Ko Un has long been a living legend in Korea, both as a poet and as a person. Allen Ginsberg described Ko un as "a magnificent poet, combination of Buddhist cognoscente, passionate political liberation, and naturalist historian." For his keen sensitivity, outstanding powers of intuition, the breadth and depth of his imagination and his skillful use of language, as well as the maturity of his understanding of history and human life, Ko Un is widely acknowledged to be Korea’s foremost contemporary poet. He has published 156 books, including over 70 poetry books. His recent poetry collections Untitled Poems and Invocation of the Dead demonstrate the width and depth his poems have attained.
I sit at my desk.
The desk speaks softly:
Once I was a flower, was a leaf, was a stalk.
I was a long root beneath the ground
stretching as far as you desert oasis
A scrap of iron on the desk speaks:
I was the uvula of a stillness howling along on moonlit nights.
The rain stops.
I go outside.
Grass, thoroughly soaked, speaks to me:
Once I was your joy and sorrow.
I was your history and songs.
Now I speak to desk
Once I was you, was you, was you.
Now I am you, I am you.
Ko Un, tr. Brother Anthony and Lee Sang-Wha
From First Person Sorrowful (Bloodaxe Books, 2012)