Leading Korean poet comes to London

Ko Un

Ko Un (고은), one of Korea’s most prominent living poets, will be giving his first ever UK poetry reading at the Korean Cultural Centre, London on Tuesday, 29 April at 7.00-8.30pm.

“It is very striking to see the kind of tuning fork [Ko Un] has been, re-inventing himself in every decade through the turns in Korea’s postwar political and social history. In his early work, it’s my impression that he was writing in some version of the received tradition of Korean nature lyric with symbolist overtones, touched by the Korean folk tradition, touched by Son Buddhism, which, compared to the sense of refinement in Zen Buddhist poetry, seems earthy and intellectually tough. …Ko Un is a remarkable poet and one of the heroes of human freedom in this half-century.” – Robert Hass (2008 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry)

The KCC’s press release follows:

Event: The Poet Ko Un – Poetry Reading
Date & Time: 29 April 2008 (Tue), 19:00-20:30
Venue: Multipurpose Hall

“Ko Un is a demon-driven Bodhisattva of Korean poetry, exuberant, abundant, obsessed with poetic creation…a magnificent poet, combined of Buddhist cognoscente, passionate political libertarian, and natural historian.”
– US poet Allen Ginsberg

“Ko Un is not only a major spokesperson for all of Korean culture, but a voice for Planet Earth Watershed as well…Because of their purity, their nervy clarity, and their heart of compassion, his poems are not only Korean —they belong to the world.”
– US Poet Gary Snyder

Between April 25th and 30th, the most internationally talked-about and representative Korean poet, Ko Un will be visiting the UK, and will be giving his first ever UK poetry reading at the Korean Cultural Centre, London.

This poetry reading, as the Cultural Centre’s first literary event, is intended to introduce Korean literature into the UK literary world and open the door for literary exchange.

At this poetry reading, Ko Un will, in person, read a selection of poems from certain of his anthologies, with a Question & Answer and autograph session afterwards, with real-time translation.

Ko Un, who took the stage in 1958, has published over 130 books of poems, short stories/novels, essays, commentaries, and other works, and his works have been translated into 16 languages, including English, French, German and Spanish.

With endless imagination and the soul of a poet, Ko Un has gained the attention of the world of poetry and is even now being invited to famous poetry and literature events, and is spreading knowledge of Korean literature to the world.

Brother Anthony, Ko Un and Kim YongmuKo Un has a new collection of poems about to be published, translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé (right, with Ko Un and Kim Yongmu). Brother Anthony recently did a one-off translation of a poem by Ko Un for an anthology of poetry from around the world celebrating the life of Che Guevara.

Brother Anthony provides the following brief biographical details about Ko:

Ko Un (1933- ) is one of Korea’s greatest poets and has been shortlisted for the Nobel prize for literature several times. Traumatised by the suffering of his family and friends in the Korean War, he became a Buddhist monk, only returning to secular life in 1962 as a poet. He suffered emotional problems and attempted suicide several times. He was a leading activist in South Korea’s democracy, human rights and labour movements and was jailed four times after 1974 as well as suffering house arrest and torture. His obvious deafness is due in part to beatings inflicted by the police when he was arrested in 1979. In 1980, during the coup d’etat, he was accused of treason and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, but was released in 1982 as part of a general amnesty. He has published some 140 volumes, including verse and fiction. His works have been translated into 15 languages, he has won many awards, and he has been a leading light in efforts to improve relations with North Korea.

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