by Peter LoBianco
Kyung Wha Chung
I sat at your feet all those years ago
to watch your cultured wrist, a fencer en garde,
the tense withholding of your entrance
until with a flourish, a charged upstroke,
you would sweep to attack and lunge and thrust
until the music bled, and then, in diminuendo
you spooled out heaven – this was to float
with your body raised on tiptoe
notes passing through you like a shock
in little gasps and murmurs, the unexpected
frown, as some will die of a severed heart,
towed under the roar as the crowd lifts.
– after reading Kim Su-Young in a bilingual presentation.
A page of characters, just the deft strokes
of ink on paper, or reeds at the water’s surface
where they first entice then swirl beyond reach.
Someone spoke the words as though ringing chimes,
shaped the staccato music into lines,
then offered the translation –
the report of the scout who had just
fallen to the soft bank to read the traces
from scrapes of bark, slips of a plover’s toe;
of the days the travellers delayed as they plaited
the fronds into new shapes, then finally stayed,
and cast the stems onto the skin of the river.
– Sung Hee photographed by Kah Poon
You are the green-haired ghost of the goths
and hover like watered cellophane,
grained by the walls you’d walked through.
The searching fingers of your long white hands
slip through their jewels, yet the flowered screens
still float and try petals on your shoulders.
Stay, strange one! And I will weave colours
into your worded skin for the dark lines
of our poem to appear.
Poets Notes on Inspiration:
The three poems offered here are written about, or inspired by, Korean artists who have marked international audiences and simultaneously promote and invest the world with their original national stamp.
The poem Language was inspired, as the epigraph says, after reading poet Kim Su-Young in a bi-lingual edition (of his poem A white sheet of paper) where the Korean and English scripts are laid out on facing pages. This started thought about how one can enter the language of others, the inevitable “summarizing” of poetry in translation, and then extending into a metaphor of how linguistic influences are absorbed into any language.
Kyung Wha Chung (as her name is ordered in the west) is the great Korean violinist who broke onto the international scene through her concerts in Britain in the mid 1970’s. I literally stood at her feet during Promenade concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall in that era, and the poem was prompted by her recent “return to London concert” in December 2014, which I was also lucky enough to witness, where she provided a stunning display and swept up the audience again – that fan base being both English and half the Korean community of London, it seemed!
Ars Poetica relates to photographs of the Korean fashion model Sung-Hee Kim. Fashion – like music, literature, science, circus and soccer – seems to be a field where there is a direct passport to international participation, a judgment first about the quality of the product, and where novelty of looks and subject matter provide a vehicle for sharing globally.