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English translations of Korean poems published in US

Aug. 24, 2021 - 14:42 By Kim Hae-yeon
“Monarch Butterfly” (left) by Choi Dong-ho and “Catcalling” by Lee Soho (Daesan Foundation)
Two books of Korean poetry have recently been published in the US, one by a veteran poet and another by an emerging young talent.

The Daesan Foundation announced Monday the publication of “Monarch Butterfly,” with selected poems by poet and literary critic Choi Dong-ho, and “Catcalling,” another collection by Lee Soho, in English by Mudus Artium Press and OpenLetterBooks, respectively.

“Monarch Butterfly” is a selection of 51 of Choi’s poems from his 50 years as a poet. The theme of the collection centers around spirituality found in the ordinary, examining the true meaning of birth and life with Buddhist sentiments. Choi is a member of the Korean National Academy of Arts and also a distinguished professor at Kyungnam University.

Scholar and poet Kim Koo-seul and Korean cinema specialist Darcy Paquet, who was in charge of English subtitles of director Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning “Parasite” (2019), worked on delivering Choi’s works in English.

Meanwhile, “Catcalling” brings attention to the gruesome everydayness of sexual abuse and violence in a patriarchical society that its protagonist Kyung-jin faces. Lee, who made her debut winning the Newcomer Award in Modern Poetry in 2014, adds another pillar to Korean feminism literature through her collection, following poets such as Kim Hye-soon and Choi Seung-ja.

“Catcalling” was translated by Soje, who focuses on translating works by relatively new writers who bring fresh perspectives to the existing Korean literary world, such as Lee Hye-mi’s “Unexpected Vanilla” (2020) and Choi Jin-young’s “To the Warm Horizon” (2021).

“Monarch Butterfly” and “Catcalling” are recipients of the Daesan Foundation’s translation and publication grants.

“The two poets were born 40 years apart,” the Daesan Foundation said, adding that it hopes that the works by such different generations can serve as an opportunity to introduce various spectra of Korean poetry to English-speaking readers.