Poetry / Suphil Lee Park
:: Present Tense Complex ::
Not I love you but the cuckoo clock moves me to tears. Poor thing. Have seconds, fast I will seconds to fast. Spare us a second. Light at gunpoint. Whose lung brims with bullets already ruts snowed- in, mind tucked in skin. What will heal, what not. There’s no sobbing in this world there’s no sobbing in this world there’s No sobbing in this world.
Poetry / Suphil Lee Park
:: Route, Root ::
Volcanic winter, the cold is in color, sheltered. The canon balls in place of your eye balls I’m sure are the dead ends of your brain—god, should I drop my torch.
From the writer
:: Account ::
I’ve always found it hard to agree with many who like to say the most important qualities of a poem are essentially sonic. I believe I feel this way because I’m Korean AND a bilingual writer. I have that hard-headed bias as a native reader and writer of the Korean language that has evolved from centuries of such complicated history; unlike the Japanese who have fully integrated Chinese characters into their own language, we invented our own unique alphabet while still carrying over most of the words that consist of Chinese characters from the last century. For example, the sun in Korean is 해. Other words in Korean, such as “year” and “harm,” even some phrases like “will do,” “do this,” “should I do this?” spell and sound exactly the same (except some subtle differences in intonation when it’s used as a phrase); the meaning of the word, therefore, depends entirely on the context. But we also have another word for the sun in Korean, 태양, which consists of Chinese characters “太” (big) and “陽” (yang); and each of these Chinese characters also has multiple different definitions. While 해 is an exact equivalent for 태양 when it means the sun, a skillful Korean reader will be first sprinting through a web of linguistic possibilities and connotations at their recognition of this simple word. In other words, I was born into a language that necessitates listening not to the words themselves but for the history and potential of each word and how words come together to form a wildly complex relationship. So my obsession with words lies not in how they sound (the sonic elements are notes and beats that provide prerequisite background music) but in the chemistry they spark up on the page.
This linguistic inclination of mine matured into an important aesthetic later when I started writing in English. At first, my very Korean brain approached the English language primarily as text, not as sound that I often had a hard time making out. While spoken English was slippery and hard to grasp at the time, the language on the page felt to me something like clay, especially in poetry—malleable, volatile, and tactile, as the words put and close the distance that we call lines between them. Depending on that distance, they could become entirely disparate things, contained in the exact same word. In that sense, writing in this language has been like painting to me. A simple juxtaposition can bring out an unexpected hue in a simple red; some shapes, you can only discern in hindsight, at a distance. A poached “egg” differs drastically from a woman’s “egg.” I’ve always loved the idea of every word as an attempt and failure to contain the uncontainable, and how that only expands the horizon of each poem, with every word, even a rudimentary one like “egg,” adding layers and nuances when put in a different context, and depending on which line it’s placed in. In that sense, I almost feel every poem is to be a brief journey for its words to align themselves. This is why many of my poems make use of antanaclasis and explore the contextual and textual relationship of words.
Suphil Lee Park (수필 리 박 / 秀筆 李 朴) is the author of the poetry collection, Present Tense Complex, winner of the Marystina Santiestevan Prize (Conduit Books & Ephemera 2021) and has recently won the 2021 Indiana Review Fiction Prize. Born and raised in South Korea before finding home in the States, she holds a BA in English from NYU and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Texas at Austin. You can find more about her at: https://suphil-lee-park.com/