Monday, April 23, 2007

Ko Un

I really quite liked this one that was in today's Academy of American Poets' April poem-a-day. The first poem-a-day I've read this year that really affected me. (Not that I've read every one of them...) It's from a book of translations of this remarkable Korean poet put out by Boa press. You can read more about it, and its author, here.


IN THE OLD DAYS A POET ONCE SAID
by Ko Un

In the old days a poet once said
our nation is destroyed
yet the mountains and rivers survive

Today's poet says
the mountains and rivers are destroyed
yet our nation survives

Tomorrow's poet will say
the mountains and rivers are destroyed
our nation is destroyed and Alas!
you and I are completely destroyed

2 comments:

R. W. Watkins said...

Nice. This reminds me of something somewhere I've read before, but can't put my finger on at the moment.

I've had a thing for Korean poetry ever since I discovered Larry Gross and Elizabeth St. Jacques's journal, Sijo West, back in the mid to late '90s. Sadly, it folded around 1999, and sijo poetry today seems to be limited to an online forum and the occasional piece published in haiku-related journals and broadcasted on websites. I tried kickstarting the verse form back into vogue two years ago, with my one-off low budget zine, Contemporary Sijo, but I just couldn't get folks interested again. It seems the dedicated sijo poets limit their appearances to the aforementioned forum these days, where they seem to behave somewhat cultishly--one can almost imagine hairshirts and Gregorian chant in the background.

An untitled sijo by Rynn Jacobs from my Contemporary Sijo:

A pregnant schoolgirl's foetus
is like a cavefish in the womb.
From a bridge above a river,
she sees the jumping trout consume.
Soon her lunging torso plummets,
and is swallowed by the tomb.

Brian Campbell said...

Thanks for sharing that, R.W.!