Gwangju Poet Ra HeeDuk

Ra HeeDuk, 나희덕, is a poet and professor of creative writing at Chosun University. This Gwangju poet published several books of poetry and is quite popular, in my opinion because she writes about pain and living life fully – hot topics in Korea. She was born in Nonsan in 1966 and studied at Yonsei; her travels have helped to influence her work.

As a published poet she has won several awards (1989-2007).  Two of her works are translated into English. Here is a list of her books, with my really bad translations of the titles.

뿌리에게 (창작과비평사, 1991) To the Roots
그 말이 잎을 물들였다 (창작과비평사, 1994) The words tinged leaves or That still leaves tinged
그곳이 멀지 않다 (민음사, 1997) It is not too far
어두워진다는 것 (창작과비평사, 2001) Like Perfect Darkness [What is Darkening]
사라진 손바닥 (문학과지성사, 2004) Missing the Palm [A Disappeared Palm]
야생사과 (창비, 2009) Wild Apples [Scale and Stairs]

Essay Collection
반 통의 물 [A Water Bucket Filled By Half] (1999)

Literary criticism
보랏빛은 어디에서 오는가 [Where Does the Purple Come From] (2003)

Selected Poems of Scale and Stairs
Scale and Stairs

To My Root
By Ra Heeduk
I can remember you
when you were my root in a deep place
and I was soft earth, just plowed.
Ah, my love,
steam rose from the spot where your breath first touched me
and I trembled at the joy of drawing my clean blood to flow into you.My root thirsting for the clean well,
please rise in me.
Because my flesh, bedazzled, breaks easily,
dip your feet merrily in my clean blood and spurt it out.When you grabbed my spine and reached farther
I became a good vessel, I sheltered you.
A flaming wind thrashed me,
but I felt a secret stupid joy,
always blessing the tip of your growth.

See how my flesh toughens
when you climb down through me.
Please drink my last cup,
because I’m old and murky,
a husk pierced by strings of sorrow.

When you were my root in a deep place
worms sprang up in my mind;
but I’ve become an empty vessel.
When your green stems shine in the sunlight,
I will be plowed into the soft earth on the hillside.

Translated by Kim Won-chung and Christopher Merrill

From _list Books from Korea

One Response to “Gwangju Poet Ra HeeDuk”
  1. Susan says:

    HI I really liked the poem A DECISIVE MOMENT by RA HeeDuk so I have decided to use part of it for my tattoo. I need a help as I don´t really understand the korean version so please I want to have the first 2 or first 4 sentences but I dont know where it ends in korean version. I am asking you to punctuate the first 4 sentences. If you could help me please answer my comment and I will write you back my email address. Thanks

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