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The Three Way Tavern: Selected Poems [Paperback]

Clare You , Richard Silberg

Price: CDN$ 28.50 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

April 17 2006
Ko Un, the preeminent Korean poet of the twentieth century, embraces Buddhism with the versatility of a master Taoist sage. A beloved cultural figure who has helped shape contemporary Korean literature, Ko Un is also a novelist, literary critic, ex-monk, former dissident, and four-time political prisoner. His verse—vivid, unsettling, down-to-earth, and deeply moving—ranges from the short lyric to the vast epic and draws from a poetic reservoir filled with memories and experiences ranging over seventy years of South Korea's tumultuous history from the Japanese occupation to the Korean war to democracy. This collection, an essential sampling of his poems from the last decade of the twentieth century, offers in deft translation, as lively and demotic as the original, the off-beat humor, mystery, and mythic power of his work for a wide audience of English-speaking readers. It showcases the work of a man whom Allen Ginsberg has called "a magnificent poet, a combination of Buddhist cognoscente, passionate political libertarian, and naturalist historian," who Gary Snyder has said is "a real-world poet!" who "outfoxes the Old Masters and the young poets both," and who Lawrence Ferlinghetti has described as "no doubt the greatest living Korean Zen poet today."

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From Booklist

Well regarded in Korea and short-listed for the Nobel Prize, Un has not been widely acknowledged in the U.S. With the recent publication of his novel, Little Pilgrim (2005), and now this volume of diverse poems written during the last decade of the twentieth century and thoughtfully introduced and translated by You and Silberg, his American audience should grow. Whether offering vignettes on life in a Korean village, meditating on various aspects of nature, making philosophical propositions, candidly commenting on politics, or humorously depicting some folly of human nature, Un's poetry is simultaneously passionate and poignant, accessible and lively. Having been a monk, political activist, and Korean cultural figure for many of his 73 years, Un brings his eclectic and world-wise insights to poetry in a way that makes one feel as though he is speaking directly to one in a personal and casual manner. And this is just one of his many poetic gifts. Janet St. John
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Ko Un's work springs from a passionate dedication to the task of making whole again the narratives of the disrupted lives of Korea's people. No one has done more for what is coming gradually but ever more clearly to be recognized as Korea's literature of the twenty-first century." - David McCann, Director of the Korea Institute at Harvard University "These poems have magic." - Willis Barnstone, author of Sweetbitter Love: Poems of Sappho"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ko On Jan. 5 2007
By Dusty Poet Books - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I met Ko On and heard his work at the 2006 Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival. Despite the language difference, Ko On's wit, intelligence, life experience, and talent, came through very clearly and he held his audiences enthralled. It was a privilege to hear him. Don't miss this book; it's a pleasure to read, though this poet has lived through times too terrible for most of us to imagine. As a writer friend says, "Life is all material," and Ko On uses it all with a very skilled poet's hand indeed. Small wonder he is one of Korea's most respected (and prolific) poets. I look forward to reading more of his work.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What I don't know June 28 2006
By M. J. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
The selection of Ko Un's Korean poetry in translation makes three things clear: (1) Korean poetry is not Chinese poetry although there are several similarities. (2) Korean poetry is not Japanese poetry although there are several similarities. (3) I am unfamiliar with Korean poetry. (Admittedly, this is only the 2nd volume of Korean poetry I have read.)

Why is that important? Because many of the poems required me to try to understand the aesthetics beneath the poem - otherwise the poem was simply "average." However, as I stuck with the book I began to understand more and more how to read the poems - and to recognized the brilliance of many of them. Going back to the earlier poems, I discovered how much I had missed in my first readings. The poems that required the least of myself as reader were those poems closest to Chinese sensibilities. The poem that required the most, I suspect are Korean "free verse."

The poems themselves are a wonderful breadth of life - monk, husband, political activist ... Ko Un is all and he brings his whole experience to his poetry. This creates poetry based usually in everyday life that contains an intense understanding of that life. An example:


Born a hick,

he started working at the age of five,

had to work alongside his dad. ...

It was fun,

half a day hunting snails,

fun to get away from the drudgery. ...

No graves for children, no services for children, just born and died.

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