Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gisaeng/Kisaeng Poetry: The sijo/Shijo

I have recently noticed that my Gisaeng post is up over 1000 readers now! So it seems I shall research and post more in that area, greater serving my readers out there in cyberland.

It is important to note, in the comparison between Japanese and Korean culture that Japan had both Geisha and Courtesans. The Geisha most strictly were the artists and entertainers while there was another separate group of courtesans who entertained sexually. There were strict laws definine each groups work ensuring that the Geisha would not encroach upon the courtesans area of expertise. (For reference I refer to Liza Dalby's well researched and footnoted work Geisha.
However, in Korea Gisaeng were both courtesan and artistic entertainer. Their clientele were the upper class yangban; the educated elite.

Love Poems From Old Korea in sijo form purchased at Yong-gwan bookstore in Someyeon (Busan) has many sijo, some of them written by Gisaeng.

I will cut into halves the waist
of the long mid-winter night;
roll it up to be placed
under the warm spring-breeze quilt
and I will unroll it in the night
when my beloved arrives.
-- Hwang Chini (1511~1541).

Sadly, this work only has the English and does not include the Korean. Regardless, it seems to be a good poetic translation in that the translation is still in sijo form. Other poems in this work are from the yangban though some purport to be from commoners. Were they educated to write sijo? It would be a rare occurrence for certain !
The bright moon in the blue heaven
shall be able to see my fair one's face.
Why can't I be like the moon
sailing across the skies?
Will my love ever think of me
while watching the moon?
---Won Wi

Recently from a used bookseller aggragator I purchased Songs of the Kisaeng. I should have it by this summer. There are a few rare copies of it out there. I will review it as soon as I get it and rifle through it. Until then, may you stay inspired !

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