This paper is a study of “life” presented in Ji-ha Kim’s poetry and poetics. Over the 1960s and 1970s, Ji-ha Kim was the most prominent poet in the Korean literary world. He criticized and parodied the undemocratic political reality of the day in his poems. Since the 1980s, the poet has taken an increasing interest in life rather than political resistance; in his many poem, he has pictured an ecologically oriented ‘‘life awareness” rather than a politically oriented awareness.
The philosophy of “life awareness”, which Ji-ha Kim has depicted in his poetry and poetics since the 1980s, has played a crucial role in generating ecological imagination and circulating its importance in the Korean poetical circles. His poetry based on the philosophy of “life awareness” can be interpreted as an Oriental model for ecological poetics. Ji-ha Kim’s ecological poetry charges life-threatening ecological problems, searches for the wisdom of a mutual, harmonious living and the cosmic principle to recycle the ecosystem, and aspires for the arrival of ecotopia. In this paper, I classify his poems in three groups and names them “poetry of critique’’, poetry of quest’’, and “poetry of prospect”.
Ji-ha Kim’s poetic quest for life presented in these three patterns is a search for the universal nature of life that covers both the Oriental thoughts and the Western thoughts. His search implies that the wu-wei philosophy of Taoism as the pivot of the Oriental thoughts can harmoniously encounter ecology as a Western discipline; his search also demonstrates that ecology and wu-wei philosophy regard nature not as an object of human’s artificial manipulation but an entity with a self-organizing principle and thus respect nature; finally, his search suggests their special affinity with the theory of ecological (re)circulation that the fundamental nature of all animate things is an organic (re)cycling.
Ji-ha Kim’s philosophy of life captured in his poetry and poetics explores a prototype behind all phenomena of animate things and thereby stands as an ecological discourse that embraces matter and mind or the Western sense of value and the Oriental sense of value simultaneously.