Cheon Yang-hee

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Cheon Yang-hee (born January 21, 1942) is a South Korean poet.


Cheon Yang-hee was born in Busan on January 21, 1942, the youngest of seven children. Growing up she was influenced by her father, who was an enthusiast of poetry and pansori, and by her grandfather, a lay Buddhist. Deciding to become a poet, she often wrote and recited poems, despite being unable to participate in art festivals due to administrative problems in her school. In 1962, she enrolled in Ewha Womans University, majoring in Korean literature. She made her literary debut in 1965 when Hyundae Munhak published three of her poems on the recommendation of poet Park Dujin: "Jeongwon hanttae" (정원 한때 Once in a Garden), "Hwaeum" (화음 Harmony), and "Achim" (아침 Morning). However, she stopped writing from 1969 to 1982, following her marriage. Eventually she divorced her husband and ran a dressmaker's shop. During this time, she suffered from tuberculosis and a heart condition. She ended her hiatus in 1983 when her poetry collection Sini uriaege mutneundamyeon (신이 우리에게 묻는다면 If God Asks Us) was published.

Many of her early poems candidly reflect on the isolated self, while later poems, beginning with her 1994 poetry collection Maeumeui susubat (마음의 수수밭 Sorghum Field of the Heart), tend to focus on how the pains, hardships, sorrows, and frustrations in life subtly influence the psyche.[1] She is the winner of the Sowol Poetry Award, Hyundae Literary Award, Gong Cho Literature Award, Park Dujin Literary Award, and Manhae Literature Prize.[2]


Cheon is a rare case in the South Korean literary scene in that she debuted in her twenties, stopped writing for a long time, yet still won critical and popular recognition when she started writing again in her forties. Her first poetry collection Sini uriaege mutneundamyeon (신이 우리에게 묻는다면 If God Asks Us) portrays the process of perceiving the isolated self. The poems acknowledge the psychological pain that comes with thwarted dreams and suggests the mindset with which you can face it.

Cheon's most famous poetry collection is Maeumeui susubat (마음의 수수밭 Sorghum Field of the Heart). Already a seasoned poet by the time she wrote the collection, she shared in it insights on life that she had gained over many years. In this collection and subsequent works, she often uses the imagery of water to depict the ideal life. An indispensable resource for sustenance, water is a universal archetype for renewal, cleansing, and fertility. It symbolizes the purification or progression towards a life of higher quality. Cheon's frequent reference to clear water implies her subconscious longing for a purified and fruitful life. Her works serve as a consolation to today's readers who cope with negative emotions such as anger, sorrow, depression, loneliness, pain, despair, regret, or bitterness.

In this sense, she is a poet who illustrates the human struggle to heal life's scars.[3] Her latest work explores the meaning of writing poetry in modern society.[4]


Poetry collections[edit]

  • 『신이 우리에게 묻는다면』, 평민사, 1984 { If God Asks Us. Pyeongminsa, 1984. }
  • 『마음의 수수밭』, 창작과 비평, 1994 { Sorghum Field of the Heart. Changbi, 1994. }
  • 『오래된 골목』, 창작과 비평, 1998 { Old Alley. Changbi, 1998. }
  • 『너무 많은 입』, 창작과 비평, 2005 { Too Many Mouths. Changbi, 2005. }
  • 『나는 가끔 우두커니가 된다』, 창작과 비평, 2011 { Sometimes I Stand Motionless. Changbi, 2011. }

Essay collections[edit]

  • 『직소포에 들다』, 문학동네, 2004 { Into Jikso Fall. Munhakdongne, 2004. }
  • 『시의 숲을 거닐다』, 샘터사, 2006 { Strolling in the Forest of Poetry. Samtoh, 2006. }
  • 『간절함 앞에서는 언제나 무릎을 꿇게 된다』, 모루와정, 2013 { When in Desperation, We Always Kneel Down. Morujung, 2013. }
  • 『나는 울지 않는 바람이다』, 문예중앙, 2015 { I Am a Wind That Does Not Howl. Munye Joongang, 2014. }
  • 『작가 수업』, 다산책방, 2015 { Writing Class. Dasanchekbang, 2015. }

Works in translation[5][edit]

  • Poems in Korean Literature Today Vol 4, No 4, Winter, 1999 (English)
  • Poems in 詩と創造 Vol 59 (Japanese)


  • 1996: Sowol Poetry Award
  • 1998: Hyundae Literary Award
  • 2005: Gong-cho Literature Prize
  • 2007: Park Dujin Literary Award
  • 2011: Manhae Literature Prize

Further reading[edit]

  • 이숙자, 「천양희 시에 나타난 길과 새의 심상 연구」, 고려대 석사논문, 2005. { Lee, Suk-ja. "The Imagery of Roads and Birds in Cheon Yang-hee's Poetry." Master's thesis, Korea University, 2005. }
  • 강지령, 「천양희 시에 나타난 불교적 세계관-자아와 세계의 관계를 중심으로」, 인제대교육대학원 석사논문, 2005. { Kang, Ji-ryeong. "The Buddhist Worldview in Cheon Yang-hee's Poetry, Focusing on the Relationship Between the Self and the World." Master's thesis, Graduate School, Inje University, 2005. }
  • 방민호, 「세상을 품기 위한 긴 길-「마음의 수수밭」 천양희, 서평」, 『현대시』, 1997.4. { Bang, Min-ho. "The Long Road to Embracing the World: Review of Cheon Yang-hee's Sorghum Field of the Heart." Korea Poem, April 1997. }
  • 김선태, 「상처 위에 핀 눈부신 생명의 꽃-천양희 론」, 『한국언어문학』, 2002.6. { Kim, Seon-tae. "Radiant Flowers of Life Blooming on Scars: A Discussion on Cheon Yang-hee." Korean Language & Literature, June 2002. }
  • 박몽구, 「허무로부터의 귀환과 욕망의 시학-천양희 시와 욕망의 구조」, 『어문연구』, 2004.4. { Park, Mong-gu. "Returning from Nihility and Poetics on Desire - Cheon, Yang-hee's Poetry and the Structure of Desire." Eomunyeongu, April 2004. }
  • 조해옥, 「독특한 생의 무늬-「너무 많은 입」, 천양희 서평」, 『현대시』, 2005.7. { Cho, Hae-ok. "A Unique Pattern of Life: Review of Too Many Mouths by Cheon Yang-hee." Korea Poem, July 2005. }
  • [네이버 지식백과] 천양희 [千良姬] (한국여성문인사전, 2006. 11. 28., 태학사) { "Cheon Yang-hee" in Dictionary of Korean Women Writers (Thaehaksa, November 28, 2006), quoted in Naver Encyclopedia. }


  1. ^ "외길" (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  2. ^ "천양희 :: 네이버 인물검색". (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  3. ^ "천양희" (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  4. ^ "너무 많은 입" (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  5. ^ "천양희 | Digital Library of Korean Literature (LTI Korea)". Retrieved 2017-11-28.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]