Korea has a culture rich in poetry, yet the language barrier makes it difficult for foreign audiences to access it. For this episode we spoke to Brother Anthony of Taizé about the history and the aesthetics of Korean poetry, about the difficulties translating it with all its nuances and context – and about Ko Un, who has been labeled as the People’s Poet of Korea and is one of the country’s most famous and prolific writers.
Brother Anthony is Emeritus Professor in the English Department of Sogang University and Chair-Professor at Dankook University. In 1994, he was naturalized as a South Korean citizen under the name An Sonjae and since then has been awarded the Ok-gwan Order of Merit for Culture by the Korean government as well as an honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by HM Queen Elizabeth II.
He has received numerous awards for his translations of Korean poetry, including the Korea Times Translation Award, the Republic of Korea Literary Award (Translation), the Daesan Award for Translation and the Korea PEN Translation Prize.
Everybody knows poetry doesn’t sell — there are very few poetry publishers or they are simply non-profit. They have very limited distribution, they cannot afford to pay booksellers to have big displays of poetry. Poetry is hidden on the back shelf somewhere. But also it’s very rare to find journals which publish reviews of poetry and especially of translated poetry […] Poetry is a very minority interest and it’s really hard to get it published.
The interview was recorded on January 19th in Seoul.