Tag Archives: Five poems by Ko Un

The Poetry of Ko Un


The whole Banned Books thing sent me to my bookshelf and one of the spines that spoke to me straight away was Three Way Tavern by the incredible Ko Un. Korea’s greatest living poet and humanitarian, Ko Un was jailed four times for his political activities against an authoritarian government. His work is revolutionary. He describes his poetry as:

“… flow. That flow will at times produce rhythms as it strikes against the riverbanks or frolics, speckled by light and shade. Thus my poetry is resonance. In an interview with the New York Times in the late 1980s, I said that `poetry is the music of history,’ stressing the music no less than the history.”


Here are five short poems:

Two beggars
sharing a meal of the food they’ve been given

The new moon shines intensely


In a poor family’s yard
the moon’s so bright it could beat out rice-cakes


Get yourself a friend
come to know a foe
Get yourself a foe
come to know a friend

What kind of game is this?


A thousand drops
hanging from a dead branch

The rain did not fall for nothing


Without a sound

resin buried underground is turning into amber
while above the first snow is falling

Translated from the Korean by Brother Anthony of Taizé, Young-moo Kim and Gary Gac (taken from The Nation)

You can also read more of Ko Un’s work in issue #34 of Jacket.

Ko Un’s work sings of freedom, sings of tomorrow… perfect for this Spring day.


Filed under poetry & publishing