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 cognoscenti, 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 critics 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.
"First Person Sorrowful" is Ko Un's first book to be published in the UK, and has an introduction by Sir Andrew Motion.
"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"
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.