[Web Exclusive] A Poetry Reading by Poet Shin Yong-mok "Community"

  • onSeptember 2, 2019
  • byKorean Literature Now




May I use the dead person’s name? Since he’s dead,

may I take his name? Since I gained one more name today

the number of my names keeps increasing, soon I’ll have all death’s register.


Might I be called Heaven and Hell?


Over there

where the man’s name is being erased from the lips of the woman being soaked in rain, prayers also have lost their way and like the petals being washed away on the floor, now they are being carried a few steps stuck to your shoes . . .


I will reply to every falling petal.


If at last, the collector of death,


even after searching all through the sodden village, is unable to find a welcome so comes to me requesting sleep,

a kettle of cold water

and one dry towel,

I can ask, with a voice climbing up the body’s creaking stairs:

What more do you need?


But probably I will ask nothing,

fearing it might want something

like a chorus of flowers resonating then stopping in a garden, in the vestibule’s black umbrella

above shoulders . . . like raindrops

drip, drip,


Low eaves, window panes, stretched out hands


Above them


As it takes oblivion’s pulse


says: I want to see him . . . want to see him . . .

it might cry.

Then I’ll indicate far off extinguished time and hand over his name like a lamp

in a completely empty register.


I fear I’ll probably remain alone. Floating like the sound of a flushing cistern in an empty room lent without the owner knowing


Soul of water known as cloud, bringing into reality the thunder and lightning growing inside my body

In order to steal your name.


Come to think of it, death seems to have planted eyes in me, the stone that took away your name is being rained on.

Ears have been added, like rain reading your name above a stone.

Blending Heaven and Hell, am I allowed to be soaked?

Over there,

all the petals tapping on death, like the red lips of that woman leaving the garden, are praying for me . . .

and here too


If life is possible, just as rain stops and rainbows emerge only when summoned,

if love is possible,

may I give my name to the dead person? May I call a person by my name, once he’s dead?


translated by Brother Anthony of Taize


Shin Yong-mok was born in South Gyeongsang Province, Geochang City in 1974. He received an MA in Korean literature from Korea University. He debuted when his poems including “Inside the Glass Doors of Clothing Repair Ship in Sungnae-dong” won the Writer’s World Award in 2000. He has published the poetry collections We Must Walk All of the Wind, The Winds Millionth Molar, City of Any Day, and When Someone Called Someone, I Looked Back, and the essay collection This is How Wed Live. He has received the Baek Seok Prize for Literature, Nojak Literary Prize, the Sijak Literary Award, Lee Yuksa Poetry Award, and Young Poet’s Award.