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Master Cho Oh-hyun

translated by Heinz Insu Fenkl


The Dance & the Pattern

Late fall afternoon, when death crack-crackles underfoot,
sitting in a half-tub of creek water, I feel my forehead—
the thrum of ironing sticks I’ve not heard since my mother passed.


Elm Tree & Moon

she a dragonfly’s wings,
a filmy, rustling silk skirt,
and I a peacock shaft,
a mole upon her body

rise high, shine far
rise high, shine far


Today’s Beaming

The harvest moon rises, and the clams, with bated breath,
float surfaceward—and open wide their mouths to receive
the moon’s beams, revealing all their innermost flesh.


Master Cho Oh-hyun, who writes under the pen name “Musan,” was born in 1932 in Miryang in South Gyeongsang Province of Korea. He has lived in the mountains since he became a novice monk at the age of seven. Over the years he has written over a hundred poems, including many in sijo form. In 2007 he received the Cheong Chi-yong Literary Award for his book Distant Holy Man. The lineage holder of the Mt. Gaji school of Korean Nine Mountains Zen, he is in retreat as the head of Baekdamsa Temple at Mt. Seoraksan.

Heinz Insu Fenkl, born in 1960 in Bupyeong, Korea, is a novelist, translator, and editor. His autobiographical novel, Memories of My Ghost Brother, was named a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection in 1996 and a PEN/Hemingway Award finalist in 1997. His most recent translation, Yi Mun-yol’s short story, “An Anonymous Island,” was published in the September 12, 2011 issue of The New Yorker.