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
borne on spray.
All the earth was tinted
by brilliant rainbows.
Blinking wet eyelashes,
amidst misty rain,
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
A moment when the earth's silence
by white snow
A moment when this falsehood is endured
with a bride's
One abstruse black ink painting
where even the streams are voiceless.
Binding a band of pride
about its lofty brow
it contemplates the sea
radiant through unnumbered years.
its wave-swept hems
all day it sits and meditates, eyebrows alone alert.
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
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