Volume 11 • Number 1 • Spring-Summer 2019

Yi Ga-Yeon

My Mother’s Birthday

Translated by Yang Eun-Mi

Today is my mother’s birthday.
I washed rice in running water
To boil it over the heat.

White rice steamed well—
I put it all into a concave fallen leaf
And set the table.

The morning breeze opens the door to visit;
The sunshine opens the door to drop by;
Only mom doesn’t come.

Perhaps mother will come late at night.
I put a bowl of rice at my bedside
And hurried to fall asleep.

Wishing to meet her in a dream
And serve her a bowl of white rice,
I shut my eyes tight, clasped my hands firmly
And fell asleep.

Yi Ga-Yeon defected from North Korea to South Korea in 2011. She was awarded the Poetry Prize by the Minister of Unification, and the Bronze Prize in the first North Korean Human Rights Awards for Literature. She has published two books of poetry and is currently studying Korean language and literature at Korea University.

Yang Eun-Mi holds an MA in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh, where she won the Grierson Verse Prize. Her poetry has been nominated for a 2015 Best of the Net Award, and was shortlisted for the 2016 NOLO Prize. Her co-translations with poet Ed Bok Lee have appeared in Asymptote Journal, the Guardian, and Korean Literature Now. She is currently a PhD candidate at the Academy of Korean Studies.