Shin Kyong-Rim (South Korea, 1935)
On a Winters Night
Were met in the back back room of the co-op mill
playing cards for a dish of muk;
tomorrows market-day. Boisterous merchants
shake off the snow in the inns front yard.
Fields and hills shine newly white, the falling snow
comes swirling thickly down.
People are talking about the price of rice and fertilizers,
and about the local magistrates daughter, a teacher.
Hey, it seems Puni, up in Seoul working as a maid,
is going to have a baby. Well, what we have a sniff?
Shall we get grunk? The bar-girl smells
of cheap powder, but still, shall we have a sniff?
Were the only ones who know our sorrows.
Shall we try raising fowls this year?
Winter nights are long, we eat muk,
down drinks, argue over the water rates,
sing to the bar-girls chop-stick beat,
and as we cross the barley-field to give a hard time
to the newly-wed man at the barbers shop,
look at that: the worlds all white. Come on snow, drift high,
high as the roof, bury us deep.
Shall we send a love-letter
to those girls behind the siren tower hiding
wrapped in their skirts? Were
the only ones sho know our troubles.
Shall we try fattening pigs this year?
Shin Kyong-Rim was born in 1935. His literary career dates from the publication of three poems, including The Reed in 1956 but after that he published nothing for a number of years, immersing himself instead in the world of the working classes, the "Minjung", and working as a farmer, a miner, and a merchant. His fame dates mainly from the publication of his first collection Nong-Mu (Farmers' Dance), in 1973. Shin Kyong-Nim has continued to play a leading role in the world of socially involved poetry. He has served as president of the Association of Writers for National Literature, and of the Federated Union of Korean Nationalist Artists. Other volumes of his poetry include Saejae, 1979; Talnomse, 1985, Namhankang (South Han River, 1987), Kana nhan sarangnorae (Song of poor love, 1988), Kil (Road, 1990), Ssurojin cha ui Kkum (Dreams of the fallen, 1993), Halmon i wa omoni ui silhouette (Silhouettes of grandmother and mother, 1998). This last volume received the 1998 Daesan Literary Award for Poetry. He was published too recently to be included here. He has also published several collections of literary and personal essays. He has traveled widely collecting the popular songs that have survived in Korea's rural areas and his poetry is deeply marked by the rhythms of traditional Korean music as a result. An English translation of Farmers' Dance was published in this same series in 1999.