< Image from ifiwish >
by Marion KDL
For this second part of the compilation of the books in Romance Is A Bonus Book (RIABB), we turn our focus to South Korea poet Na Tae-joo. This is not just because two of his books became very central in the middle of this drama. Rather, it’s that in retracing those two books, it actually leads us to more connections between real and reel.
In fact, Na Tae-joo is not new to K-Dramaland, though his work receives special attention in RIABB. If you’ve been a viewer of tvN dramas, particularly in 2018, his name and some of his books may be very familiar to you. It turns out, however, that the connection between Na and RIABB runs deeper than just highlighting two of his books (hint: it involves one of the lead actors, as you may have already guessed) — read on to find out more.
But, first things first: Who is Na Tae-joo?
About Na Tae-joo
< Photo: 푸른길 >
Na Tae-joo (나태주) (b. 1945) is one of the most prolific and renowned contemporary South Korean poets of the 21st century. He started his writing career in 1971 when working as an elementary school teacher; a profession that he never gave up and continued for 43 years. The poet, who refers to himself as a ‘preliminary poet’ (예비 시인), describes poets as “emotional service men who ease the world’s pain and depression”, in an interview (in Korean) with Lee Yoon-jung.
With at least 125 books published to date — with six in 2018 and another seven in 2017– Na evidently takes this service very much to heart. His series ‘Na Tae-joo’s House’ (vol. 1-4), written in 2006 and 2008, appears to be one of his most important works as some volumes have been re-edited at least twice. However, to my knowledge, none of his books have been translated into English so far.
Na has won multiple literature prizes over the years, among them the 13th Kim Sang-soo Literary Prize in 2017 (2017년 제13회 김삿갓문학상), the 24th Prize for Literary in 2016 (2016년 제24회 공초문학상), the 41st Korean Poet Society Awards in 2009 (2009년-제 41회 한국시인협회상), the Chungcheongnam-do Culture Award in 2007 (2007년-충청남도문화상), the Park Yong-rae Literary Award (박용래문학상) in 2000 or The 3rd Literary Prize in 1979 (1979년-제 3회 흙의문학상) as well as the Order of Service Merit (황조근정훈장).
Na Tae-joo X Lee Jong-suk
< Photo from buffy80 >
Here’s something interesting that connects the lead actor of RIABB even more deeply with Na himself. Lee Jong-suk first came across Na’s poems when he recited two lines out of ‘Wildflower’ (sometimes also translated as ‘Grass Flower’), one of the poet’s most well-known poems that also features in South Korean textbooks, as a farewell to his classmate that is forced to transfer schools in episode 2 of the drama School 2013.
You have to look closely
to see that it is pretty
You have to look for a long time
to see that it is lovely
You are the same.
< Lee Jong-suk – 모두가 네 탓 Trailer no. 1 >
In 2016, Na and Lee collaborated together on the poem book Everything Is Your Fault (모두가 네 탓), published together by YG Entertainment [YG엔터테인먼트] in 2017. It contains 16 of Na’s poems — including “Wildflower” — and Lee’s comments on the poems. “I don’t want the poem to be just an actor’s pictorials,” Lee stated in an interview when the book came out in 2017 and continues by saying: “I want people who are in love, who are hurt by break-ups, or who are lonely, to be comforted by the poem.” This is similar to his own relationship with Na’s poems. Lee said in the same interview that when he read Na’s poem in the drama, he did so without much thought. But as time passed, Na’s poems began to be a source of comfort for Lee himself.
Understandably, this book has since sold out.
< Lee Jong-suk – 모두가 네 탓 Trailer no. 2>
Na Tae-joo in Romance Is A Bonus Book
In Romance Is A Bonus Book, two of Na’s poem books were key ones that Lee Jong-suk’s character, Cha Eun-ho, shared with the two most important people in his life.
The Heart Is Drawn To You
[음이 살짝 기운다 나태주 신작 시집]
Author: Na Tae-joo (나태주)
Publisher: 알에이치코리아 (RHK)
English translation: None
More images here: hana_1213
the wind blows again from somewhere.
The sound of the sandstorm
reaches the branches up high.
And with that, my heart flutters.
I miss someone I left behind.
The desire to love someone again
is making my heart throb.
Love deeply and lastingly.
We sleep, rest,
and dwell in our momentary joy
to recharge ourselves.
So that we can return
to the world full of pain,
so that we can have new dreams.
Yearn for new things,
and love once again.
deeply and lastingly.
This is the poem that Eun-ho reads to his adopted father, writer Kang Byung-joon (Lee Ho-jae) at his Gapyeong residence in episode 10. The poem stems from Na’s 2019 poem collection The Heart Is Drawn To You (음이 살짝 기운다 나태주 신작 시집).
< Image from: randomhouse1 >
I want to give you my most beautiful thoughts
[가장 예쁜 생각을 너에게 주고 싶다]
Author: Na Tae-joo (나태주)
Publisher: 알에이치코리아 (RHK)
English translation: None
“I like this book,” says Kang Dan-i (Lee Na-young) after she reads it as an evening lecture with Eun-ho in episode 14. They both take turns to read the following part out loud:
Each and every one of us
is a star traveling across the universe.
Stars that got lost and ended up here
after wandering the vast universe.
No, that’s not true. We’re stars that ended up crossing paths
right here in this moment
Because we missed each other and longed
for one another for a long time
That makes us miraculous stars.
The stars that travel across the sky only twinkle.
They are never sad or lonely.
However, we’re stars that feel lonely and sad at times.
Stars that have regrets.
And that makes us such lovely stars.
< Image: RHK >
This book becomes quickly Dan-i’s favorite and her constant companion, as she tells Eun-ho in episode 15.
According to @lovely_books_and_poems, Na wrote this book for all the daughters in the world, and its title certainly mirrors this dedication. I wonder how this fits in Romance Is A Bonus Book’s narrative, as Dan-i’s daughter is forgotten (i.e. written out of the drama) after the first few episodes and never heard about again — as Amanda from Outside Seoul rightly pointed out. Maybe Dan-i fell for this book at first read exactly because it reminded her of her daughter? (I know, probably an over-interpretation.) On the other hand, child-less and unmarried Ko Yoo-sun (Kim Yu-mi) also seemed to take a liking to this book, as she is seen reading it too.
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Na Tae-joo in K-Dramaland
This is not the first time that Na Tae-joo’s work is featured prominently in a K-Drama. The central book in Encounter/Boyfriend (남자친구) (tvN, 2018), was his I See You Like A Flower/I Look at You as If I’m Looking at a Flower (꽃을 보듯 너를 본다). Actually, it is Jin-hyeok’s (Park Bo-gum) favourite poem collection, as seen in episode 3. Jin-hyeok is not alone with his affection for this book as also in real life, it regularly appears on South Korea’s best-seller lists.
It is this poem, ‘Longing,’ that is Jin-hyeok’s favourite out of this collection.
I’m being told not to go, but there’s a road I wish to take.
While being told not to meet, there’s someone I wish to meet.
If you tell me not to, it makes me want to do it even more.
That’s life and longing.
Let’s Eat 3 (2018)
Before that, Na’s poem ‘The Name You Want to Call in Secret’ foreshadows Koo Dae-young (Yoon Doo-joon) and Lee Ji-woo’s (Baek Jin-hee) relationship in episode 12 of Let’s Eat 3 (식샤를 합시다 3) (tvN, 2018). Both of them pass by a poem exhibition at the Cheonggyecheon Gwanggyo Gallery [청계천광교갤러리] the day before he leaves for the military. They stop to read the poem, which lingers with them as they continue their walk.
The Name I Want to Call Secretly
The name I want to call out secretly
is a wonderfully joyous thing.
The person I want to think about secretly
is a joyous thing although it’s sad.
I fall asleep thinking about
a person secretly
and wake up thinking about him by myself.
Having such a person
is a joyous thing although it’s lonely.
A Poem A Day (2018)
Woo Bo-young (Lee Yoo-bi) cites another of Na’s poems, ‘Happiness’ –just perfectly expressing her emotion– when she drives to work together with Ye Jae-wook (Lee Joon-hyuk) in episode 12 of A Poem a Day/You Who Forgot Poetry (시를 잊은 그대에게) (tvN, 2018) after his love confession the night before.
It’s not about where we were yesterday …
And it’s not about where we’ll be tomorrow.
It’s just about where we are today.
Discover more of Na Tae-joo
< Image: marieonly >
Instead of a conclusion, this time, I prefer to close off this compilation with some more poems by Na Tae-Too. They were all translated by @lovely_books_and_poems and s/he also translated some more of them, if you’d like to read on.
is a promise forgotten
is a promise hard to keep.
The only valid promise is today.
The promise of today is love.
By Being Abandoned
When everyone in the world left me,
Only you did not.
You did not leave me until the end.
Not many people.
Only one in the world.
Your cheers and trust save me,
By being abandoned
by many people
I meet and get you again,
the only person dear to me.
< Image: marieonly >
Although somebody died
Although I broke up with someone
Although I loved the person
Although I told the person that I love yo more than myself
Than sorrow and pain
I feel more hunger,
which makes me sad.
To a Middle School Student
When you walk down a street,
there’s a time when you miss a bus.
Just as missing a bus
without doing anything wrong,
there’s a time when you have a hard time.
A kid, always
don’t forget this.
There comes the next bus.
Sometimes the next one
is better than the last one!
In any case,
love yourself and
don’t forget to remember that
you are the most precious person in the world.