- No Flower Blooms Without Wavering
Tr. Brother Anthony and Jinna Park 2016180pp.
When we consider the immense popularity enjoyed by Do Jong-Hwan, both as a poet and as a person, it is quite surprising that it has taken so long for a volume of his most popular poems to be published in English. This new publication offers the additional advantage of being bilingual, so that readers also have access to the original texts of the poems.
At times when we feel that
it is a wall, unavoidably a wall,
without a word ivy goes climbing up the wall.
At times when we say that
it is a wall of despair
with no drop of water, where not one seed can survive,
unhurrying, the ivy advances.
Hand in hand, several together, it climbs on, a span’s breadth at a time.
It grasps the despair and will not let go
until the despair is all covered in green.
At times when we shake our heads, saying
that wall cannot be climbed,
one ivy leaf leads thousands of other ivy leaves
and finally climbs over that wall.
“Ivy” is one of Do Jong-Hwan’s most popular poems, reproduced (in Korean) thousands of times on the Internet by his admirers. Like many of his poems, it begins with a familiar scene linked to nature and the traditional countryside (modern apartment blocks rarely have ivy-covered walls) but then takes the scene as an image of a truth about human existence. The patient progress of ivy up a dry, harsh surface ends in victory as it reaches the top of the wall and passes beyond. Despair is overcome; new hope is born.