Other literary forms

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Although Ko Un (koh ewn) is primarily known as a poet, he is also an extremely prolific writer in a wide variety of genres and has published more than 135 books. Ko has written short stories and Buddhist novels, the most famous of which is Hwaŏmgyŏng (1991; The Garland Sutra—Little Pilgrim, 2005). He has also published travel books, books for children, biographies, autobiographies, and books of literary criticism, and he has translated several collections of traditional Chinese poetry.

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Ko Un is widely considered Korea’s foremost contemporary poet. He has been nominated four times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and is a winner of the prestigious Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry (2008) and the Cikada Prize (2006), a Swedish literary prize for East Asian poets. Ko has also won the Korean Literature (1974, 1987), Daesan (1994), and the Manhae (1989) literary prizes. His poetry has been acclaimed by such noted American poets as Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Robert Hass. His works have been translated into English, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic, Swedish, Spanish, Czech, Italian, Norwegian, German, and French, and he has given poetry readings in the United States, Japan, and Europe.


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Hass, Robert. “Poet of Wonders.” The New York Review of Books 52, no. 17 (November 3, 2005). In this profile of Ko, Hass describes his meeting with the poet and situates his poetry in the context of modern Korean poetry.

Ko Un. “Human Nature Itself Is Poetic: An Interview.” Interview by Patricia Donegan. Manoa 18, no. 1 (2006): 1-8. Ko discusses his life and poetic inspirations.

_______. “Ko Un Poet.” http://www.koun.co.kr. Ko’s official Web site, in both English and Korean, contains information about his life, a list of his writings, and links to articles about him.

_______. Songs for Tomorrow. Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé, Young-moo Kim, and Gary Gach. 1992. Reprint. Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2008. Contains a revealing introduction by the poet and poems representing a broad range of Ko’s work.

Lee, Peter. A History of Korean Literature. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Provides a short but informative discussion of Ko’s poetry and places him within the literary history of that country.

McCann, David R., ed. The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry. New York: Columbia Press, 2004. Provides a comprehensive discussion of modern poetry in Korea, a short biography of Ko, and ten of his poems.

Paik, Nak-chung. “Zen Poetry and Realism: Reflections on Ko Un’s Verse.” Positions 8, no. 2 (2000): 559-578. Presents a good overview of Ko’s Zen poetry.

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Critical Essays