Born in Seoul in 1934, Kim Hu-ran attended the Teachers College of Seoul National University. In 1954 she was granted recognition as a poet. Her professional career has been in journalism; she served as a reporter then as editorial writer for various major newspapers. For a time she was head of the Korean Women's Development Institute and she is at present Vice-President of the Korean Center of International P.E.N..  
She published her first collection of poetry, Changdowa ch'angmi (Ornamental Knife and Rose) in 1968; this was followed by other volumes, including umkye (Musical Scale) in 1971, otton p'ado (Certain Waves) in 1976, and Seoului saepyok (Dawn in Seoul) in 1995.  
Her poetry is characterized by an intense exploration of symbolist imagery, in an elegant language which at time verges on weightiness. Her work is deeply rooted in the more traditional forms of Korean lyricism. Among the themes most frequently found in her work is a constant celebration of the mystery of vitality. Nature becomes a mirror of the ways in which life succeeds in breaking through the walls of darkness.  
One of Kim Hu-ran's favorite images is the budding and opening of flowers. Life burgeons out of darkness, emerging, developing, growing to perfection. Nature in her work is a place of hope and life, light and beauty. She frequently explores images of water emerging from the depths, brought out from below into the light of day to quench thirsts and irrigate dry places.  


In the sunshine  
swarms of silver fish by hundreds  
danced a waltz.  
As the wind playfully  
brushed past,  
laughter scattered  
borne on spray.  
All the earth was tinted  
by brilliant rainbows.  
Blinking wet eyelashes,  
prettily, bashfully  
amidst misty rain,  
you are  
the city's  
Maytime bride. 

A Tree in Winter 

Tree in silence  
deep in thought  
your eyes shut stubbornly!  
I in turn become  
one fragrant tree,  
responding in silence,  
as if returning a reflection.  
In somber stillness  
a restless wind  
sharpens icy moonlight's blade.  
Now when no one believes in spring  
the tree's still patience  
instructs me in waiting  
and spring makes its nest  
within my breast. 

Night and Snow 

A moment when white snow  
decks the world  
in purity  
A moment when the earth's silence  
is ravished  
by white snow  
A moment when this falsehood is endured  
with a bride's  
half-closed eyes:  
One abstruse black ink painting  
where even the streams are voiceless. 

A Mountain 

Binding a band of pride  
about its lofty brow  
it contemplates the sea  
radiant through unnumbered years.  
Lightly adjusting  
its wave-swept hems  
all day it sits and meditates, eyebrows alone alert.  
Violent gestures  
multiple shadows  
lie behind the sound of its silence.  
The wind veers from past to future  
striving to open the gates of heaven.  
Now as icy raindrops  
moisten roots  
and only now  
the hand caressing a little fluttering  
bird's damp wings,  
that warm hand is moving quietly. 

The Snowy Realms 

In winter I become a citizen of the snowy realms.  
The whole world's snow all comes driving hither.  
Be still, be still:  
like pure white snow  
like cold snug snow  
I submit to the precept commanding me be still.  
People who are in love  
are transformed into Isadora Duncan's bare feet,  
the mist's blue feet,  
or into colliding sparks.  
In winter I become a citizen of the snowy realms;  
obediently I fold my wings.  
But sometimes I become a spark  
and there are times when I strive  
to become tears in the void  
amidst snow-flakes filled with sorrow.  

Translated by Brother Anthony