Absolutely Fascinating, Magical Poetry

  • onSeptember 4, 2018
  • Vol.41 Autumn 2018
  • byMoon Taejun

Song Chanho’s poetry unveils a unique world. His poetry is not intended to be easy; as a matter of fact, it searches for innovation. As a result, when I read his poems, I feel as if I have found a new product on display in the world market. His poetry produces new sensations because of its imaginative content and fresh expressions, like a fish flopping immediately after being pulled from the water. Through his poetry, we encounter creativity that we have never experienced before.

The imagination in his poems is similar to fairy tales. Mystical and magical, the most brilliant moments in his poetry are when his subjects proudly appear with individual voices and actions, creating parallel relations to each other and appearing completely human.

Characters in his poems converse freely with each other, fall in love and break up, respond to their own emotions, and strive to fulfill their desires. These actions compel the reader to watch with increasing interest.

Song seems to think that a poem should be inspired by a stranger’s whispers and dreams. Therefore, the poet’s eyes should be bright, the ears should be open, the thinking should be free, and the mind should be clear. In fact, when I meet him, I easily feel these things. Song has the appearance of a shy and curious youth who is gentle, innocent, and delicate.

In his poem “Snowman,” a snowman in winter apparel is sitting next to the speaker on a train on a hot summer day. The snowman remains silent, with an air of failure about him. Then, while the speaker dozes, the snowman disappears, apparently having disembarked at some station. It is difficult to know exactly what the snowman represents. However, when someone takes a train and is seated next to a stranger, one naturally imagines the life the stranger has led, and usually there is no conversation before parting. When that happens, the stranger might as well be a snowman riding on the train of life. One feels that the other person is as unfamiliar as a wintry figure in the middle of summer.

Another attractive poem is “Shepherd’s Purse Flower.” Next to the flower are an empty Bacchus bottle, an abandoned sandal, and a discarded nicotine filter. These objects confess their love to the flower. As does a wolf. The speaker also loves the shepherd’s purse flower and has held onto a comb and hand mirror the flower asked for, but the speaker cannot yet return to the flower. The flower seems to represent the world of nature, purity, rebirth, and returning with humility and soft harmony.

In these ways, Song’s poetry imagines a world beyond an ordinary view. He blends sad stories with stories about love that burns even after the love has been lost. His poetry aptly portrays the details of emotions that change even as an incident occurs. Above all else, his poetry expresses cheerfulness, and each poem feels like a dance. The spirit is enhanced.

I purchase Song’s poems from his shop regularly. I buy the product called “poetry” that he invents and introduces to the world. And I will continue to do so.

Translated by YoungShil Ji and Daniel T. Parker

Author's Profile

Moon Taejun is a program director at the Buddhist Broadcasting System. His writings include Crowded Backyard, Naked Foot, Flatfish, The Growth of a Shadow, and A Faraway Place. He is a recipient of the Dongsuh Literary Award, Nojak Literary Prize, Midang Literary Award, and Sowol Poetry Award. His poetry collection The Growth of a Shadow has been published in English and his poems “My Mother’s Prayer Beads” and “A Faraway Place” were published in The Guardian.