Aylen Rounds reviews Cathy Park Hong

Aylen Rounds reviews Cathy Park Hong’s recent BathHouse reading:

Cathy Park Hong, BathHouse Reading, 2/17

Poet Cathy Park Hong was the featured writer for February’s BathHouse Reading Series, held on the 17th. She read from her latest book, Dance Dance Revolution, as well as excerpts from a forthcoming collection (tenatively) titled Engine West.

Hong was personable and warm right from the start, which helped her audience want to engage with her work — even if they didn’t always understand it. This went a long way  in the case of the excerpts of Dance Dance Revolution, a collection of poems about an imaginary desert city with a narrator who speaks in a pidgin comprised of English, Korean, Spanish, and old and new slang, prohibiting the audience from comprehending many individual words. Despite this seemingly large obstacle, at the very least, the excerpts Hong chose to read from Dance Dance Revolution certainly intrigued those in attendance who hadn’t (yet) read the book.

Engine West is another collection of work exploring imaginary cities – three of them – an Old West town, an imaginary city in modern-day China called Sheng-Du, and a futuristic place described by Hong as cyberpunk. Stylistically, it weaves together sound poems and narrative poems.  Hong read excerpts from each of the three sections. The Old West selections were “sound poems,” illustrating Hong’s love of rhythm and the musicality of poetry (one of the things she said in the Q&A section after the reading was “when a poem works, it’s usually the music.”) Following this were narrative poems from the Sheng-Du collection, which featured some incredible imagery (“Bring me my napkin. My thumb is smudged with the horizon.”) She closed with three pieces from the futuristic city, which featured an invention called “smart snow”– snow which would, using Internet technology, allow everyone inside everything —- creating a boundaryless future.

Overall, it was an evening that showcased breaking boundaries beyond just the thematic : crossing the lines of genre, of language, and of time, Cathy Park Hong gave her audience here at EMU a memorable presentation.