Yu Jin Shin: “Ode to Seongbuk-dong” ( Slam Poetry ) *Subtitles Available*


Hi, everyone. My name is Yu Jin Shin, and I’m from class 3-5. Today, I’m going to recite my slam poem about Seongbuk-dong. It’s titled “Ode to Seongbuk-dong.” And before I start, I think I should explain how I got to write this poem, what is Seongbuk-dong, and etc. So Seongbuk-dong is this town I’ve been living in for almost 16 years. I moved there when I was about two. It’s a very quiet town— when you wake up in the morning, all you can hear is just birds chirping or a few cars passing by. And it’s a very historical town— there’s this place called Gansong Art Museum. I think a lot of you might have heard of this gallery in middle school, or in art classes, or history classes. Anyone familiar?
간송 미술관 ( Gansong Art Museum ) ? So it’s a very famous place, and it has a lot of national artifacts and portraits including 훈민정음 ( Hun Min Jeong Eum – a 15th century document that explains the Korean writing system ) and some paintings from the painter 김홍도 ( Hongdo Kim – one of the most well-known painters from the Joseon Dynasty of Korea ). I think you’re all familiar with him. When I was young, I’m still young, but when I was younger, I used to think that places like Gangnam or Apgujeong ( an affluent neighborhood in Gangnam ) was a bit more attractive than this old, small town. But as I grew up, I became very thankful for my town. I started to realize the beauty and value inside Seongbuk-dong. So, I thought it would be appropriate to write a poem about it and present it to you because the theme today is home and I’ll be leaving for college in another country next year. I wanted to commemorate where I come from. Hope you enjoy my poem. People say it’s “love at first sight,” when you meet the love of your life. Like, that one scene in a Hallmark movie, like, you know, Love Actually, everything spins around like mad and that you, and that person, are the only ones that stay still. Well, for me, it wasn’t. I’m really sorry, but honestly, I don’t even remember the first time we met. ‘Cause I met you when I couldn’t speak a word of this, of English, when I was less than a meter tall, when darkness was way more frightening than waking up on Monday mornings. Although I don’t really have a first impression of you, I’m pretty sure it was far from satisfactory. ‘Cause the best story you could tell was the history of the country and your veins brimmed with an ancient melody. But you understood, you waited. You just opened up your body, warm and wide, and told me, in a velveteen voice, little girl, let me show you what the world can be. Age five, you showed me what rain felt like. How the world could forget its shape in the shower and restore itself in the fingers of daylight. Age seven, you taught me the art of listening to a busy silence. To the magpies chatting on rooftops, to the choir of crickets and sizzling pots. You taught me that a bigger world lay beyond my little kingdom of crayolas and that I must reach for it, crave for it. And I did. I did, and you rewarded me with a friend. A girl who also tied her hair with Mom’s-choice-pink-hairband. You let us write our own fable, and make us realize that sometimes, no, almost all the time, you’ve got to be your own knight in the shining armor. That dragons don’t necessarily come in the form of dragons, and magic was not needed to defeat them. As the days passed by, you let us see each other grow night after night, and look back at our trials and tribulations. Stroking our quilt of memories, you asked us to never let go of what we had planted in each other’s hearts over the years. And we did. As my voice gained gravity from the passing seasons, I started to grow out of you. Now the rain was nothing more than a reminder of summer sorrow, and I sought something more exciting than just a busy silence. One day, I walked away from you, suitcase in one hand, a fistful of aspiration in another. I found home outside your limbs with faces I’ve never met and told myself that I can stand alone, without you and your worn-out soul. But I started to dream of you, eyes closed, eyes open. When the campus fell asleep and my nightstand was the only thing alive, I lighted up my moments with you with the matchsticks of my childhood. Between prep books and pencil sharpeners I raised a forest of our memories and longed for the faces that have come and gone for the evening air that churned slowly in the streets, and you. You. When I saw you for the first time in a week, I fell to my knees and drenched myself in my own tears, spilling apology all over your shoulders. Instead of saying anything, you hugged me, soothed me, dabbed on my regretting eyes just like the day I came to you with a teddy bear in hand. That night, as I went to sleep in your lullaby, I promised you one thing. In a future not so far away, when I will be stranded in a land I don’t recognize, and when someone asks me about the home of my stride, my pride, and my life, I will let the memories of you cascade down the alleys of my youth and tell them that I come from a land that taught me true love cannot be recognized at first sight.

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