Featured Poem

Two poems by Han Kang

The readings in this podcast were recorded and edited by James Bull.

Pitch-Black House of Light

That day in Ui-dong
sleet fell
and my body, companion to my soul
shivered with each falling tear.

Get on your way.

Are you hesitating?
What are you dreaming, hovering like that?

Two-storey houses lit like flowers,
beneath them I learned agony
and towards a land of joy as yet untouched
foolishly reached out a hand.

Get on your way.

What are you dreaming? Keep walking.

Towards memories forming on a streetlamp, I walked.
There I looked up and inside the lightshade
was a pitch-black house. Pitch-black
house of light

The sky was dark and in that darkness
resident birds
flew up casting off the weight of their bodies.
How many times would I have to die to fly like that?
Nobody could hold my hand.

What dream is so lovely?
What memory
shines so brightly?

Sleet, like the tips of mother’s fingers,
raking through my dishevelled eyebrows
striking frozen cheeks and again
stroking that same spot,

Hurry up and get on your way.

Winter through a Mirror


Peer at the pupil of a flame.
shaped eye
the hottest brightest thing
that which surrounds it
orange inner flame
the thing which flickers most
that which surrounds again
half-transparent outer flame
tomorrow morning, the morning I
depart for the furthest city
this morning
the bluish eye of a flame
peers beyond my eyes.


Now my city is spring morning, if you pass through the core of the earth, bore straight through the middle without wavering, that city appears, the time difference there exactly twelve hours behind, the season exactly half a year behind so that city is now an autumn evening, as though silently following someone that city follows behind mine, to cross over the night to cross over winter I wait silently, while my city outruns that one like somebody silently overtaking


Inside the mirror winter is waiting
A cold place
An utterly cold place
It’s too cold
objects cannot tremble
your (once frozen) face
cannot shatter
I don’t reach out my hand
you also
don’t want to reach out your hand
A cold place
A place that stays cold
It’s too cold
pupils cannot waver
do not know how to close (together)
Inside the mirror
winter waits and
Inside the mirror
I cannot avoid your eyes and
You don’t want to reach out your hand


They said we would fly for an entire day.
Tightly fold twenty-four hours pop it in your mouth and
go into the mirror they said.
Once I unpack in a room in that city
I should take time to wash my face.
If the suffering of this city silently overtakes
I will silently lag behind and
when you are not peering at it for a moment
lean against the frosty back of the mirror
and hum carelessly.
Until, having tightly folded twenty-four hours
and spat it out nudged with your hot tongue
you return and peer at me


My eyes are two candle stubs sliding drips of wax as they consume the wick, it is not searing nor painful, they say that the quivering of the bluish flame core is the coming of souls, souls sit on my eyes and quiver, they hum, the outer flame swaying in the distance sways to get further off, tomorrow you leave for the furthest city, here I am ablaze, now you put your hands into the tomb of the void and wait, memory bites your fingers like a snake, you are not seared nor in pain, your unflinching face does not burn or shatter

» Comment on this translation 0 comment(s)

About the translation:
» Read translator's notes
Original language:
2016 Number 3 - The Blue Vein

About the author

Original poet


HAN KANG is a novelist, poet, and a professor of creative writing at Seoul Institute of the Arts. She received the 2016 Man Bo...

» Read more



SOPHIE BOWMAN is a literary translator and student of Korean literature. She won the 2015 Korea Times Translation Award for he...

» Read more


No Comments


Browse poems

By original language »

By issue of MPT »

Go Digital

Subscribe to the digital edition of MPT for access to all back issues and to the Exactly app.» View free trial issue

Back to top
Supported by Arts Council England

Copyright © Modern Poetry in Translation and contributors
Website design ashbydesign
Developed by Code Frontiers
Powered by Storemill