I wanted to become a poet. And I became a poet.
I cling to my name as a poet because I committed so many sins
by wasting time in my present life and former ones. Being a
poet is a punishment of life imprisonment rather than a choice
that I made.
Both when I was 18 years old and now, poetry is my Polaris.
When someone says that I was destined to be a poet, I long not
to finish my life as a poet. In other words, I wish I could
be a poem at the end of the poet. A poem. not a poet!
In ancient poems, 'place' is 'time.' Who would have thought that these would become my own words? For me, 'the time' of a poem is 'the place' of a poem.
If I ask myself, 'Can I write a poem when I die, when I am dying?' my immediate answer would be: 'I can. If I can't, I'll never be able to die.'
If this is truly so, a poem is a poem in the face of death and in death. It needs neither end nor origin.
from author's foreword to Untitled Poems
One dream remains:
may the fossilized butterfly underground in some distant future
be a fossilized song.
from 'A Biography'
In the foreword to the collection Sea Diamond Mountain, published in April 1991, he says of his sense of poetic creation: 'If someone opens my grave a few years after my death, they will find it full, not of my bones, but of poems written in that tomb's darkness.... Am I too attached to poetry? Because my poems exist side-by-side with a farewell to poetry, my attachment is one aspect of a deliverance from poetry.'
from Poet’s foreword to Sea Dianmond Mountain, 1991
On the way, I have been an awkward farmer, a bird, and a shaman with tears. Meanwhile, words were my religion.
When poetry didn't come I dug into the earth. Some of the spirits of poetry that were buried in the earth entered, trembling, into my body.
On windy days, as my down rose, I kicked off from the end of the bough. Up in the air several poems were floating. Passing them I by chance pecked at one or two and ate them.
Often I went mad.
I cry. Crying, or the murmur of brook or river, or the sound of waves striking a thousand-year-old cliff, are all part of the same family. In the dance of the white foam, a poem was present.
I must broaden my world a bit. I will not be confined in this present world only.
from Poet’s foreword to A Wind published to celebrate Ko Un’s 70th birthday in 2002
Ultimately, I want to be a poem without poems and a poet without poems, and I want to write poems without poet. I want to belong to the poem that isbefore or after the language.
in Conversations with Ko Un