“Where’s an end. To your potential.” Can you guess the title of this short poem? This is a poem by e-poet Ha Sangwook (HA) titled, ‘Used up toothpaste.’ If you enjoy SNS, you would have heard his name or read one of his poems somewhere. His works are short but contains more than just a humor. The Sookmyung Times (SMT) met this man full of ideas and deep thoughts to listen to the rhymes of his story.
SMT You majored design and had a job as a designer. It seems quite irrelevant to poetry but you published the Poem Seoul. Did you always had interest in literature? What made you to write poems?
HA Thinking back to my childhood, I don’t think I had great passion in literature. I just enjoyed watching talk shows and debate programs on TV, doing internet and loved talking. Those acted as books for me. Well, I believe there is less truth in the actual books. Think about it, even when a person writes a short writing in facebook, it often contains lies. Hence, writing a book costs tremendous refinement and consequently contains less truth. As I enjoyed listening and talking with people directly, I thought SNS could be a perfect place to communicate with more people. And actually, I think there’s a correlation between design and poem because expressing language with picture is design, therefore I chose poem as a tool.
SMT Poem Seoul means the poem that Seoulites can feel sympathy in. What do you think is most important when
drawing sympathy from people?
HA Expressing other’s sensitivity rather than myself is the way to draw sympathy. In sympathy, understanding other people is a must. Not forcing them to understand me but reading out their lives. At the end of my poem I always write ‘among~’ to notice that I am quoting people’s stories and their everyday lives. Poem Seoul is neither the beginning nor the end. Readers’ lives are preceded at all times and the poem only throws a story to think about. Also, it can be finally ended when people apply their story in and harmonize with the poem.
SMT “Standup again / Don’t settle” is your poem ‘Drunk.’ Like this one, most of your work is humorous when subject is matched with its content, but content itself contains contemporaries’ grief.
HA Yes, I try to imply both wit and sorrow in my poem. I do not force the readers to feel the sadness, but if it was only a funny writing, my poems would not have been loved by them this much. By including ordinary citizen’s sorrow in the writing, I try to help people to heal themselves. By my works, people realize they are not the only one who is undergoing hardships and by that, they heal wounds in their heart. Yet, humor is still an important part of my poetry because it helps people to laugh and take a break for a while, which is also a part of healing.
SMT Modern society demands creativity from university students. As a result, students suffer to produce something new all the time. However, your poems’ themes are from our daily life but come to us freshly. Could you tell your thought about creativity?
HA First of all, I feel sad and unpleasant about this society forcing students to endeavor generating creativity, because it is not how it should be. As I once wrote, ‘sweat doesn’t betray us, but it doesn’t give ideas,’ creativity cannot be made by pressure or effort and even if it can be made, there is a limit. Anything that comes into Korea tends to be combined with working hard. Can’t we just play instead of squeezing our brains for something new? People need time to rest their head and some space for creativity. There is a severe problem with cotemporary system, demanding such high creativity and not providing any time for a break. This is why Korea has so much talented people but seldom discover a person with outstanding creativity. A lot of them are still buried and people should think more about this issue rather than taking this situation for granted.
SMT At first, you were a designer and now, you are a planner of your company and also a pioneer of the field e-poet. You always challenge yourself. Do you have your own conviction that makes it possible to face new things?
HA It might sound paradoxical, but I perceive challenge as not as challenge. I always think I am really good at things when I do something, and that make me to do anything. I tell myself, “May not be the best in the whole world, but I am well enough. Well done!” Due to this way of thinking, I never get frightened of challenging. Many Koreans hesitate in trying new things because they fear failure and this atmosphere is derived from our society asking people to be humble. They think they are not enough so don’t even think about challenging, and when they do well they say, “Oh I’m nothing, there still are lots of people better than me.” Please don’t be humble. It’s okay to feed off of your own pride. Yet, be cool on admitting what other is better than you. I am not saying that we should all go boasting around. I am hoping for a world that everyone finds their confidence and can say, “Good job everyone!”