CKS Special Event: An Evening of Korean Poetry

An Evening of Korean Poetry

February 22, 2018
DATES February 22, 2018
LOCATION Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, CA
SPONSOR/S Center for Korean Studies, Literature Translation Institute of Korea
FUNDING Literature Translation Institute of Korea

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Poster | Program | Special Guests


Please join us for an evening of Korean poetry with Oh Sae-young, Lee Jae Moo, and Jeong Keutbyul. Also joining us will be Professors David McCann (Harvard University) and Youngmin Kwon (UC Berkeley).



Opening Remarks: Laura Nelson (CKS Chair, UC Berkeley)

Keynote Speech:
Oh, Sae-young and Korean Modern Poetry
David McCann (Harvard University)

Poetry Readings:
Oh, Sae-young & David McCann
Lee, Jaemoo & Gabriel Sylvian
Jeong, Keutbyul & Clare You

Student Readings
Special Guest Reading

Closing: Kwon, Youngmin (UC Berkeley)


About Sae-young Oh:

Born on May 2, 1942 in Yeonggwang, South Jeolla Province, Oh entered the department of Korean literature at Seoul National University, where he received his PhD in 1980 and taught Korean Poetry from 1985 to 2005. Now he is an Emeritus Professor of Seoul National University.

Oh Sae-young made his literary debut in the mid-1960s. For a time, the poet Oh devoted his writings to the pursuit of subconscious fantasies, but he gradually changed his work to represent a lyrical quest for vitality. Beginning with the linked-poem “Unenlightened Love Poems” (Mumyeong-yeonsi) and other pieces such as “The Soil of Contradiction” (Mosun-ui heuk), “Selected Melancholy Poems” (Ususicho), “Bowl” (Geureut; another linked-poem work), “Acrobat” (Akeurobateu) and “A Summer Day” (Ha-il), he demonstrates a consciousness of history developed through an awareness of the shaping forces of human identity and being. He also expresses traditional sentiments through self-conscious language influenced by modernism. His work is characterized by a fusion of lyricism and intellectualism, which works to control his language and produce poems of extreme refinement and condensation.

Today, Oh Sae-young is described as a poet who has lyrical sense, philosophical intellect, and sophisticated linguistic awareness. His writing bores into the double-sidedness and hypocrisy of existence. His major work, Sae (새 The Bird), depicts birds that soar into the sky toward the truth and freedom, but ultimately must fall, showing humanity’s fateful burden. The poem’s structure demonstrates that as its imagery flies higher, the distance back to the ground grows further, illustrating the insight that though humans strive endlessly for the ideal, they are ultimately fatalistic beings that must return to the ground.

The Chicago Review of Books has said that “Sae-young’s attention to detail, and his ability to shift back and forth between scopes both grand and minuscule, provide a sense that his poems are inextricably linked to something larger.” The reviewers note that his poetry collections contain “work very much obsessed with existence, the building and destruction of nature, business, war, and industry. He unexpectedly examines merit, plays with worth, while lingering on the edge of past and present.”

Oh Sae-young has published 24 volumes of his poetry collections. Among his best-known poetry collections are Light in Revolt (1970), The Darkest Evening (1982), Love Song of Unenlightened Longing (1986), Burning Water (1988), A Shadow of Sky in Tears (1994), A Boat of Time (2005), Calling of You, Sound of Waves (2008), A Shadow of Wind (2009), Sons of Wind (2014). His research studies and collections of criticism include A Study of Korean Romantic Poetry (1980), Directions in Contemporary Korean Poetry (1988), Imagination and Logic (1991) and A Study of Twentieth-century Korean Poetry (1999).

His poetry has been translated into several languages, including English: Flowers Long for Stars (2005), Night-Sky Checkerboard (2016); French: Songe de la falaise (2012): and German: Das ferne Du, (1999), Gedichte jenseits der Liebe (2000), and in Spanish; Más Aallá del Amor (2003).

About JaeMoo Lee:

JaeMoo Lee was born in Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province, South Korea. He graduated from elementary school and middle school in his hometown of Buyeo and finished high school and college in Daejeon. He completed his master's degree in Korean Language at Dongguk University in Seoul. In 1983, he began his literary activities by publishing four poems, "Pick one’s ears" in "Literature of Life". For many years, he lectured on book production in publishing companies and taught Korean language classes at college preparatory academies. He also gave creative poetry lectures at various universities. Currently, he is the director of the literary group for the Korean Writers Association and the representative director of the publishing company, Start of the Millennium. Over the last 35 years, he has published many volumes of collected poetry, including the following: New Year's Eve, Do Not Come to the People, Mow the Grass, Flowers in the Body, Great Meal, The Net of Time, Blue Stubborn, Evening 6, A Cheerful Wandering, Sadness Kneeling, Sadness Pours on the Shoulders, An Anthology of Poetry, Old Jokes, Meals on the Way, Essay Book, From the Front of the Living, The Tastiest Rice in the World, Fleeing from Obsession, Comments on Current Literature, and When the Flower Blooms Among People.

Lee’s awards include the Sowall Literary Award, Yoon Dongju Literary Award, Nanko Literary Award, Phyunwoon Literary Award, Pulkyot Literary Award, and Song Sukwon Literary Award.

About Keutbyul Jeong:

Keutbyul Jeong was born in Naju City, South Jeolla Province in 1964, studied Korean Literature at Ewha University, and completed her MA and Ph.D. at the same university. She made her debut in 1988 when her “Sea of Calais” and six other poems were selected for the poetry section of the magazine Munhak Sasang’s annual contest for discovering new literary talents. After her literary critique was selected for the newspaper Dong-A Ilbo’s spring literary contest in 1994, she has been active as a literary critic as well as a poet. She is a professor in the Department of Korean Language and Literature at Ewha University, and also an awardee of the Yusim Literature Prize (2004), the Sowol Poetry Award (2008) and the Cheongma Literature Prize (2015).

As a poet whose characteristic and colorful poetry is developed with poetic feelings full of rhythms and images, she is recognized also as a poet of love who contemplates the world and seeks the intimacy of beings. She has published several collections of poems including My Life, a Birch Tree (1996), A White Book (2000), An Old Man's Vitality (2005), Suddenly (2008) and EunNeunEeGa (2014), as well as her collections of critical writing such as The Poetics of Parody (1997), The Language of Poetry has a Thousand Tongues (2008), The Song of Ooruk (2002), The Poetics of Pi (2010), The Direct Communications between Poetry and Mind (2011), and a number of her essayistic Korean poetic anthologies including In Anyone's Heart, Wouldn't a Poem Bloom? (2008).


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