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Engine Empire: Poems

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"A brainy, glinting triptych . . . . Novelistic, meditative, offbeat, and soulful, Cathy Park Hong's poetry is many fathoms deep." ?David MitchellEngine Empire is a trilogy of lyric and narrative poems that evoke an array of genres and voices, from Western ballads to sonnets about industrialized China to fragmented lyric poems set in the future. Through three distinct yet interconnected sequences, Cathy Park Hong explores the collective consciousness of fictionalized boomtowns in order to explore the myth of prosperity. The first sequence, called ...

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Engine Empire: Poems

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Overview

"A brainy, glinting triptych . . . . Novelistic, meditative, offbeat, and soulful, Cathy Park Hong's poetry is many fathoms deep." —David MitchellEngine Empire is a trilogy of lyric and narrative poems that evoke an array of genres and voices, from Western ballads to sonnets about industrialized China to fragmented lyric poems set in the future. Through three distinct yet interconnected sequences, Cathy Park Hong explores the collective consciousness of fictionalized boomtowns in order to explore the myth of prosperity. The first sequence, called "Ballad of Our Jim," draws inspiration from the Old West and follows a band of outlaw fortune seekers who travel to a California mining town during the 1800s. In the second sequence, "Shangdu, My Artful Boomtown!" a fictional industrialized boomtown draws its inspiration from present-day Shenzhen, China. The third and last section, "The World Cloud," is set in the far future and tracks how individual consciousness breaks up when everything—books, our private memories—becomes immediately accessible data. One of our most startlingly original poets, Hong draws together individual voices at odds with the world, voices that sing their wonder and terror.

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Editorial Reviews

Huffington Post
If Hong is one of the best poets we have in America—and she is—it's because she filters her deeply-felt topical obsessions through such imaginative lenses that even a well-read reader can only gape in amazement.— Seth Abramson
Craig Morgan Teicher - Bookforum
“An entertaining read, even as it says stark and haunting things about race, love, technology, and the capacities of language to hide or reveal unwelcome truths. . . . While there have always been lots of writers warning us about the corruptibility of language in the wrong hands, few others have made an unbrave new world such a pleasure to discover.”
Dave Lucas - Cleveland Plain-Dealer
“Reading this book feels like listening to a symphony: Themes develop, vanish and recur amid Hong’s abundant verbal music. . . . Hong’s triumph is to alienate us from ourselves in order to reaffirm what makes us human.”
Jonathan Farmer - Slate
“Part of what makes that worthwhile is Hong’s ability to turn her language into more than pastiche, developing styles of writing that feel dense with the historical richness of the English language—a history of borrowing, invention, and manipulation that Hong honors, in part, by making room for her own inventiveness. . . . a sustaining book, one that believes in the value of being moved by words—the value, that is, of being human..”
Jeff Alessandrelli - Prairie Schooner
“Will force you to question the possibilities life offers, in the past, the present, and the future.”
Prairie Schooner
Will force you to question the possibilities life offers, in the past, the present, and the future.— Jeff Alessandrelli
Bookforum
An entertaining read, even as it says stark and haunting things about race, love, technology, and the capacities of language to hide or reveal unwelcome truths. . . . While there have always been lots of writers warning us about the corruptibility of language in the wrong hands, few others have made an unbrave new world such a pleasure to discover.— Craig Morgan Teicher
Cleveland Plain-Dealer
Reading this book feels like listening to a symphony: Themes develop, vanish and recur amid Hong’s abundant verbal music. . . . Hong’s triumph is to alienate us from ourselves in order to reaffirm what makes us human.— Dave Lucas
Slate
Part of what makes that worthwhile is Hong’s ability to turn her language into more than pastiche, developing styles of writing that feel dense with the historical richness of the English language—a history of borrowing, invention, and manipulation that Hong honors, in part, by making room for her own inventiveness. . . . a sustaining book, one that believes in the value of being moved by words—the value, that is, of being human..— Jonathan Farmer
NPR.org
“Cathy Park Hong does everything short of inventing her own language in order to show cultures clashing and spilling into each other.”
Publishers Weekly
Hong’s third book renders a triptych of frontiers—the Old West, the new East, and the digital world—where artistic acts are often tantamount to subversion. “Ballad of Our Jim,” a sequence of cowboy ballads within ballads, follows a crew of outlaws and their kidnapped boy, a rebellious bard they christened “Jim,” through an unsettled age when “the whole country is in a duel and we want no part of it.” “Shangdu, My Artful Boomtown!” a mix of epistolary, prose, lyric, and persona poems, grapples with vocation and origin in a globalizing era, addressing directly and indirectly Shakespeare, Coleridge, and Berryman. Especially striking is “Adventures in Shangdu,” a sequence of prose poems depicting a dystopia whose citizens include a factory worker reproducing Rembrandts and a prawn vendor executed for “tilt his surveillance camera so it caught nothing but the sun.” Sharp and lyrical poems in “The World Cloud” take on digital realms, where “the search engine is inside us,/ the world is our display.” This book is full of luminous surprises. (May)
David Mitchell
“Cathy Park Hong is a seer of visions. Engine Empire is a brainy, glinting triptych about what powers 'progress,' what its human costs are, and where it might be taking our species. Novelistic, meditative, offbeat, and soulful, Hong’s poetry is many fathoms deep.”
Library Journal
Hong's poetry engine generates imagined worlds that weirdly parallel the ones we know. The book (her third, after Dance Dance Revolution) has three parts, each set in a different milieu: a rollicking Wild West that mildly resembles California à la Michael Ondaatje's Billy the Kid; Shangdu, a prototype boomtown; and a cloud-based future in which one can recall "the antique ringtones of singing/ wrens, babbling babies, and ballad medleys…." If Shangdu recalls Coleridge's Xanadu or lime tree bower ("Shangdu, my artful boomtown!" is the section's title), it is also the scene of rampant, dehumanizing development, where Highrise Apartment 88 is erected so hurriedly that one whole wall is omitted. Throughout, even the words sound invented: telenovela, thip, harmine—but they're not. But Webster's won't get you too far in these regions, where people live to be 150 and cowboys scat sing, "I'm a natty cross-dressing/ wrestler in possum/ chaps, my boots can smash/ any clapboard slat…." The middle and final sections of this triptych are stronger than the first, where sound gets the better of sense, but much of this book is deliciously inventive. VERDICT A smart, disorienting look at our present-future set out in a rich hybrid language.—Ellen Kaufman, New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393346480
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/5/2013
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 590,295
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathy Park Hong is the author of Translating Mo’um and Dance Dance Revolution and has won a Pushcart Prize and the Barnard Women Poets Prize. She lives in New York and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

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