Sweep up a Flock

Kim Kyung Ju
Translated from the Korean by Jake Levine

Like the sound of washing calves in cold water
a bird flock takes flight.

A mountain ridge hangs on the calves of a flock of birds.
Wild roses bloom on the calves of a flock of birds.

Clouds will drip the smell of skin

until birds pass through my body.
Even this, I believe, is the work of passing birds.

Clouds float down.
They sip water in the valley.

I sweep up a flock of birds.

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Kim Kyung Ju is a Seoul-based poet, dramatist and performance artist. His plays have been produced abroad in several countries and his poetry and essays are widely anthologized in South Korea. He has written and translated over a dozen books of poetry, essays, and plays, and has been the recipient of many prizes and awards, including the Korean government’s Today’s Young Artist Prize and the Kim Su-yong Contemporary Poetry Award. His first book of poetry, I Am A Season That Does Not Exist In This World, was also translated by Jake Levine and published in English by Black Ocean.

Adrianne Mathiowetz

Jake Levine has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including funding from the Korean Translation Institute, a Korean Government scholarship, and a Fulbright scholarship. He writes a series of syndicated articles in the Korean literary magazine Munjang, translating and introducing contemporary American poets to a Korean general audience. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, edits at Spork Press, holds an M.F.A from the University of Arizona, and is currently getting his Ph.D in comparative literature at Seoul National University.

Boston, Massachusetts

The poems in WHALE AND VAPOR emphasize exhaustion—physically, mentally, and as an existential condition. Kim Kyung Ju playfully turns toward the lyric in this work as a way to reconcile himself with the contemporary world by engaging in dialogue with his Korean literary ancestry. Masterfully translated by Jake Levine in close conversation with the author, this collection by one of the most popular and critically acclaimed poets to come out in South Korea in the new millennium explores the cold tunnels of today's tired, dark times.

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