For Nirvana features exceptional examples of the poet Cho Oh-Hyun's award-winning work. Cho Oh-Hyun was born in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, Korea, and has lived in retreat in the mountains since becoming a vice monk at the age of seven. Writing under the Buddhist name Musan, he has composed hundreds of poems in seclusion, many in the sijo style, a relatively fixed syllabic poetic form similar to Japanese haiku and tanka. For Nirvana contains 108 Zen sijo poems (108 representing the number of klesas, or defilements, that one must overcome to attain enlightenment). These transfixing works play with traditional religious and metaphysical themes and include a number of story sijo, a longer, more personal style that is one of Cho Oh-Hyun's major invations. Kwon Youngmin, a leading scholar of sijo, provides a contextualizing introduction, and in his afterword, Heinz Insu Fenkl reflects on the unique challenges of translating the collection.
Cho Oh-Hyun is in retreat at Baekdamsa Temple at Mt. Seoraksan. The lineage holder of the Mt. Gaji school of Korean Nine Mountains Zen, he received the Cheong Chi-yong Literary Award for Distant Holy Man in 2007, and translations of his work have appeared in Asymptote, the Buddhist Poetry Review, Asia Literary Review, Azalea, and the Adirondack Review. Heinz Insu Fenkl is associate professor of English and Asian studies at SUNY New Paltz. He is the author of Memories of My Ghost Brother and is working on a translation of Yi Mun-yol's novella Meeting with My Brother.