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Musan’s Sijo Poetry

Cho published his first poems in the journal Sijo Literature in 1968. "Pasque Flower" and "The Road to Mt. Biseulsan" were his first verses to appear in print. A decade later, the magazine Korean Literature published his first book of collected poems titled Portrait of a Man Finding His Cow (1979). The poems "Pasque Flower", "Stone Buddha at Seokgul'am", "The Road to Mt. Biseulsan", "Diary of Life in the Mountains", "Prajna-Paramita-Sutra in the Afternoon", "Coming to Seolsan" and "Travel Notes at Jikjisa" are all included in Part I. “Questions and Answers in the Mountains”, “My Life Was Only Skin-Deep”, “Seeing My Own Handwriting”, “Portrait of a Man Finding His Cow”, and other verses are included in Part 2.

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Literary Awards

Following the publication of Cho's first collection of poetry, Portrait of a Man Finding His Cow (Hankukmunhaksa, 1979), other notable collections by the author followed including: On the Day I Will Live in the Mountains (Taehaksa, 2000), Collection of Manak's Encomiums to Buddha (Manak Mundohoe, 2002), Tales from the Temple (Goyo Achim, 2003), A Collection of Seorak Sijo (Seorak Mundohoe, 2006), Distant Saint (Shihak, 2007), The Road to Mt. Biseulsan (Goyo Achim, 2008), For Nirvana (Munhaksa Sangsa, 2012), and My Life, in Vain (Chamgeul Sesang, 2015). The Hyeondae Sijo Literary Award (1992), Nammyeong Literary Award (1995), Garam Literary Award (1996), Korea Literary Award (2005), Jeong Ji-yong Literary Award (2007), Gongcho Literary Award (2008), and Gosan Literary Award (2013) number among Cho's literary accolades.

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Cho received the Jeong Ji-yong Literary Award for Distant Saint in 2007. At right, Cho at the award presentation

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Cho won the Gosan Literary Award for his book For Nirvana in 2013. At right, Cho making his acceptance speech

Cho’s Seon Sijo on the World Stage

Cho's literary endeavors gained international attention in 2009. At the Harvard Manhae Sijo Festival (organized by Profs. Kwon Young-min and David McCann), poet Lee Sang-guk and poet Hong Seongran recited and sang sijo poems by Cho to a rapt audience. The two traveled to the U.S. for the special occasion at invitation from the Center for Korean Studies at Harvard University. Prof. McCann translated the poems and gave a spoken introduction.

On March 20, 2015, Cho traveled to the U.S. as invitee of the Center for Korean Studies and gave a talk to 180 people gathered in the Brower Theater on the UC Berkeley campus. Cho spoke at the event, illustrating the world of Seon and the richness of spirit found in Seon poetry. He also took part in a discussion on the theme, "Resonating in the Soul: Korean Literature on the World Stage." In addition, Harvard University professor David McCann delivered a lecture on Cho's poetry called "What Is a Sijo?", and a lecture ("Musan Cho Oh-hyun's Sijo") was delivered by State University of New York Professor Heinz Insu Fenkl. Yi Yu-gyeong, a transmitter of Korean traditional song as an intangible cultural heritage, sang Cho's sijo in both Gagok and Sijo genres to bring the evening to a close. Ko Jin-ho (daegeum flute) and Hong Se-rin (gayageum zither) provided the lilting accompaniment. All three performers were invited to Berkeley from Korea to perform at the occasion. Arizona State University Professor Shin Ji-weon did simultaneous interpretation for the occasion.

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Cho and Prof. Kwon Young-min discuss the theme “Resonating in the Soul”. At right is the interpreter Prof. Shin Ji-weon. (March 20, 2015, UC Berkeley, Brower Theater)

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English translations of Cho's sijo

Selected sijo by Cho were translated (Fenkl) and published in the renowned American literary journals World Literature Today and Buddhist Poetry in 2013 to positive reviews.

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The World Literature Today article from September 2013 that first introduced Cho's sijo to English-speaking readers.

Cho's Seon sijo poems were first translated into English (Fenkl) and published in 2016 under the title For Nirvana: 108 Zen Sijo Poems. The poems in the book were previously assembled by Prof. Kwon Young-min and published under the Korean title Jeogmyeol eul wihayeo (Munhaksa-sangsa, 2012).

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Cho's Seon sijo poems were first translated into English (Fenkl) and published in 2016 under the title For Nirvana: 108 Zen Sijo Poems. The poems in the book were previously assembled by Prof. Kwon Young-min and published under the Korean title Jeogmyeol eul wihayeo (Munhaksa-sangsa, 2012).

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Through the publication of Tales from the Temple: A Collection of Zen Prose Poems (2018), Musan's poetic universe was made accessible to a wider audience.

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Fenkl’s translation of Cho’s Temple Story (left) is shown on the right.

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