Translated from the Korean by Brother Anthony of Taizé. Green Integer, 2017
Lee Seong-Bok invokes the readers’ help in his repeated, Sŏn-like interrogations of life on Earth―of seagulls, the sea, night; of illness, pain, death―and also of himself and others. His questions are likely answerable, but any response is as paradoxically dependent on a florid imagination as it is on purposeful ineffability. Most surprisingly, part and parcel of Lee’s writing is his trust in all he does not question. Many of these short poems avoid quizzicality entirely, instead describing nature, declaring emotions, and recording deeply personal events through unexpected comparison and arresting imagery. We are left at the close, then, with an all-encompassing document of the numinous beautifully grounded.
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“Whose House Shall I Say”
The wind roaming in sunlight― what stories it has heard before it comes to visit me, trudging along gravelly roads into my agony.
Whose home shall I say this is? Shall I say it’s the home of winds wandering in sunlight? I am not at home in my agony.
See, sorrow walking along carefully, one hand grasping a petticoat.