Writers now literally railroading their audiences

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Writers now literally railroading their audiences


Literature was long considered to be a sacred and private realm for Korea’s cultural elite. Within the past year, however, things have begun to change.
Writers no longer wait in arrogant pose for readers to pay attention to their words, preferring to work hard to get closer to their readers. Though some in the literary world frown on the experiments, saying they turn literature into a cheap show, many contemporary writers say they can no longer sit in their rooms grousing about how the local publishing industry keeps going downhill.
Take for example the “literature train,” a train ride arranged by the poet Jeong Ho-seung in which the 200 passengers participate in quizzes and poetry-reading sessions. On one recent trip, the train headed to Punggi, North Gyeonsang province. From there, the crowd got off the train and took a bus to Buseok Temple in the city of Youngju, the setting of Mr. Jeong’s poem “Longing for Bukseok Temple.”
Last month, a group of young poets organized a “Literature Sharing Concert” held in a small theater in Daehangno. The event, which was organized by the Arts Council Korea, was done in a “talk show” format, with poets reading between rock ’n’ roll acts, in addition to a special performance of “visualized poems.” The event was attended by over 100 people.
“I was worried that not many people would come,” said Park Sang-sun, 44, a poet at the concert. “But it was a full house. Writers should seriously start to listen to their readers and be a little more humble.”
The publishing industry seems to agree.
This year, Kyobo Bookstore began offering poetry-reading sessions as part of its monthly events, one of the first readings held on an institutional level in Korea (the Frankfurt Book Fair held a series of readings for Korean poets in Germany). Some of the best-selling writers in Korean literature ― including Gong Ji-young, Park Wan-seo and Jeong Ho-seung ― attended the event.
May seems to be Korea’s best month for literature. Festivals were held throughout the country, and from June 2 to 14, a poetry festival will be held in Anseong, Gyeonggi province, in a museum built to honor the late writer Jo Byung-hwa. From June 12 to 14, a special festival celebrating the literary spirit of Jeong Ji-yong will be held in Okcheon, North Gyeongsang province. A series of other literature and poetry readings are scheduled for June in Seoul’s House of Literature, Toji Cultural Museum in Wonju, Gangwon Province.

by Sohn Min-ho
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