I Turn Off the Light


By: Jang Seok Nam

Translation: Choi Jae-Bong


The poem by Jang Seok-Nam is about the fear of growing old and how time passes by very quickly and before you know it you have grown old and your life is at its end. It also talks about the peacefulness of not "turning on the light" or facing reality.


In the poem there is repetition of the idea of turning on or off the light meaning seeing the reality of things vs seeing things how you want to see them. He compares the ingnorence to the real world to a pond and to flowers. Nature is seen as peacefeul and allowing relief so the speaker sees himself as being at peace though he is oblivious to his surroundings.


When reading the poem without looking for any deep meanings, the speaker talks about the fear of turning on the light and how when they finally turned on the light so much time had already passed. It also talks about the peacefulness of having thier eyes closed.


He puts his life in chronilogical order and how the turning on or off the light affected him at the different stages. When the speaker was young they "turned on the light" and became immediatly afraid so they shut them. Then the speaker grew up and finnaly opened them and realized all the time that passed and then again shut them so the speaker died holding on to his or her image of reality


I Turn off the Light

When I turned off the light everything revived with open eyes; I was really afraid.
I shut my eyes.

As I grew up, when I turned off the light
nothing could be seen; that’s good.
Smiles may rise,
tears may suddenly emerge,
that’s good.
And then, after that,
finally turning on the light again,
all at once I’m already thirty, forty or fifty.

When I turn off the light
everything seems just like a pond;
embracing in my arms the air as it slips away,
like wild rose petals falling
I feel my pulse.

musical devices

The poem is free form and doesn't really have a ryme scheme. It is written in a casual tone like someone telling a story to an audience.