2014 Featured Festival Poet: Cathy Park Hong

Posted on by Michele Russo, Poetry Coordinator
Photo courtesy of Poetry Foundation

For a small peek into Cathy Park Hong’s poetry, watch her read her poem “Ballad of O”:

If you hadn’t known ahead of time that the poem only uses one vowel, would you have realized it?  The poems sounds are so varied and the western narrative thread so strong, the “trick” of the poem brings  delight to the reader without taking center stage.  In a recent interview, Cathy Park Hong said “I grew up speaking two languages, both of them mangled, so I am quite at home mashing disparate languages, idioms and vernaculars together”  and later, “I wanted to explore how different created scenes, histories, and languages can coexist to reflect the present time we’re living in.”

Cathy Park Hong’s poetry is a cousin of travel, a second cousin of sci-fi.  She invents allegorical worlds, languages, dialects and characters and of that raw material crafts poem/journeys which explore ideas central to human consciousness and human experience.  There is a measuredness and order about this guide that we trust—it’s not a reckless imagination we’re experiencing but a contained fury.  It may be surprising (but shouldn’t be) that her book Dance Dance Revolution was named one of the Los Angeles Times‘s Best Science Fiction Books in 2007.

In earlier work and in her most recent book, Engine Empire, Cathy Park Hong explores vastly different worlds—from the wild west, to a dystopian futuristic California, to a Vegas –like tourist town after a political uprising–with accompanying linguistic galaxies which express the worlds as much as the actual narratives.  For example, one section of Engine Empire focuses on a tech-boomtown Chinese city. This poem weaves everyday tech terms into ideas of frontier and of taming the mind:

The tech-specific language and images give us this mechanized, computerized expression of our own  minds by meshing with a surprising collection of physicalities—“roaming” steer, “landscape” of reminders, “wall” of words.  Because of the physical details we are able to see the poem, whilst the central thread may remain gauzy or hard to hold down.

For a final taste of Cathy Park Hong’s genre-melting endeavors, explore her collaboration with video artist Adam Schecter .  We are excited to welcome Cathy Park Hong to the 2014 Festival.

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We encourage you to use the “Comments” box below to share other resources you may have found for this poet. In this way, we can build together a mini-wiki-encyclopedia on the 2014 Festival Poets.

For more information on the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,
visit our website dodgepoetry.org

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