Manhae (1879-1944), or Han Yongun, was a Korean Buddhist (Son) monk during the era of Japanese colonial occupation (1910-1945). Manhae is a political and cultural hero in Korea, and his works are studied by college students and school children alike.
Everything Yearned For is a collection of 88 love poems, evocative of the mystical love poetry of Rumi, and even reminiscent of the work of Pablo Neruda.Though Manahe's poetry can be read allegorically on many levels - political and religious - it is completely unlike any other poetry in Buddhist or secular realm.
The first poem, "My Lover's Silence," narrates the lover's departure and establishes the enduring themes of the work: the happiness of meeting, the sadness of separation, the agony of longing and waiting, and, most of all, the perfection of love in absence that demands the cost of one's ongoing life, as opposed to the relief of death. The Korean word translated in these poems as "love" and "lover" is nim, though nim has many and broad interpretations. Understandably, the identity of Manhae's lover, or "nim" has been the subject of much speculation.
Manhae writes in his own preface:
"Nim" is not only a human lover but everything yearned for. All beings are nim for the Buddha, and philosophy is the nim of Kant. The spring rain is nim for the rose, and Italy is the nim of Mazzini. Nim is what I love, but it also loves me. If romantic love is freedom, then so is my nim. But aren't you attached to the lofty name of freedom? Don't you also have a nim? If so, it's only your shadow. I write these poems for the young lambs wandering lost on the road home from the darkening plains.
"Hot, hot poetry from a Korean master. It's cause for celebration when one book can brighten so much darkness. Francisca Cho's definitive translation of Manhae's The Silence of Everything Yearned For is a revelatory experience, a wonderful journey to the heart of the heart, gently and wisely guided by a true master. This is the only book-length collection of poems ever published by Manhae (the pen name of the revered Korean activist-monk-poet Han Yong-un). Manhae not only bore witness to the history of his time but also took a leading part of it. . . Cho's indispensable English-language rendition also includes several chapters of skillful commentary on the poems' interwoven topics of Buddhism, activism, and love. In its mode of variations on a central theme--that of love--Everything Yearned For speaks to us more deeply than any linear narrative might. Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus comes quickly to mind, also Whitman's original Leaves of Grass and Tagore's Lover's Gift."
"Manhae's deceptively simple ecstatic poems draw on a tradition that goes back thousands of years. Manhae joins to that tradition his Korean Buddhist sensibility and practice, and considerable technical skills, producing a suite of poems of striking originality."
– Sam Hamill, founder of Poets Against the War and author of Dumb Luck
"I quickly found myself entraptured with the writing inside Everything Yearned For. [. . .] Francisca Cho does an amazing job with her translation. Her translation is true to Manhae's work as she leaves his extended prose intact, which previous translations have taken out or mutilated. Cho packs the book with everything a reader can yearn for. It's easy to see why she won the Daesan Literary Award for her translation. [. . . Manhae's] poetry dances on the page; it sings and shouts to the reader."
– Korean Quarterly
"This book is amazing."
– Andrea McQuillin, editor of Shambhala Sun
"A wonderful, wonderful book. These poems remind me of Rilke and Tagore. I love that you can't tell whether they are erotic, religious, political-or all three at once! They penetrate your heart like a gong at midnight."
– Andrew Schelling, Naropa University, author of Wild Form, Savage Grammar: Ecology, Asia, Poetry
"Discover Manhae's poetic genius in Cho's superb translation."
– Mu Soeng, author of The Diamond Sutra: Transforming the Way We Perceive the World, and Trust in Mind: The Rebellion of Chinese Zen
"Intense and poignant. Love takes Manhae, and the reader, to a place of awareness that he understands is a dream within a dream; but one with a tang of relative truth about it--the extremes of bliss and despair, a paradigm of duality."
"Manhae never considered himself a poet, but his powerful words have been captured sensitively and brilliantly by translator Francisca Cho. The words conjure sad, beautiful images and evoke the true splendor of Manhae's native Korea. Cho has nailed Manhae's distinctive, poetic prose with her graceful translation. Cho provides detailed analyses of the poems, as well as an overview of Manhae's life and the influences on his writing. Everything Yearned For will appeal to poetry lovers and all readers interested in Eastern spiritual voices. Recommended as a splendid, passionate gift choice."