poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Born to Korean parents on August 7, 1976, Cathy Park Hong was raised in Los Angeles. She studied at Oberlin College before earning an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Hong's most recent poetry collection is Engine Empire (W. W. Norton, 2013). Her debut, Translating Mo'um (Hanging Loose Press, 2002) received a Pushcart Prize. Her second collection, Dance Dance Revolution (W. W. Norton, 2007) was selected for the Barnard Women Poets Prize.

Hong's poetry evokes a sense of split identity and alienation from Anglo-American culture. Cal Bedient, in the Boston Review characterized her writing as "brilliant, feisty, and formidable." A review of her work in Rain Taxi Review of Books described Hong's "meticulously honed, visceral poetic" as "simultaneously beautiful and furiously anti-beautiful," work that "manages to create a space for the irreducibility of meaning."

Hong's awards and honors include a Fulbright Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and a Village Voice Fellowship for Minority Reporters. She teaches at the Queens MFA program in Charlotte, North Carolina. She also serves as editor-at-large for jubilat magazine.

Ontology of Chang and Eng, the Original Siamese Twins

Cathy Park Hong, 1976
Chang spoke / Eng paused.

Chang threw a beach ball / Eng caught it.

Chang told a white lie / Eng got caught for the lie.

Chang forgot his first language / Eng picked up English.

In letters, Chang referred to themselves as "I" / Eng as "we."

While proselytizing, the preacher asked Chang, "Do you know where you 
go after you die?" Chang said, "Yes, yes, up dere." / Thinking they didn't
understand, he asked, "Do you know where I go after I die?" Eng said, 
"Yes, yes, down dere."

Chang married Adelaine / Eng married her sister Sally.

Chang made love to his wife / Eng daydreamed about money, 
his Siam childhood and roast beef. He tried not to get aroused.

Chang checked his watch, scratched his head and fidgeted/ 
Eng made love to his wife.

Chang became drunk, knocked Eng out with a whiskey bottle 
and went carousing with his boys / Eng was unconscious.

Chang proved Einstein's time dilation while drunkenly running 
from one bar to the next / Eng was unconscious.

Chang apologized / Eng grudgingly accepted.

Chang paused / Eng spoke / Chang interrupted.

"I am my own man!" / Eng echoed, "We are men yes."

                    *

Both broke their bondage with their pitchman, Mr. Coffin.

Both owned land in North Carolina and forty slaves.

Both were nostalgic for Siam: childhood of preserving 
duck eggs, watching tiger and elephant fights with the King, 
Mother Nok who loved them equally.

The physicians were surprised to find both were "personable."

Both did not appreciate the outhouse joke.
"Are all Orientals joined?" "Allow me to stick this very sharp pin 
in Eng's neck to see if both of you feel the pain." "Is it true that 
you turn babies into cabbages?" "We are nice, civilized people. 
We offer you bananas."

Both were sick of fascination.

Both woke up, played checkers, sired children, owned whips 
for their slaves, shot game, ate pie. Both wore French black silk, smoked 
cigars, flirted. Both believed in the tenets of individualism. 
Both listed these activities to the jury and cried, "See, we are American!"

Both were released with a $500 fine for assaulting another head hunter.

Both were very self-aware.

Both insisted on an iron casket so that grave robbers would not 
dig up their bodies and sell them to the highest bidder.

Both did not converse with one another except towards the end:

"My lips are turning blue, Eng" / Eng did not answer.

"They want our bodies, Eng." / Eng did not answer.

"Eng, Eng! My lips are turning blue." / Eng turned to his body and did not answer.

Reprinted from Translating Mo'um by Cathy Park Hong. Copyright © 2002 by Cathy Park Hong. Used by permission of Hanging Loose Press. All rights reserved.

Reprinted from Translating Mo'um by Cathy Park Hong. Copyright © 2002 by Cathy Park Hong. Used by permission of Hanging Loose Press. All rights reserved.

Cathy Park Hong

Cathy Park Hong

Born to Korean parents on August 7, 1976, Cathy Park Hong was raised in Los Angeles

by this poet

poem
We once worked as clerks

        scanning moth-balled pages

into the clouds, all memories

outsourced except the fuzzy

        childhood bits when


I was an undersized girl with a tic,

they numbed me with botox

        I was a skinsuit

of dumb expression, just fingerprints

over my shamed


        all I
poem
        Recall the frontier when the business 
of memory booms, when broadbands uncoil 
        and clouds swell with sticky portals, amassing 
        to a monsoon of live-streams. 
        Burn your chattel to keep the cloud afloat
so its tears can freeze to snow. 
        The voice flatlines in this season of
poem
I’mma a two-ton spiker   hips fast rondeau
N’ere more,  nay sayer    feel this orbit rattle
 
Wipe that prattle that spittle   crass pupa
Gupta       away you     ma’ man, 

where you              revolving    solving 
spin shorty            shark   satellitic    fever

Leer not, lyre         I spiral atom