The Mirror’s Dance

Yi Won
Translated from the Korean by E. J. Koh & Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello

The butterfly flies in the direction of springThe camel walks in the direction of the desertThe human spreads in the direction of the voidI run in the direction of the mirrorEverywhere the camel goes is a desert(The camel follows the sand, the sand follows the stars,the stars are studded and callous under the camel’s hooves)Everywhere the butterfly flies is spring(The wings always blossoming with eyes)Everywhere I go is a road and a mirror(Time doesn’t shed a single drop of sorrow, but thentime rolls away like a drop of sorrow)Everywhere the human goes is a void(Hands that imprint hours in the void,the original doesn’t exist, so they flow like prayers)Thereforeit’s springit’s the direction of springit’s the spring danceit’s the butterflyThereforeit’s the voidit’s the direction of the voidit’s the dance of the voidit’s the humanThereforeit’s the desertit’s the direction of the desertit’s the desert danceit’s the camelThereforeit’s the direction of the road, the mirrorit’s the road, the mirror danceit’s me 거울의 춤나비는 봄의 방향으로 날아오고 있고낙타는 사막의 방향으로 걸어가고 있고인간은 허공의 방향으로 번지고 있고나는 거울의 방향으로 뛰어가고 있다낙타가 가는 곳은 모두 사막이고(낙타는 모래를 따라가고 모래는 별을 따라가고별은 낙타의 발바닥에 굳은살로 박히고)나비가 오는 곳은 모두 봄이고(날개는 늘 싹트고 있는 눈이다)내가 가는 곳은 길이고 거울이고(시간은 슬픔을 한 방울도 흘리지 않는다 그러나시간은 슬픔 한 방울로 굴러간다)인간이 지금 가는 곳은 허공이다(허공에 경을 새겨넣는 손들원본이 존재하지 않아 흐르는 경문들)그러므로봄이며봄의 방향이며봄의 춤인나비여그러므로허공이며허공의 방향이며허공의 춤인인간이여그러므로사막이며사막의 방향이며사막의 춤인낙타여그러므로길의 방향이며 거울의 방향이며길이며 거울의 춤인나여

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photo of Yi Won
Photo:
Newsis

Yi Won is a South Korean avant-garde poet and essayist, born in 1968 in Gyeonggi-do. She studied Creative Writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts and earned her master’s degree at the Graduate School of Culture and Arts at Dongguk University. Her poetry debuted in 1992, and she received the Contemporary Poetics Award (2002), Contemporary Poetry Award (2005), Opening the World with Poetry Award (2014), The Beginning Award (2014), The Equity Literature Award (2018), and the Poet Town Literary Award (2018). Her books include When They Ruled the Earth (1996), A Thousand Moons Rising Over the River of Yahoo! (2001), The World’s Lightest Motorcycle (2007), The History of an Impossible Page (2012), Let Love be Born (2017), and I Am My Affectionate Zebra (2018). She lives in Seoul, South Korea, and works at the Seoul Institute of the Arts as a professor of Creative Writing, School of Creative Writing.

photo of EJ Koh and Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello
Photo:
Margarita Corporan

E. J. Koh is the author of the memoir The Magical Language of Others (Tin House Books, 2020), winner of the Washington State Book Award, winner of the Pacific Northwest Book Award, longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award, and author of the poetry collection A Lesser Love (Louisiana State University Press, 2017), winner of the Pleiades Editors Prize for Poetry. She is the co-translator, with Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, of Yi Won’s poetry collection The World’s Lightest Motorcycle (Zephyr Press, 2021). Koh has received fellowships from the American Literary Translators Association, MacDowell, and Kundiman. Her poems, translations, and stories have appeared in AGNI, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, POETRY, Slate, and elsewhere. Koh earned her MFA at Columbia University in New York for Creative Writing and Literary Translation. Koh is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington in English Literature studying Korean American literature, history, and film.

Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello is the author of Hour of the Ox (University of Pittsburgh, 2016), which won the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in Best Small Fictions, Kenyon Review Online, Orion, The New York Times, and been anthologized in You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves (Workman Publishing, 2021), Grabbed: Poets & Writers on Sexual Assault, Empowerment & Healing (Beacon, 2020), and Ink Knows No Borders: Poems on the Immigrant and Refugee Experience (Seven Stories Press, 2019). The recipient of fellowships from the American Literary Translators Association and Kundiman, Cancio-Bello earned an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University, where she was a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellow. She is the poetry coordinator for the Miami Book Fair.

"Yi Won and her translators show that a poem can be a space where readers might imagine that another world is possible; where correspondence and contradiction easily coexist, and no one insists otherwise; where one can play out dreams without turning them into dogma."
—Mia You, Poetry Foundation

"Yi Won is one of the most fascinating and exciting poets to emerge after the oppressive decades of South Korea’s military dictatorship. Her renowned and influential predecessor, Kim Hyesoon, notes that “young Korean women poets are developing a terrain of poetry that is combative, visceral, subversive, inventive, and ontologically feminine.” Yi Won’s highly inventive poetry creates a new surreal terrain in which bodies and everyday objects, capitalist commodities, exist side by side and interact, often violently. E. J. Koh and Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, two brilliant Korean American poets, have invented astonishing language for Yi Won’s subversive poetry."
—Don Mee Choi

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