Lee Won-Ro is a physician from Seoul, Korea. According to the book jacket, he has enjoyed an illustrious career as a cardiologist, professor, hospital chancellor, author of medical texts, and university president. Wedding Day is a translated compilation of poems from nine of Lee’s poetry books published from 1992 to 2011.
Though the poems span 19 years, the style and voice remain consistent and can be characterized as patient, gentle, and wise. Many poems have a tone of Zen-like acceptance, as in “Endless Climbing (Prologue),” in which the speaker issues a placid admonishment: “Do not be sad because there will be / Neither perfection nor completion / Do not be anxious over nothing but / The endless climbing on the steps of pursuit…”
Won-Ro often employs simple natural imagery without reference to time or place, as in “The Children of Those Days, Dancing and Singing,” in which he describes a nostalgic panorama, “At the snow-capped summit / Eagles hover about up high / As the beautiful evening glow / Gleams over the vast fields / A forgotten childhood…”
The author’s main themes are the ineffability of the cosmos, the impermanence of life, and the bittersweet nature of our mortality. Somewhat surprisingly, only a handful of poems contain medical or scientific language.
In terms of literary quality, Won Ro’s poems generally do not stand out stylistically. Western readers familiar with haiku or sijo may recognize some of their qualities of brevity and simplicity in his work, and occasionally, he includes a fresh turn of phrase. But readers looking for a new voice in poetry will find that it’s the author’s attitude rather than his facility with language that makes this book engaging.
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