Writing as reconciliation
Aswathy Karnaver Express News
20 Jan 2012 12:01:35 PM IST
As we joined the young writers and researchers from Korea to
wait for Wolsan Kidong Kim at the hotel lobby, the air of
veneration was quite palpable. The grand old poet walked in,
steadying himself on a walking stick and smiling heartily.
The small crowd soon settled into the coziness of the dim-lit
lobby to listen to the checkered poetics of 74 long years,
narrated in undiluted Korean.
One of the most distinguished and respected voices of his
country, Kim was born in an undivided Korea in 1938. His
writings - poetry and essays – bear the scars of a severed soul.
More than half a century later, his voice does not crack as he
recounts how the war between North and South Korea (in reality a
proxy war between the super powers of USA and USSR) rendered him
homeless and in charge of a family of widows and orphans who no
longer had a roof over their heads. All in a matter of eleven
days and he was all of 16 years.
Kim interrupts the translator, Emma Cho, to add a point and we
wait. “The war had started on the same day as my 12th birthday,”
he says. “It was the most colourful period of anybody’s life,
teenage. And it was lost to me, in suffering and helplessness.
But, later, it became the source of my writing,” he says and as
the translator gets to work, he gazes into our eyes to see if
the agony is conveyed at all.
A representative of his publisher sneaks in a bottle of water
without hindering her friends from the filming the interview.
The ailing bard is happy and takes some water. He has been out
all day long, attending readings at the Kritya Poetry festival
2012 and the stress was evident in his laboured manner.
Yet, his interest is piqued at the reference to the Wolsan
mountain in South Korea.
“Wolsan is related to my poetry. My village is in the valley and
the mountain is holy to us. As a child, I climbed the mountain
everyday. And it is also where I dreamt about my future and
nurtured my hopes. It is at the core of all my poetry,” he says,
as if, thinking aloud.
“It is also important in other ways. I had a master as a young
poet. She called me Wolsan, recommending readers to watch out
for me. She asked me to adopt it as my pen name and I did.
Wolsan is an image for my poetic philosophy, wherein, my poetry
is like a shadow of the grief-stricken childhood. The mountain
of grief is much like a cold, misty hillock. But it also
promised the hope of a sunrise to a young poet.”
And a sunrise he did seek out and embrace. Before he crossed his
teens, he was chained to bonded labour for seven years to a
wealthy household in the village, for he had borrowed rice from
them to feed his homeless family.
Throughout his youth, he was forced to do menial jobs. Yet, when
the opportunity to enter a university in Canada came his way at
52, Kim knew he had all the time in the world to start from the
scratch. He went on to specialise in theology and made a promise
to himself that he would pen all that his postulations as books.
He kept writing them over the years and finished the last one,
the 250th, in 2011.
“I did learn English while I lived in Canada because it was
terrible to survive without knowing the language in the initial
years. But, I have lost touch and cannot remember any to speak
to you now,” he laughs.
Politics has never had a direct bearing on his poetry, for “it
is not the job of the poet to lead propaganda” he clarifies.
“Young poets of Korea ought to be truthful to their history and
document it in their writings. Young film-makers in Korea do
make movies on war, but they are honest representations of
reality. When old people like me talk about the war, they frown
and ask why should an old war be talked about any more. But, we
cannot afford to forget. Only literature can preserve memories,”
he says and the young, jeans-clad translator smiles in
embarrassment as she translates the words.
And then, he quotes a poem that Tagore once wrote to the people
of Korea, saying that his country was like a lamp in an age of
Kritya In Media
News report from Hindu
Poems need not be the same old broken lines with carefully
placed punctuation marks and craftily woven words, which, rather
than create an interest in readers, often leave them confused,
Odveig Klyve, a poet from Norway, says.
For this poet and film maker, poetry could be anything,
anywhere, she told The Hindu on the sidelines of Kritya 2012, a
three-day international festival of poetry which began at the
Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram city on
Monday. Literally so, her poems were displayed at places such as
railway stations, and airports using display boards and backed
by powerful photographs that rarely go unnoticed.
At Kritya, Ms. Klyve had created a photo-poetry exhibition
through her project titled ‘Geopoeticon.’ Selected poems of
various poets from around the world found visual representation
through the 15 sets of framed, colourful photographs. According
to Ms. Klyve, these poems spoke through the images, thereby
creating a lasting impression on the viewers.
“The idea is to create a room for conversation because poetry
can take any form, be it through images or music. Moreover,
poetry has many facets, most of which still remain unexplored,”
She often got phone calls from people, who, seeing her poems at
railway stations, wanted to share their interpretations of the
picture and the poem. “No one has the time to read poems in
detail to analyse it. This was a fast-moving world and often one
needed to enter straight into the heart than knocking at its
doors. There may be only two lines in a poem but when
accompanied by a strong visual, the impact created on the viewer
was tremendous,” she said.