Poet Yang Geum-Hee – The Green Panther of Jeju Island

Yang Geum-Hee

Yang Geum-Hee

Preview of the poetry collection ‘Nests of Birds’, authored by South Korean poetess Yang Geum-Hee, a lover of nature and a conservationist

By Nasir Aijaz,
AsiaN Representative

SINDH:  Sometimes it happens that you develop good friendly relations with a person whom you have never met. This has become possible mainly because of the cyber age we live in today, which has turned the world into a global village, as the internet, a marvelous invention of high-tech era, has connected the entire regions of the globe. Now the distance doesn’t matter, as one-click is enough to cover the distance of thousands of kilometers. The friendship bond further strengthens with a realization that we all are the dwellers of same planet living under the same sky.

This happened in case of me and my South Korean friend, the Jeju Island-based poet and scholar Ms. Yang Geum-Hee, whom I have never met. I have been to South Korea six times and once had a trip to Jeju Island, but never knew about Ms. Yang. It was early 2023 when we were connected thanks to Dr. Byeong, who had shared her poetry for my web portal Sindh Courier. Since then, I have been reading her poetry, sharing views online on Korean culture and society, folk literature etc. Her scholarly conversation, command on history, culture, and Korean society, helped me a lot to understand phases of development of Korean society.

It transpired during the conversation that Ms. Yang is nature-lover and has deep belonging to the mountains, waterfalls, beaches, fishermen, fauna and flora, winds, folklore, myths, legends, and culture of Jeju Island. She often talked of peoples’ uprising against the foreign occupation, role of women played in development of Korean society etc. And whenever I read her poetry, I found reflection of her intense feelings for entirety of Jeju Island, which she pens down with the words and phrases emerging from the core of her heart. I find in her a poet, and a ‘Green Panther’ of Jeju Island, who is a lover of nature, a conservationist and a green activist.

As is evident from the title of book ‘Nests of Birds’, Ms. Yang minutely describes each and every thing that belongs to Jeju Island. She even loves the fallen leaves of trees during the harsh winters, as narrated in one of her recent poems ‘House made of fallen leaves’. Another poem ‘A cup of Korea Woojeon Green Tea’ manifests her deep affection even for the Korean green tea. And while writing about the Naga Parbat, the westernmost major peak of the Himalaya Mountain Range, she doesn’t forget to mention Hallasan Mountain of Jeju Island. She mentions Hallasan Mountains in these words:

As I look at Hallasan,

And you gaze at Nanga Parbat,

We give each other wisdom for a new life,

Showing each other greater potential for growth.

Encouraging each other, we break out of our shells and grow.

The poem ‘Looking at Halla Mountain and Nanga Parbat’s peak’ is not confined to mention or the comparison of two mountains, but revolves around the philosophy of life, as she says:

The moment we step out of our mother’s embrace

And set foot in the world,

We realize that life is about breaking out of our shells.

When we taste the freshness of the unknown world,

We grow up by feeling the height of the world while looking at the mountains.

No matter what mountain it is,

We take one step at a time towards its summit,

Overcoming any obstacles and being reborn anew.

Even if we face disappointment, wound, sadness, and pain,

We rise again and seek the joy of life,

Discovering the truth of a new life.

Ms. Yang, author of two collections of poetry books, ‘Happiness Account’ and ‘Ieodo, Island of Legend and Existence’, as well as one collection of essays titled ‘Happy Companion’, loves reading poetry books and writing the poetry. I would conclude with quoting her poem ‘Reading poetry book’ which amply elaborates her vision and command over the words to express whatever see reads, observes and feels. It seems as if the simple but beautiful and powerful words start pouring out from her heart:

Someone sent a book of poetry,

The fruit of someone’s heart.

Bite off the poetry book that contains the poet’s life,

Fruits of different sizes, different colors.

Poet read the world and ripe poetry fruit,

When you take a bite, thick juice flows out.

The ever-changing essence of nature,

Dressed in the language of poetry,

Be beautiful,

Even in the freezing cold,

Snowflake flowers bloom, the world is warmed by the poetry

Bitter, sweet, spicy, astringent,

Fruits with all the flavors in the world.

Pick up the language of poetry from the sky,

Find your way through the trees,

Catch the language of poetry in the sea,

Find the language of poetry like wild ginseng in the mountains,

And the winding path of the poet’s life is deciphered in the starlight.

Listening to the chirping of the birds and the sound of the wind

The poetry heals wound, comfort and happiness,

The poet’s fresh fruit ripens.

The poet breathes life into poetry

To guide the path of happiness,

Awaken the senses, open the eyes of intellect.

Finally, we bite the fruit of the poet.

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