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Poet Jeong Ho-seung speaks of relationships in ‘Loving’ and ‘Lonesome Jar: Poetic Fables’

Nov. 28, 2020 - 16:01 By Lim Jang-won
“Loving” by Jeong Ho-seung (Seoul Selection)
Two fairytales by poet Jeong Ho-seung, “Loving” and “Lonesome Jar: Poetic Fables,” have been published in English by Seoul Selection.

Born in 1950 in Hadong, South Gyeongsang Province, Jeong is known for his poetry collections “Seoul’s Jesus” (1982), “Dawn Letter” (1987) and “Stars Are Warm” (1990), among others. His poems have been turned into songs by popular singers including Yang Hee-eun and the late Kim Kwang-seok.

The stories were translated by Brother Anthony of Taize, a recipient of the Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit in 2008. In 2015, he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to the advancement of the relationship between South Korea and the UK.

“Lonesome Jar: Poetic Fables” and “Loving” were both written in 1998 and have been loved ever since. They are known as “fairytales for adults.” 

“Lonesome Jar: Poetic Fables” by Jeong Ho-seung (Seoul Selection)
“Lonesome Jar: Poetic Fables” takes the animals, plants and objects that we see every day and tells stories from their perspective, talking about human relationships and love.

“While writing these tales, I was finally able to discover that in the midst of understanding and loving each other lay my own existential value and meaning,” writes Jeong in the preface to “Lonesome Jar: Poetic Fables.”

The book consists of 20 fables, each sending a message of hope. “Lonesome Jar,” the title fable that starts the book, is about a jar that was used as a toilet by its creator. The jar resents its fate, but years after it is abandoned following the creator’s death, it is found by the creator’s son, who is now a monk. The monk digs up the jar and uses it as a resonator below a bell, teaching the lesson that anyone can fulfill their dreams if they endure.

“We live every day meeting many different objects. We meet trees and meet the subway when we ride it. We meet pebbles on the ground and any more objects. I felt these objects had a story of their own that they wanted to tell us,” Jeong told The Korea Herald.

The other book, “Loving,” is about the journey of a brass fish under the wind chimes of Unjusa, a temple in South Jeolla Province. Upon visiting Unjusa more than 20 years ago, Jeong saw that the brass fish was missing and let his imagination run wild as to the reason.

“I wanted to send a message that everything, humans and objects, all live through the power of love. Humans live for love, just like how a tree or bird lives for love, and I try to tell that through the stories,” said Jeong.

The book’s publisher, Seoul Selection, specializes in English-language materials and has offered translations of Korean works since 2008. The two books will be available later in the year in the US.

By Lim Jang-won (