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Poet's Korean Ideas Sing in English

January 09, 1987|Ann Japenga

Sung-yol Yi has been penning poetry in his native language, Korean, for a decade. It wasn't until he made the switch to writing in English two years ago that his work received official recognition--an award from the American Poetry Assn. naming him one of the best new poets of 1986.

"Even though this award may be small ($100), I'm proud of it," said Yi, a bilingual services coordinator for Pacific Bell. The 40-year-old Los Angeles resident moved to the United States 10 years ago. He composes poetry every morning before he goes to work, laboriously translating ideas from Korean to English before he can write them down. He said he thinks in Korean two-thirds of the time.

In the winning poem, "The Last Moon," Yi uses the image of the last moon of the month in the Chinese lunar calendar--a fleeting moon that rises at midnight and is gone by dawn--to express the "accumulated resentment of Korean women" who have been discriminated against for centuries, he said:

\o7 Hiding over the hill

from the dusk

she waits clumsily.

Owing to the memory

of her stepmother's negligence

even the touch of chill air

make the last Moon's eyes wet.

Looking for her dad

who might be at the shady bar

beyond the mountain-side

till the dawn

At last,

she crosses the empty field

with the white clothes which are

starched to cut the skin

if touched.

Publishing's Historian

Beverly Hills will not be the same since bookseller-extraordinaire Coline Conlon retired from Hunter's Books last week, said Murray Aronson, Conlon's co-worker.

"She knows a lot of people," said Aronson, who held a surprise retirement party for Conlon at the back of the store. "She also knows a lot of books."

Aronson said that unlike some employees of chain bookstores, Conlon, 72, read the books she sold, and during her 40 years in the store she became something of an authority on the history of publishing for the last half-century.

"She's one of those people who are unsung, but they contribute enormously to the cultural life of Los Angeles," Aronson said.

Conlon attracted clients who trusted her taste in books. A number of celebrities were among her fans. "Coline usually ended up picking out a whole stack of books for Barbara Stanwyck," Aronson said.

In retirement, Conlon will "play more bridge and be more of a lady who lunches as opposed to a lady who works," Aronson said.

Experience at the Wheel

What Harry Tanner really wanted to do was own a rare bookstore. But he started selling Chevrolets in 1937, made a whopping $125 commission on his first sale and stuck with it. At age 86, Tanner is still selling cars at Claude Short Dodge in Santa Monica.

He figures there's a "good chance" he's the oldest living car salesman in the country. At least that's what he tells customers to get them to remember him. "It works," he says.

The business has changed since the days when Tanner sold Chevies. Cars today are "much more expensive, much more complicated and a great improvement over what used to be made," he said. These days the sales business has a high turnover rate, Tanner said. Most auto salespeople are just killing time on their way to more glamorous occupations. Tanner has it all over these fly-by-nights in experience. "If I don't know how to sell a car by this time, I never will," he said.

Trips to the gym four times a week keep Tanner in shape for dashes across the lot. He has no plans to retire, and, said his wife, Shirley, 80, is even more active than he is.

Some Sobering News

Only about 30 people accepted an offer to drop into Forest Lawn Mortuaries for a free cup of coffee on New Year's Eve, down from an average of 100 over the past 12 years. And a mortuary spokesman said he thinks that's a good sign.

"We would hope that the many anti-drunk-driving messages being presented to the public and the tougher laws on the books would be having an impact," said Ted Brandt, vice president of communications.

"Our commercials are more of a caution to people to be careful and respect others, although we do have coffee if they come by."

For three days before the holiday, Forest Lawn advised listeners of local stations that if they felt tipsy on New Year's Eve, coffee would be available at mortuaries in Glendale, the Hollywood Hills, Covina Hills and Cypress. It was the 19th year that Forest Lawn had offered drivers the chance to sober up.

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