Book Break: Flowers of a Moment

I like Zen poetry. I don’t really know what that phrase means for sure—Zen poetry—but I totally dig haiku, and have thoroughly enjoyed Korean Zen poet Ko Un‘s Flowers of a Moment in fits and starts since I found it on the Bargain Books rack at the U bookstore.

My rhythmic rhyming friend Jinglebob would not call this poetry. It’s form is formlessness, I suppose. Spacing, punctuation, subject matter—unpredictable. The poet finds unexpected hints of universal truths and shared emotion in mundane occurrences and natural surroundings. Beauty in simplicity—a sentence or turn of phrase set apart from its surroundings to make you see in a new way.

Gibberish you say? My “review” or this “poetry”?

I wonder what makes Ko Un a poet. Is anything lost in the translation from Korean to English? Or is it like a photographer acquaintance of mine, who, when I asked why he was considered a pro when both of us shoot dozens of photos to get one perfect shot, said something like, “The difference is, I know when I’ve got it.”

Whereas I generally had to wait until the prints came back to know if the film contained anything worthwhile…

Perhaps that’s the difference: perhaps the poet knows before he shares his poetry which words, which images will resonate, and throws the rest away. Whereas I’m just guessing.

4 thoughts on “Book Break: Flowers of a Moment

  1. When I read that kind of poetry, I imagine the poet: sitting there, stressing and sweating over each word…erasing and starting over in frustration when it's “not quite right”…laughing hysterically when he KNOWS he's “nailed it”…stretching arms out in victory at the end of the poem and his hard work…going to get a glass of very sophisticated wine to reward himself for a job well-done.
    I don't know if that's quite right, but it's what I picture. Now, maybe me and Jinglebob would just imagine some limerick rhyme and remember to jot it down later so we can laugh at how funny and clever we think we are.


  2. I write it out with a vague idea of what I want to say and then smooth and polish, smooth and polish. I do that a lot more now than I used to. I am way more critical of mine and others poems. I used to think it was easy. Now I see I just settled for less. and you never are done with a poem, you just quit working on it for the time.

    I suppose that it is all poetry. I just don't care for formless poetry, much. Once in a great while I read or hear one I like. Very seldom tho.


  3. form, no different than blank essence ~ ~ ~
    blank essence, no different than form

    Gee!, I dunno what the poet wld say — but as one of his 3 translators I'd say Golly! You got it! Readers who wish might dip in online :
    Flowers of a Moment

    ¿ Did he write the poems :: did they write themselves ?

    I think his illustrations are similar to the poems : bold, delicate, unpremeditated, open, vivid, apt, easy, wide, complete in themselves, etc.

    (Korean poetry aint same as Chinese or Japanese, but you might get a taste for it; if so, I can recommend Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry edited by David McCann; the other two books I worked on by Ko Un are Ten Thousand Lives & Songs for Tomorrow; etc.

    ¿ Zen poetry ? ¿ What Book! (etc)

    P.S. Anyone interested in haiku is more'n welcome to the Haiku Corner I host at (minimal registration & yr in).

    & I'm glad to discover this site ; I'll be back

    t h a n k y o u

    (palms joined)

    Gary Gach



  4. Hey, thanks, Gary! Hope you'll stop by again.

    If you click the poetry tag at the right, you'll see what I mean about my own approach: guessing what will work. Once in a while, something connects…


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