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Author:Dabbene, Peter
Position:Book review
 
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Baek Seok, Choi Joongwon (illustrator), and Peter Liptak (translator); BAEK SEOK: POEMS OF THE NORTH; Exile Press (Nonfiction: Poetry) 28.95 ISBN: 9781936342099

Byline: Peter Dabbene

Revealing a hidden light of Korean poetry, the handsomely collected Baek Seok: Poems of the North shines with simple and universal splendor, set in the homes, yards, and farmland of twentieth-century Korea.

Peter Liptak applies his extensive skills and experience in English and Korean as he presents translations of the poetry of Baek Seok, who wrote his poems when Korea was occupied by Japan and was later split in two after World War II. Despite such turmoil, his poems focus on universal aspects of Korean culture: harmony with nature, family, love, and sadness. His work was rediscovered by modern scholars in 1987, and his growing reputation prompted this collection.

Baek Seok's poems carry a sense of nostalgia and community, delivered from an individual's point of view. Every line contributes to the whole, painting a picture in words. But Baek Seok's strength is his frugality, as seen in the poem "Green Persimmon," which creates an indelible image in just three lines:

On a night of countless stars To the cool current of a north wind The persimmon fell green to a...

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