Poems are sometimes referred to as the flower of language. In Korea, flowers are metaphors for essence. It is the reason why poems use various kinds of metaphors. Poetry has the power to change a readers’ feeling, thinking, and state of mind. However, these days, people seem to avoid getting into poetry. Many students feel that poetry is too difficult to understand. Consequently poetry books do not sell very well, and have disappeared from many bookstores. However, poetry isn’t as difficult to relate to as many people seem to think. Poetry can take many forms, even simple things that you write down when you feel happy or sad could be considered poetry. It’s time for university students to give poetry another chance.
Decreasing market, disappearing poetry
According to statistics put out by the Korean Publishers Association, in 1990, there were 757 different books of poetry on the market, and nearly one million copies were published. In 2009, there were 1,045 different books of poetry, but the number of copies remained the same. This means that fewer copies of each book were printed.
The bestselling book of poetry “Standing Alone” by Jung-Yoon Seo sold about three million copies in 1987. However, the bestselling book of poetry in 2009, “Stars Shine on wherever You have walked” sold just thirty five thousand copies. This is a typical example of the decreasing market for poetry. In addition, according to research done by "yes24", a popular online bookstore, poetry books account for just 4% of total sales in the literature category.
Poetry in modern culture
These days, poetry is grafted onto other cultural fixtures like music, plays, and movies. Therefore, poetry is already a part of your life whether you realize it or not. Poetry song groups such as “Woolrim”, which means “echo” in Korean, and “Gashiyeon”, which means “prickly water lily” in Korean, present one method of enjoying poetry in other forms. They make songs from poems. They hold regular concerts, and Woolrim has released two albums. Woolrim also operates two off shoot groups “Ttubeogi” and “Dalpaengi.” Ttubeogi is a youth poetry song group, and Dalpaengi makes movie images with poems. These kinds of groups are the future of poetry. Some theater companies and educational offices have put on poetic dramas from popular poems like “Does Spring Come to a Lost Land” and “Father’s Salary Is as Small as a Pea.”
There have been many notable poets in Korea. Each of them possess a unique way to express how they think, feel, and deliver messages. Therefore, readers should be able to find a poet they can identify with.
One of the most popular poets in Korea is Dong-Ju Yoon. His poetry touches the hearts of his readers softly and deeply. He was ashamed of his passive attitude on life, and tried to change it. Readers can consider their own way of life through his poetry because his suffering and anguish is revealed in it.
One poet who definitely has a different style from Dong-Ju Yoon is Yuk-Sa Yi. His poetry presents strong messages and clear images. He expresses extreme feelings and hope. In his poetry, he sometimes places himself on the edge of a cliff, and sometimes he is talking in a silent forest.
Sang-Hwa Yi is another prominent poet. He has a strong thirst for unification and peace. He loses himself in peaceful memories of the past in his poetry. He is a strong proponent for national reunification.
You can find out more about these poets' poetry, information, and photos on the websites below. There is also information about literary events like music concerts, writing contests, and dramas which are based on their poetry.
The Yoon Dong-Ju Memorial Society
The Yi Yuk-Sa Literature museum
The Yi Sang-Hwa memorial committee
An example of decreasing interest for poetry in YU; the Yeungnam Literature Cenacle
At YU, there was once a literature cenacle "The Yeungnam Literature Cenacle." Many writers and poets were produced from this group. However, the cenacle gradually disappeared due to a shortage of new applicants. This is a typical example of poetry's current situation in Korea. We interviewed Jong-Baek Lee who is the editor in chief of the Yeungnam University Press and former memeber of the 5th Yeungnam Literature Cenacle.
Q) What did the Yeungnam Literature Cenacle do?
A) We discussed literature, and read our own poems. We received no support from the university, so we met in the restaurant which was located in the central library or in available lecture rooms. Anyway, we met at least once a week. We also had presentations for poetry readings and our own poems.
Q) Why did the Yeungnam Literature Cenacle disappear despite the diligent activities of the members? Also, students these days seem to avoid poetry because they think it is too difficult to understand. What do you think about this situation?
A) Most of all, students are having a hard time finding a job these days. This situation has reduced interest in poetry. However, poetry takes the reader’s ideas outside the box. It is the foundation of creativity. And creativity is particularly emphasized these days.
It is a natural situation that students have difficulty understanding poetry, because poetry often consists of expressions that come from the deep anguish of the poet. If you try to read and memorize a poem, you will be able to understand the expressions. If you find a poet you identify with, you can understand their poems more easily. The efforts will improve your writing capability.
Poetry approaches readers through various mediums like music, drama, and dance. People can find poetry in their lives in unexpected places like bus stops and subway stations. University student, who are supposed to be at the forefront of knowledge and culture, need to understand the value of poetry when it comes to developing creativity. There are new and modern ways for you to enjoy poetry if you just give it another chance.