First Person Sorrowful
Publisher: Bloodaxe Books
Ko Un has long been a living legend in Korea, both as a poet and as a person. Allen Ginsberg once wrote, 'Ko Un is a magnificent poet, combination of Buddhist cognoscente, passionate political libertarian, and naturalist historian.' When a writer has published as much as Ko Un has in the course of more than fifty years of writing, it is hard to know where to begin, what to translate. For this collection, his translators have selected a hundred or so poems from the five collections published since the year 2002, collections acclaimed by Korean criti as bringing poetry to a new level of cosmic reference. Nothing shows more clearly his stature as a writer than the variety of themes and emotions found in his most recent work. Readers here have access for the first time to many of the poems Ko Un has produced in the 21st century, as he approaches his eightieth year, his energy and originality unabated. As Michael McLure wrote years ago: 'Ko Un's poetry has the old-fashionedness of a muddy rut on a country road after rain, and yet it is also as state-of-the-art as a DNA micro-chip.' That remains true today.