Nov 14, 2015

Literary Farm Stay With Poet Ilsun Hong

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

The Neighborhood Artists - 16.Ilsun Hong

Talk on ConvivialityIn Fool’s Forest at Lakeshore of Namhan Fool’s Forest Meditation Farm of Poet Ilsun Hong
Yeo-river is a term for a waterway of Namhan river passing through Yeoju. Dori Village in Jumdong-myon is located on the edge of Gyeonggi-do overlooking Moonmak of Gangwon-do with Yeo-river between. In this village where most of 50 households cultivate a field, artists like painters, potters and so on started to move in to live one by one. They started to move in after poet Ilsun Hong opened Fool’s Forest Meditation Farm here.

On November 14 a festival of writers was held here in Dori Village. More than 50 artists including poet Kyungrim Shin and literary critic Joongsuh Koo visited Fool’s Forest Meditation Farm of poet Ilsun Hong. It was a village festival in which village elders and members of women’s association butcher a pig and share boiled beef and meat soup. Here and there in the garden hanged poems of Yongwoon Han, Dongju Yoon waved, and a program of hanging poems was going on with performance of master Sijo singer Jongsoon Park in Fool’s Forest

It has been years since the poet named the walkway of Fool’s Forest as ‘시화총림’ and hung poems on every pine. Poems written on paper for fertilizer sacks were tied with Manila ropes and remained intact at least for two years. On participants’ way up to Fool’s Forest behind the Meditation Farm carrying their own poems, a donkey cried like welcoming guests. ‘Dajungee’ became “two years old in April 2015 and it has been one year since he joined in Fool’s Forest”. His junior and novelist Younghyun Kim bought for him worrying the farming might tough and named him. Right before a path through a forest, it is beautiful scenery that 700 Korean chickens, which the artist called ‘Mr. Chicken’ poured out. Talking to and feeding chickens are the most important ‘literary’ activity of the poet. “Farmers cannot but be a poet. Because a poet physically realizes every life is connected with each other.”

How much is a geun* of poem these days?

It was around autumn when he became a 6-year-farmer. “On a market day of Yeoju when he looked at a bald mountain only with sand towers due to Four Major Rivers Project in a mini shuttle bus, he was surprised at a question an old man of Dori village next to him asked”. It is that tells his illumination at that time.

(* note: Geun is a Korean traditional weight scaling. 1 geun is equivalent to 600 gram.)

All their life

the wise farmers
did not read even a piece of poetry
did not write even a piece of poetry

But they are a lifelong poet
There is a village they get together
On a spring day when they sow in fields
In Dori village of
The farmers,
Poor poets
The lights are turned on

Grain purchase by the government completed
Korea-U.S. FTA signed
Four Major Rivers Project ended
Looking at the fields
Filled with celandine,
A 90-year-old wise farmer asked me
Look, Mr. Poet
“In general how much is a geun of poet these days?”

Wow for committing a sin
by writing a poem on the riverbank
there was a man who cried repenting

In the village of Dori
In the river village of Dori is a farming
With soil
Wise people who share the happy years with their spouse is there

‘Words of Poet’ published together continues.

“a geun of wind, a geun of river, a geun of farmland…he called a poem by name of his flesh and blood such as rice, pepper or perilla. In those days I might have doubted my poems thinking the torture of seeing Korean territory after Four Major Rivers Project was finished is also the duty of a poet. Well, a farmer asked how much a geun of poem is. The person who wrote this poem is a 90-year-old veteran who enlightened me about farming of a poem in his slow and slow voice. Yes, virtuous farmers who realized the dream of the unity of poem and farming is the true teacher of my poem.”

A farming poet who lives with ‘Mr. Chicken’ and ‘Virtuous Famers’

Poet Ilsun Hong started his literary career through 『Creation and Criticism』 in 1980 and has continued his working as a veteran. As a member of 『Poem and Economy』 he sought literary actions against tyranny in the 80’s with Jiwoo Hwang, Junghwan Kim and so on. He took the secretary-general and did not say no to taking on unpleasant tasks, and participating in 『Literature of Human and Land』he became famous for a model of a farming poet.

In 2004 he discovered Dori village while going through the country to find a place to live as a farmer. He built a house and cultivated a field nearest the river. In this place which was full of tall wild grass, the poet had a restless night due to Sinperca and skygager romping around. Now there is no sound in the river which does not seem to flow. As ‘Four Major Rivers Restoration Project’ began, the dam called Gangcheon Weir backed up a stream. Instead of the sounds of fish jumping in the river, the village rang with a thundering noise of excavators and trucks from early morning to night and the poet could not even give a look at the terrible river.

“Revive the river? I could not stay still when the river had been dying in the name of ‘Four Major Rivers Restoration Project.’” The poet recalled the memory in the interview. At that time he gave himself fully to organize demonstrations and poetry readings as a co-chairperson of Cultural Artists Association against Grand Canal Korea. As the Grand Canal Plan, which the former President Myungbak Lee carried forward with taking office, faced the public’s opposition the name changed into ‘Four Major Rivers Restoration Project.’ 16 weirs including Gangcheon Weir and mid or five small sized multi-purpose dams were built spending 22 trillion won of government money. This is the most heart-breaking memory as a farm owner who named the hill overlooking the river as Fool’s Forest and ran a farm.

In a part of Fool’s Forest Meditation Farm concrete channel that had irrigated a rice field attracted my attention. It is not useful anymore as a rice field changed to a highly profitable tobacco field. The poet let a part of the channel in front of his studio left behind when it was removed. Because he thought it is a decent agricultural heritage. He said, “As a rice field on the banks of the river changed into a tobacco field and cowshed were built, dung beetles rolling cattle dung and fireflies disappeared.” It is a tragedy that farm work which may as well call ‘Ochetuji*’ causes an environmental destruction with a hodgepodge of bad smell and agricultural pesticides.

(* Note: Ochetuji as the general rule for doing a deep bow is to touch five points of your body to the floor.)

Korean chickens grown by the poet do not smell. He let them graze dandelion and huttuynia cordata freely in the field and the garden even though three or four of ten chickens were eaten by feathered animals. He takes an order of eggs and sends them by delivery service by himself. The eggs are very popular despite high price because he does not give not only feed but also antibiotics. Participants were pleased at receiving home-made Doenjang* as a gift at the end of the event. (* Note: Doenjang, Korean traditional food, is a fermented soybean paste.) It was a well fermented Doenjang in 100 or more crocks in the garden. His wife who runs her restaurant to help writers is famous for not only her cooking but also her clear look and warm heart. After their lives at the farm were on the air in one of the General Service Channel, as many as 50 people a day really visited the couple. Exclusive staff in Yeoju City Hall was needed to take flooding phone inquiries. There were many people who feel doubts about life and sick just like Mr. and Mrs. Hong who considered being a farmer. Saying that they failed to take care of their vegetable garden because they were busy with listening to visitors and patting on their back, Mr. and Mrs. Hong burst into a laugh.

Written by Sanghoon Kang
(Present CEO, O’NEWWALL / Former Editor-in-chief, Hakgojae Books)

Ilsun Hong

1980 Debut with 5 works including ‘Motherwort Flower’ in the Quarterly Magazine『Creation & Critique』, Summer 1980

1980 A member of『Poet & Economy』 with Jiwoo Hwang and Junghwan Kim
A member of 『Literature of Human and Earth』
1984 Assistant Administrator, The Association of Writers for Freedom Practice
Secretary-General, The Association of Writers for National Literature 
(Former) Vice chairperson, Freedom Practice Committee
Director, The Association of Writers for National Literature 
(Former) a co-chairperson of Cultural Artists Association against Grand Canal Korea
(Present) President of The Korean Literary Peace Forum

Books
1986 Published a collection of poem 『History of Farmland』
1992 Published a collection of poem 『A Seed Will Change Our Homeland』
2008 Published a collection of poem 『흙의 경전Sacred Book of Earth』

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
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