eulogies and Condolences

by Im Dong-hwak

I reject your eulogies and condolences.
Though I did urinate, hiding in an attic closed on every side,
though I did hide myself, escaping from the city and martial law,
though I still feared random questionings and the sound of whistles late at night.

It was a time of animals or only those who roamed then understood.
Till the outrageous conditions of freedom are invalidated,
I reject the prayers of anyone secure with objective distance,
I reject an age that justifies your cunning and metamorphosis,
and the bunch of flowers you offer with white, blood-stained hands.
I reject eulogies written in a skillful, glib language.

Till the questions are clear,
questions about the abundant harvest of that fall,
highways, and the children’s grand park,
bargained for with the cost of precious deaths;
till you and I fully understand
violence cannot push away violence,
no, violence cannot drive away violence.

I reject all the modern histories you write,
the red tongues that justify your prejudices and cunning,
the ease, laziness, and languor
with which you stipulate that time was an age of peace,
the clear failure and cynicism, yours and mine,
and your offering of flowers and praises
that you shout, enforcing another sacrifice.

For my own sake, who won’t betray others and won’t be betrayed by others again,
and for the sake of those who repent honestly and are forgiven,
I reject your offering of flowers and your visit.
I watch your behavior and your violence.

Chun Doo-hwan and Park Geun-hye


7 responses to “Translations by Chae-Pyong Song

  1. “I reject the prayers of anyone secure with objective distance…”

    This jumped out and grabbed me.

  2. If you have a chance, see “Django Unchained.” Had a long conversation with my composing son about what it means to be an artist and what art is meant to do. I’m still figuring this out, but it is always encouraging to know that there are others stumbling toward a deeper understanding of a common goal. This is one of the reasons I like reading your blog, Jane. You are just this kind of artist. Your light is shining so brightly it can be seen thousands of miles away.

  3. Yes!! And I am called “ajumma” on the streets … When I arrived here they would call me “student” or “miss,” but this place has turned me …

  4. Aw … I had good, patient teachers and mentors, Randall 🙂 I’ll look for Django Unchained. Thanks for visiting!

  5. I assume that an ajumma is neither male nor female and denotes someone who has been changed by loss or injustice so that they speak up and out without the usual “nice filter.” Part of the bright shining light you are creating is speaking truth. I am wondering what artists you are using as models: Shostakovich in his Symphony Nr 5, Prokofiev Visions Fugitives, Gubaidulina Bassoon Concerto, Kote Mikaberidze My Grandmother (film)? The ironic, the poetic, or the eccentric? Injustice and loss have been a theme in art for a long time. Often wrapped in humor, it poses and parodies power and, thus, brings it down to human scale. A king made to look a fool is a powerful thing. Just wrote an orchestra piece about this here in Minnesota. Courage, Jane. You are no ajumma to me and those who love you.

  6. Pingback: Translations by Chae-Pyong Track | Posts

Thank you for visiting my blog. I no longer have time to update this blog regularly, but I appreciate your comments, even though I cannot respond to all of them. All comments (except spam) have been allowed to go through unmoderated since June 16, 2014. Any comments you see prior to that date have been read and approved by me. Thanks again, and wishing you peace and blessings.

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