"There was a time when I had not written a poem for 15 years because I had to go to work. I am a poet who once abandoned poems, but they never gave me up. I would first like to express my gratitude to the poems that have led me through over 50 years like a mother who holds her son's hand to guide him."
On Thursday at a place in Mapo District, Seoul, Korean poet Jeong Ho-seung commenced his speech for the "book talk," celebrating the 50th year of his debut by thanking poetry first. He debuted in 1972 and released poems that opened a new era in the history of Korean lyric poetry, including "To Joy From Sorrow" in 1979 and "Humans Are Meant to be Lonely" in 1998. However, he confessed that there was a time he had to give up writing poems because he had to make a living for his family.
"The fact that I'm already over 70 is more shocking to me than that I had been writing poetry for 50 years,” he said. "I've wondered what I have been doing for the past 10 years and realized that I just published a couple of books of poems and ate a lot every day."
The 72-year-old poet said that jokingly but is still serious and eager about writing poems. He unveiled his 14th book of poems titled "Sorrow Brought by Delivery Service" on September 23, two years after his compilation "Searching for You" was released in 2020.
At the book talk, Jeong himself recited his poems calmly. A middle-aged reader with grey hair kept eyes closed while savoring the reciting, whereas some young female fans recorded the scene with their smartphones. They came from all walks of life in different age and gender groups, but they were one when listening to the recitation.
"Sorrow was brought by delivery service / I do not know who sent it / No name nor address of the sender on the box / I hurriedly tear open the box and the wrapping paper / But I can't find the sorrow anywhere inside." (excerpt from the poem "Delivery")
A letter that stands out in his latest compilation is "rak,” a Chinese character meaning "fall." It is included in six of his works in the book, including the poem titled "Fallen Fruit" that goes something like "That I fall onto the ground means / that I take responsibility." Jeong said he was inspired by a rotting quince fallen on the ground and giving off strong scent during his walk around his residential complex.
"As I get older, I often think about how to wrap up my life and take responsibility for it. If you are looking for a poem, look back on your life. You will be able to find the poem there (and don't have to write one yourself)."