The Blue Vein: MPT No. 3 2016 (Modern Poetry in Translation, Third Series) by Fi Jae Lee by Fi Jae Lee - Read Online

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The Blue Vein - Fi Jae Lee

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Every morning in the sky, the blue vein slaps you hard

No.3 2017

© Modern Poetry in Translation 2017 and contributors

ISSN ( print ) 0969-3572 • ISSN ( online ) 2052-3017

ISBN ( print ) 978-1-910485-13-2 • ISBN ( ebook ) 978-1-910485-14-9

Editor: Sasha Dugdale Managing, Editor: Deborah de Kock

Web and Communications Manager: Ed Cottrell

Design by Jenny Flynn, Cover art by Fi Jae Lee

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Charlesworth Press, Wakefield

For submissions and subscriptions please visit

Modern Poetry in Translation Limited. A Company Limited by Guarantee

Registered in England and Wales, Number 5881603

UK Registered Charity Number 1118223

Modern Poetry in Translation is grateful for the support of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea.

Modern Poetry in Translation

The Blue Vein



Eduardo Chirinos, ‘Fourteen Forms of Melancholy’

Translated by G. J. Racz

Daniele Bernardi, ‘La Madre’

Translated by Joan Michelson

Salomón de la Selva, eight poems

Translated by Francisco Larios

Ebba Lindqvist, three poems

Translated by Janice D. Soderling

Thomas Rosenlöcher, ‘The Angel on Roller Skates’

Translated by Ken Cockburn

Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska

Translated by Barbara Bogoczek and Tony Howard

Constantine Cavafy, five poems

Translated by Ian Parks

Jean-Paul de Dadelsen, ‘The End of the Day’ and ‘Women of the Plain’

Translated by Marilyn Hacker

Judita Vaičiūnaitė, three poems

Translated by Rimas Uzgiris

Oscar Cruz, four poems

Translated by Serafina Vick

Kostas Karyotakis, ‘Mikhalios’

Translated by Steven Heighton


Kim Hyesoon, eight poems

Translated by Don Mee Choi

Cho Chae-ryong and Kim Hyesoon

The territory of language has shrunk: a conversation

Yi Sang, ‘Crow’s Eye View’

Translated by Jack Jung

Kim Yideum, five poems

Translated by Ji yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi, and Johannes Göransson

Jin Eun-young, seven poems

Translated by Soohyun Yang and Yeram Han

Ko Hyeong-ryeol, three poems

Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Lee Hyung-Jin

Ko Un, four poems

Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Lee Sang-Wha

Kim Min Jeong, four poems

Translated by Jake Levine

Han Kang, three poems

Translated by Sophie Bowman


D.M. Black, Retellings, Rivalries and World-Battles

A Mahabharata for our times

Jen Calleja, Beware of Justice

On a twentieth-century poetry powerhouse

Susan Wicks, Bottling Secrets

Two new introductions to old friends

David Constantine, The Humane Revolt

John Berger’s last collection of poems

David and Helen Constantine, On John Berger

notes on contributors


The focus of this edition of MPT is on poetry from Korea, and the work I read for the issue startled me, I’ve never read anything like it. The images were raw and gristly, the situations odd and untamed. The poetic imagination of many of the Korean poets published here seemed to me Blakean in its boundlessness, but fragmented: godless, modern and sorrowful. Most of all I felt a sublimated rage in the work which seemed to drive it to new expressions and new contortions. None of this poetry is easy or comforting, mostly it isn’t lyrical, and sometimes it barely seems poetry – just the skeleton of what might once have been poetry. As I read the poems collected here I could feel a common consciousness: an awareness of a world badly skewed, inhospitable, deathly.

Several of the poets refer directly to a political situation in their work, like Kim Hyesoon, whose work here concerns the ‘unjust dead’ of Korea. Some of the work is unsettling because of the suggestion of horror and the atmosphere of dysfunctionality. The remarkable cycle by Yi Sang, to which Kim Hyesoon alludes in her interview, is published here in English translation for the first time, and it is unnerving: an epic fractured in a hand-glass.

This powerful poetry would have seemed important to publish a year ago, but more distant: voices from a long way off, from a place with a different and bloody recent history (although if you have read Freely Frayed,ㅋ=q, Race=Nation Don Mee Choi’s essays on the political relationship between the US and South Korea, the power imbalance inherent in bringing this poetry into English, then you would not have allowed yourself this complacency of distance and washed hands). But now we are ourselves in a very different place. The slow rise of nationalism, fear and irrationalism has finally brought our world to what seems to many the brink: the most powerful man in the Western world is a craven fool, full of vanity, Falstaff masquerading as the King. Radiating out from him, leaders of countries, makers of laws and morals, writers, poets, readers and citizens must all decide in our various ways whether we repudiate him and his like, and are cast from his system – or whether we make deep moral compromises in order to influence even a little for the good; whether we give up our peaceful lives to be activists, or whether we protest by asserting our right to peaceful lives. Whether our civic duty is to listen to the news, to share it and to debate it, or whether the relentless bad news saps our ability to do good in other ways. Whether the mask of anger or the mask of compassion fits. We make these decisions over and over again as we contemplate each shift downwards.

And if we are poets and writers then we now must start again. It is not possible to write in a vacuum. Kim Hyesoon speaks in her interview of the way words are denied their metaphorical reach by events and this in itself is a form of censorship. Words are now actively disappearing around us. We must make the language work harder for us, the language we have left, while we have it left.

In this sense then there is a real urgency in publishing this work. We need to read work by poets who can show us a way of writing and asserting the human in a world which seems increasingly inimical to our existence, with fewer and fewer words and images at our disposal.

Sasha Dugdale

'words are denied their metaphorical reach by events'

The very first issue of Modern Poetry in Translation is now online at

Eduardo Chirinos

Translated by G. J. Racz

Eduardo Chirinos, born in 1960, lost his battle with cancer on 17 February last year. Optimistic to the end, he was only fifty-five years old. It would be difficult to find another writer of his talent and renown, as humble and unassuming. At a session dedicated to Eduardo’s life, work, and legacy at the conference of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) in October, Kate Hedeen rightly called him a true ‘poet of the Americas’. The seven volumes of translations published during his lifetime chart his growing engagement with the poetry of the northern hemisphere and increasing awareness of the blurring of borders between the United States and his native Peru. ‘Arriving at one place does not mean | abandoning another’, he writes in ‘Fourteen Forms of Melancholy’, the poem published here and one of the last on which he and I would collaborate. It is poignant for me to read this piece now, as it is with so many of Eduardo’s works that soldier on in their bilingual afterlives. This is the second time his poetry has appeared in the pages of Modern Poetry in Translation. Eduardo cheerfully availed his publication in MPT’s inaugural relaunch issue, with its focus on Dutch poetry, to write ‘Si tuviera 2420 años’ (If I Were 2,420 Years Old) after a rendering of a Toon Tellegen piece in that same volume. Eduardo has left us, yet his treasure trove remains behind. ‘Imagine that I’m here, that I never | went off anywhere’, the poem that follows reads in part. If I knew my old friend at all, I am sure he wouldn’t want any of us to mourn his passing, but to revel in the beauty he created and the fond memories he has bequeathed.

Fourteen Forms of Melancholy

Melancholici dicuntur qui uni potissimum cogitationi

constanter affixi circa semetipsos aut statum

suum delirant, de caeteris objectis ritè rationantes.

‘Melancholic’ is the term applied to those whose constant fixation on chiefly one line of thought renders them deranged when it comes to themselves or their own condition, though they remain perfectly rational about all other matters.

– Boissier de Sauvages


Hear the singing of a bird in the night, a bird

amid the branches of any old tree:

a larch,

a pine or an aspen. Then be the bird for that

one night. For that one night be

the closed window, the solitude, the wind.


An ancient melody wounds the ear.

We don’t want to hear it, but it’s

insistent, knocking at our door

and saying in