Today’s selection, by Kwon Homun, a Korean poet whose dates are 1532-1587, touches on one of the key themes in poetry about fishing, as captured in the delightful Pocket Poets collection The Art of Angling. As the volume’s editor Henry Hughes puts it, quoting another Korean poet of the sixteenth century, “the best way to understand how to live is to ‘fish without catching any.'” This “process-not-product” undercurrent to the angling experience is perhaps one of the reasons it has been so attractive as a subject for our poets, who are naturally subversive, and are often lovers of a creative or meditative process for its own sake. (The translation of Kwon Homun’s work below is by Jaihiun Kim.)
Two Poems On Fishing
Should I go drinking and wenching?
Oh, no. It isn’t proper for the poet that I am.
Shall I go hunting wealth and honor?
I am not inclined that way either.
Well, let me be a fisherman or shepherd
and enjoy myself on the reedy shore.
When it stops raining at the fishing site
I will use green-moss for bait.
With no idea of catching the fish
I will enjoy watching them at play.
A slice of moon passes as it casts a silver line
onto the green stream below.
Learn more about The Art of Angling
Sign up for Knopf’s Poem-a-Day email