- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
First Person Sorrowful Paperback – 4 Nov 2012
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Special offers and product promotions
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
"Un's poems take the ordinary world and peel the skin off, so that a gentle meditation on the passage of hours becomes something both beautiful and terrible as light shining through blood." -- The Quarterly Conversation "The Quarterly Conversation"
About the Author
Born in 1933 in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, Korea, Ko Un is Korea's foremost living writer. After immense suffering during the Korean War, he became a Buddhist monk. His first poems were published in 1958, his first collection in 1960. A few years later he returned to the world. After years of dark nihilism, he became a leading spokesman in the struggle for freedom and democracy during the 1970s and 1980s, when he was often arrested and imprisoned. He has published more than 150 volumes of poems, essays, and fiction, including the monumental seven-volume epic Mount Paekdu and the 30-volume Maninbo (Ten Thousand Lives) series. In recent years, more than thirty volumes of translations of his work have been published in some twenty languages. He has been invited to talk and give readings of his work at major poetry and literary festivals all over the world. Ko Un has been nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature several times, and is widely tipped to be the next Asian writer to win the award.
Top customer reviews
"I write with my body alone
with my soul alone."
Whether this is a reflection of his Korean roots, or a feature of him, I don't know, but as he read and spoke, it was as if everything was delivered with his whole body and not just his voice.
Reading these in a book is not quite as powerful as that. Even Ko's marvelous writing perhaps cannot completely capture his presence -he sometimes suggests that poems themselves are not completely adequate to capture experience- but this collection does give something special. Indeed it surprises me that this is his first book to be published in Britain because he already has a substantial international reputation with plaudits on the cover from the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure and Andrew Motion. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Prize. What we get here makes me understand why.
Korea's (both North and South) history has been checkered with being caught between China and Japan who at times in history seem to have occupied the country and tried to suppress its culture. Having studied a Korean martial art, I have a cursory awareness of its history which is alluded to in some of the poems which the translators have provided notes to explain when necessary, But there is much more than that here.
Readers of translations of Japanese, Chinese and Zen poetry will also find similarities in some poems with focus on the moment, the love of nature, mountains, rivers the seasons and clouds. The front cover photograph has Ko in a kilmono which is suggestive of a Zen monk, which he once was after coming out of the Korean war emotionally scarred from his experience then. The translations have been done effectively by Brother Anthony of Taize and Ko's wife, Lee Sang-Wha.
There is a strong spiritual edge showing the influence of Buddhism in these poems. Yet it would be a mistake to be confined to this. Ko has lived a lot, having also been a political dissident and jailed for championing libertarian causes in South Korea, as well as being a very prolific writer. There are also hints that he has also suffered from despair, possibly depressions and self-harming, yet his spirit comes through undaunted in these poems.
One of the features I also came across about Korean culture was its earthiness. A lot of Korean food is spicy also. Ko as well as being able to write detached poems can howl like Ginsberg. He will write about despair and joy. There are also poems showing an awareness of European literature, and he is aware of the treachery of words. As he writes, perhaps with a hint of irony and self-deprecation:
block the path for better poems."
Yet for all this, Ko is not a poet of the half-expressed feeling that is common in English poetry, i.e where deeps feelings are implied by understatement. Though there is the inevitable Asian sensibility in her, there is also a full throttle expression of a wide range of emotions similar in this way to what I find in Spanish language poets like Lorca, Hernandez and Pablo Neruda. In my experience this is also a very Korean trait. Reading those poets always leaves me feeling enlivened because of that. These poems do the same.
Ko has been through a lot of living and suffering. He is a force of life. This also comes through in the poems. After reading them, I wonder why it has taken so long for a book by him to appear in Britain. Thank you Bloodaxe for amending that omission.