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Quest for Poetry: Jung Hee-sung's Literary World

Quest for Poetry: Jung Hee-sung's Literary World

<Personal History>

-Born in 1945 at Chang Won, Kyongnam province
-Graduated Dept. of Korean Lan. & Lit. at Seoul National University in 1968. His literary career debuted with Transformation, a prize-winning entry for poetry   in the Dong-A Ilbo's spring literary contest in 1970.
-Prizes: Kim Su-young Literary Award (1981), Poetry and Poetics Award (1997), Man-hae Literary Award (2001)
-Books: Dap Chung (1974), Wash a Stain Off the Spade Before Dark (1978), One Affections To the Other Affections (1991), Quest for Poetry (2001)

Even if literature cannot change all matters in the world, it offers a window which can show the reality of people's lives. Jung Hee-sung is a poet who shows this reality. We made an appointment with the 57-year-old poet and Soongmoon High School teacher at five o'clock in Toart cafeteria, Insa-dong. When I saw Jung Hee-sung, he looked like a typical teacher. He had a beret pulled over his head and wore a warm overcoat. "Nice to meet you. The weather is getting colder..."

His Current Life
Some weeks ago, I had a chance to visit a bookstore to buy some books. When I looked around the bookstore,  I was very pleased because Jung Hee-sung's new book caught my eye. It has been ten years since he published his third book, One Affections To the Other Affections. "I published Quest for Poetry in Review Creation and Criticism. I was longing to present my own examination of myself as a poet to my readers. For the past 30 years, I didn't talk about myself in my poetry. This book is very different from what I've written before. "What is a poet? Now, I can understand the meaning to some extent."
"After the book came out, I was invited to many press interviews to explain this book. A long time has passed since my third volume. Nowadays, I usually relax through climbing mountains and teaching literature," he said pleasantly.

His Writing
We feel comfortable when we read his poetry. That is why he directs attention to the pain and beauty of ordinary lives. "The place where we are living is cold and dry. Thus, a poem has to depict our tired life and always get closer to our life."
He is also attentive not to overload his poems with words. Most of his poems are brief epigrams that express his humility. His books are usually made up of 43 poems. Owing to his restrained epigrams, Shin Kyung-rim, a well-known poet in Korea, said "He always reminds us about ourselves and our environment."
We readers can grasp the general idea of Jung Hee-sung's literary world through Dap Chung, his first volume and Wash the Shovel In the River Before Dark, his second. His poems reflect in various ways the lives of ordinary people at critical moments in modern Korean history. "During my early days as a poet, I couldn't  overlook the distorted social problems. At that time, many writers and critics wrote historical writings and were opposed to conservative military regimes. So did I," he said.
As for the criticism that his literary world has changed compared to this early poems. "I am surprised whenever I heard this criticism. I don't agree with it," he spoke in a quiet tone. "The social environment has been gradually improving and changing. Literature should be based on the everyday life of contemporary people. My poems conformed to this. It's just that my literary world has become more comprehensive compared with my former writing."

His Debut and Literary Career
Before Mr. Jung has a literary career, he was a high school teacher.
Post: Which is more important to you, being a poet or a teacher?
Jung: I had never thought them separately because all things are important to me.
Post: Are you please with your work? What do you hope to accomplish as a poet?
Jung: I am very satisfied with my poet교, though it takes to much of my time. I've just written two poems this year. I was interested in the social problems. However, Korea has become a democracy. I have coped with this change and write about it to my readers.

Reporter's Epilogue
"I should go now. I am sorry, but I have an appointment," Mr. Jung said. I was absorbed in the conversation with him, forgetting the passing of time. At the end of interview, I asked, "How do you feel about our meeting?" "It was nice. Your work will pay off someday. Just live your dream and always do your best." His life has not been that exciting, but his poetry tells us about the pain and beauty of ordinary lives. I applaud his efforts.

Kim Jung-yoon  hmlove81@hotmail.com

<저작권자 © 동국포스트, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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