Lee Seong-bok (1952–), recipient of Kim Soo-young Literature Prize and Kim So-wol Literature Prize, has continually attracted attention to his highly imaginative and multi-layered poetry.
Influenced by Kafka, Nietzsche and Baudelaire, Lee’s first volume of poetry When Do the Rolling Stones Awake shocked readers with its daring use of free association to expose the hypocrisy, corruption and perversity of this world. In this volume, the poet occupies the place of a clinical pathologist who dissects familial and social structures, and meticulously records their gradual disintegration. His second book Mt. Geum, Nahmae shaped by the poet’s new interest in the East Asian classical literature, largely deals with the question of love’s essence. The subject continues to engross Lee in subsequent volumes as well, and he creates an alternative grammar of love to the modern notion of romance. Driven by a spirit of innovation, Lee heralds a poetic revolution that influenced both his contemporaries and younger generation of poets.
The critic, Kim Hyoun has said of Lee Seong-bok’s poetry that “it vastly expands its sphere of meaning to permit endless questions to be raised, not only on an individual or private level, but on the collective and public one as well.” Moving unceasingly between binary categories, Lee’s poetry thus brings into view the fundamental relation that lies beneath human life.
Lee earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in French Literature from Seoul National University. He worked as a professor of French literature and creative writing at Keimyung University.
His major works include When Do the Rolling Stones Awake (Dwingguneun Dol-eun Eonje Jam Kkaeneunga, 1980), South Sea, Silk Mountain (Namhae Geumsan, 1986), End of That Summer (Geu Yeoreum-ui Kkeut, 1990), Memories of the Holly (Horanggasinamu-ui Gieok, 1993), Oh, Those without Mouths (A, Ib-I Eomneun Geotdeul, 2003), Ripple Patterns on the Moon’s Forehead (Dal-ui Ima-eneun Mulgyeolmunui Jaguk, 2003), Came, and Saw Sorrow Was All (Rae Yeo Ae Ban Da Ra, 2013).