Translation Tuesday: “I Want to Live Another Life” by Pak Jeong-de

A life that newly begins fluttering whenever a wind blows; / A life that is unrelated to gravity

There is an urge to cut ties and run in this week’s Translation Tuesday, though it is not with a sense of fear but, more wonderfully, a charged and stirring wanderlust. Pak Jeong-de’s poem sweeps us up in motion and emotion that are as grand as they are reckless, as if to say: if you’re not going to go all the way away, you might as well not go at all. (Another note: Pak Jeong-de reads with a great sense of theatre; check out a performance of his, in Korean, here.)

I Want to Live Another Life

by Pak Jeong-de

I kick a ball, dreadlocks flapping.
It was perhaps the peak of Bob Marley’s life.
There’s a face that suddenly appears in my mind.
What my life would be like
If I spent my life with that person,
I imagine from time to time.
It’s amazing that I still live on earth.
Many people I knew have already moved to another planet.
There’s been no news from them since. On the occasional night that I drink alone,
People that I miss pop into my mind from time to time –
The kind of people to whom I think of saying ‘I miss you,’
And have come to really miss.
My music started from crying,
Is that what Bob Marley said?
While my music hasn’t started yet,
My crying has already ended. Juliana Abudeba,
I listen to her piano repertoire.
I want to live another life.
I want to move to another planet rather than stay in this place.
A life in a strange place where there’s nobody I know;
A new life in a place where a shadow comes to an end.
I want to kick a ball, dreadlocks flapping.
Writing a poem on a yellowish coarse paper notebook bound with springs
I want to live different lives from day to day in a moving tent.
A life that newly begins fluttering whenever a wind blows;
A life that is unrelated to gravity,
Still fluttering even when the wind doesn’t blow.
A shadow that has followed me,
I put it here quietly now to leave.
Only one stone of solitude that I like,
I put it in my bag to live
For another life. Oh yes,
I may not be able to fly up again.
Well, anyway,

Translated from the Korean by Yang Eun-mi.

Pak Jeong-de is the author of Fragments (1997), In the Gyeong-eyolbiyeol-do of My Youth, Snow Still Falls like Music (2002), Amur Guitar (2004), Chemical Origin of Love And Fever (2007), Distance of All Possibility (2011), Job That Is Called Life (2011), Hail, Che Guevara! (2014), and From She To Eternity (2016). Pak is the recipient of the 14th Kim Dal-jin Literature Prize, the 19th Sowol Poetry Prize, and the 22nd Daesan Literature Prize. He is a member of Sugarless Cigarette Club, and International Poetry Radical Barbarians’ Band.

Yang Eun-mi is a poet, translator, and book reviewer in South Korea. She has a Master’s in Creative Writing with distinction from the University of Edinburgh, where she won the Grierson Verse Prize. Her poems have appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies in Korea, USA, UK, one of which has been nominated for 2015 Best of the Net Awards in the US. She is the winner of 2018 Korea Times Modern Literature Translation Award and 2018 GKL Korean Literature Translation Award. She received multiple grants from the Daesan Foundation and the Literary Translation Institute of Korea. Her translations have appeared in Korean Literature Now, the Guardian, Wasafiri Magazine, and others. She is doing the PhD program with full scholarship at the Academy of Korean Studies.


Read more translated poetry on the Asymptote blog: