Ko Un

Ko Un

Ko Un was born in 1933 and has long been “a living legend”, “a phenomenon”, and “a national treasure” 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 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 with an immense literary achievement of 157 books, out of which more than 70 are poetry books. His recent poetry collections Untitled Poems of 607 poems in 1013 pages, Invocation of the Dead including a long poem and One Day with 277 short intuitive poems published in early 2018 show what an amazing depth and height his poems have attained. Still, he says he has more to write in the years to come than he has written so far. In his writings, Ko Un manifested an immense diversity: epigrams of a couple of lines, long discursive poems; epic; pastoral; and even a genre of poems he himself created. He once said that if the quantity of his works did not guarantee their quality as well, he would immediately stop writing. “He writes poetry as he breathes”, a literary critic once said. Ko Un was Chairman of the Association of the Writers for National Literature and invited to be a resident professor of Seoul National University, Kyong-gi University, and Dankook University. He was three times awarded with Honorary Doctoral Degree. He was also invited to be a visiting research scholar at Yenching Institute of Harvard University and at UC, Berkeley. He is currently Honor Fellow at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Fellow at Ambrosiana Academy in Milan. He has received more than 30 prestigious literary awards, including Björnson Order for Literature (Norway), Griffin Lifetime Achievement Prize (Canada), Golden Wreath Award of Struga Poetry Evenings (FYROM), New Golden Age Poetry Prize (Mexico). More than 80 volumes of translations of his work have been published in more than 30 languages. Ko Un is acclaimed as one of the most important leading poets of the world, and he has been invited to about 100 international poetry and literature festivals and conferences.

Korea