Monday, October 24, 2011

Wind burial

Last month I had the good fortune to meet Korea's renowned poet Hwang Tong Gyu at a Red Room round table event at the Rocks in Sydney. He was introduced by the wonderful Sydney (Singapore) poet Eileen Chong who also read his poems in English.

Hwang spoke about the process of writing the seventy poems over fourteen years that make up his collection Wind Burial (1995), and how at the end of that time he was no longer afraid of death. 'The poems are linked by the motif of wind burial ... the folk tradition of leaving the corpse out in the open and allowing it to decompose and disappear gradually through exposure to the elements.'

Below are the lines from his poem 'wind burial 27' with images I collected in Newcastle.

 When I leave the world

I'll carry my two hands, two feet and mouth.

 I'll take my dim eyes too, carefully covering them with lids.

But I'd rather leave my ears,
ears keen to catch the sound of the late night rain
as it gives its arm to autumn's shoulder.

Ears that can guess the name of the autumn tree

standing in the rain only by listening
will be left.

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