Towards the Field of Sleep


In our translation, the workshop group agreed that we ought to clarify who was speaking, adding pronouns at various points in the poem which aren’t specified in the original. The pro-drop nature of Korean (described here) allows the Korean speaker to drop pronoun and other parts of speech when they can be inferred from context. This allows for a rich ambiguity in Korean poetry which whilst satisfying to explore, might be misleading in an English translation. Throughout we chose to imagine the speaker as a single unified voice and the experience and exclamations coming from that one speaker. So “under eyelids” became “beneath my eyelids”. Likewise, this choice of words (preferring the formal “beneath” to the simpler “under”) seemed to underscore another element of the poem which, as our guest translator explained, was the poem’s use of registers. In the Korean, the majority of the poem employs a register that might be used when writing a journal, or speaking to oneself, it has a slightly formal quality - which is then interrupted twice (once by the exclamation and address: “what’s going on? / where did you come from?” and once by the almost comic-book book expression “hrmph!”) As we translated, we tried to capture these jumps between modes of speech and harness the several instances of opposition/contradiction within the poem.

Edward Doegar, Commissioning Editor

Guest-translator Mattho Mandersloot also prepared a phonetic version of the Korean for the workshop:

jamui deulpaneuro

jamui byeongsadeuri
jageun changgwa bangpaereul jwigo
mollyeo-ogo mulleonago

nunkkeopul aneseo
jaukage pyeolchyeojineun jamui deulpan
chigobatgo chigobatgo chigobatgo
meonjicheoreom pieooreunda

eodiseo wanneunga?
neon eodiseo?
nado molla
soneul japgo gureumi doeja
mungchyeoseo sarajija
geureoja geureoja geureoja
jamui gureum tte

neudaseopsi huk
koeseo ppajyeonaon sumsorie
momi heundeulligo

jamui deulpaneun kkaeeojigo
byeongsadeureun eodironga sarajigo
jjijeojin jamui geomijul

dasi jamui deulpaneuro
mikkeureojyeo deureogaryeogo
geomijul geomijul geomijul

eonjenganeun yeongwonhi nareul
jabagal jamui byeongsadeureul