Poem Stories: The Cosmos by Han Yongun; Celebrate


Celebrate blog hopThe Cosmos

The cosmos is swaying
in the autumn wind.
Are your petals wings
or wings your petals?
Your soul is a butterfly —
as far as I can see.

The Korean poet Han Yongun (1879-1944) was a Buddhist monk, and also one of the 33 who signed a historic document in 1919 declaring the independence of Korean from Japanese rule.

This poem is a sijo. A sijo is a traditional Korean type of poem, just as haiku and tanka are traditional Japanese types of poems.

How do you understand this poem or other poems? Forget all the English class nonsense where there were ‘right’ answers about the hidden stuff that was in a poem that only an English teacher could work out. A poem is more like an ink-blot test, and there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to what you see in a poem and what you think it means.

Here are some things the poem awoke in me:
I wondered about the word ‘cosmos.’ I looked it up in the dictionary. It can mean an orderly universe. Or it can mean a variety of flower. Is the ‘cosmos’ in this poem the universe, the flower or both? (It makes me wonder what the original word was in the Korean and if it had these two meanings.)

I wonder who the Speaker of the poem is talking to that either has wings or petals. Or both. Are the wings/petals literally. And the soul is a butterfly thing— ‘as far as I can see….’ Interesting.

So, now, your turn. What does the poem mean to you? If you had one question for the poet Han Yongun about the poem, what would it be? Post it in a comment!


This is  a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop.

What am I celebrating? Well, it’s kind of hard these days. I’ve been sick and it’s been very hot and uncomfortable by me. And then I heard the word about the terrorist attack in France killing 77 (Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.)

But I wrote a good poem last night after I studied the sijo poem above, so that’s something to celebrate. Can’t come out with a new poetry book if I don’t generate enough new material.

And on Lexa Cain’s blog, my friend Robert Mullin’s novella Blood Song was featured on a list of ‘freebies.’ I liked the book so much that I hope some more people will download and read the book.


My email list:

I’ve temporarily taken down the pop-up for my email list. I was hoping to put up a less annoying one but the one I wanted was not compatible with WordPress.com, just WordPress.org. If you want to join my email list without a popup to prompt you, the form is at: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr

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8 thoughts on “Poem Stories: The Cosmos by Han Yongun; Celebrate

  1. I’m not a big poetry fan, but I liked that one. It gave me interesting images of petally winged creatures! Congrats on getting a poem written, and I hope you feel better soon. 🙂

  2. Are your petals wings or your wings petals? This seems like a deep question. Do you use what beautiful things you have (could be literal like looks or figurative like a talent or maybe even family) to fly in this world or do leave them to be ornamental only? I like this.

    Hope you feel better soon. It is too hot here (upstate NY) as well. At least I grew up in the south and am used to it, but I am looking forward to fall.

    Blood Song. Okay. Will check it out.

  3. Beautiful poem, simple but evocative. It’s funny, when I first read it, I read “cosmos” as the universe, and I was picturing butterflies as tiny exquisite pieces of the universe as fragile as flower petals but soul deep. Then I read your definition that included flowers and I remembered that a cosmos was also a flower. Instead of seeing butterflies with wings like flower petals, I then saw flowers with petals like butterfly wings. Interesting how the visuals can change like that.

    Sorry you haven’t been feeling well. It’s hot here, too. Spring and fall are my favorite seasons because I like the cooler weather. Congrats on your new poem! Hope you feel better soon!

  4. The poem is lovely. (I read it a couple of times 😉 ). I hope you’re feeling better soon. That’s never good in this heat. I’m day dreaming from cooler days and slowly hinting at my hubs that it’s time to move to Alaska.

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