OWL Magazine Korea

Kim Dong-ho’s “Navel Record: Kim Dong-ho’s Poetry Collection”

I once visited the office of the English Literature Department at Sungkyunkwan University. It was a farewell visit after my graduation, as I needed to start my internship.

On my way out of the office, I was able to pick up a poetry collection that they were offering for free, and that book was precisely this poetry collection by Kim Dong-ho.

“Kim Dong-ho’s Poetry Collection, Navel Record”

Kim Dong-ho is an emeritus professor of the English Literature Department at Sungkyunkwan University. Born in 1934, he published this book in 2012, almost reaching the age of 80 at the time. By now, he must be over 90.

As a poet with extensive experience, his collection gathers various poems into one. I don’t usually come across poetry in my daily life. Unless I deliberately seek it out, poetry tends to slip under my radar.

In Kim Dong-ho’s collection, he skillfully portrays life with just a few words and also uses satire. There’s a sense of leisure that comes from his seasoned experience, yet at the same time, it feels like he’s delivering a wake-up call about our lives.

Although seemingly light, the poems in the collection are anything but light. While there are several memorable poems in the collection, here I’ll introduce just one: “Words, Words, Words.”

“Words, Words, Words”

  • Words, they don’t just get transferred
  • They swell, and they swell, and they become a myth
  • They twist, and they twist, and they become a mockery
  • It’s not just love between man and woman
  • Ridicule between men also beats the hell out of words
  • Slandering between women also beats the hell out of words
  • Those who ride on words
  • Those who ride on horse races
  • Might as well ride on cattle
  • Become a shepherd boy sitting on a cow’s back

“A short yet impactful poem conveying meaning and lingering thoughts.”

Poetry may not be something I encounter regularly, but I believe that poetry, with its brevity, can deliver a powerful message.

There’s an experiment that suggests simplicity is what sticks in our memory the most, so simplifying the message one wants to convey through short poetry might be the most effective way to deliver that message.

Come to think of it, back when I was in school majoring in English literature, I occasionally wrote poetry, albeit somewhat reluctantly. Of course, since it was a major, I had to write poetry in English, but I did find some enjoyment in the process.

However, after leaving school, I feel like I’ve been gradually drifting away from poetry. While I still write, most of what I write tends to be informational or personal reflections. There seems to be some distance between me and the kind of emotional writing that poetry embodies.

If I were to find some leisure time, could I, like Kim Dong-ho, write short yet impactful poems? It’s something I ponder as I conclude this piece.

“Navel Record: Kim Dong-ho’s Poetry Collection”