Monday, August 02, 2021

Three univocalic ballads by Cathy Park Hong

Cathy Park Hong's "Ballad in O", "Ballad in A", and "Ballad in I" from "Engine Empire" (2012) are univocalic: each contains only words with the vowels in their respective titles. None contain the word "the". With the undetermined plural nouns that litter "Ballad in O", not only is nothing definite, nothing can be defined. "Ballad in A" contains both indefinite articles and the demonstrative pronoun "that", so single things can be pointed at. "Ballad in I" again contains no articles, but the demonstrative pronoun "this" brings individual things closer – but not to a speaker, since the only uses of "I" in the poem are quoted: "Jim sings: I'm tiring, I'm tiring."  (Andrew Shields, #111words, 2 August 2021)



Ballad in I

Sing in this blinking twilight,

in this mining district filling with wild

Irish striking it rich, spinning

Christ, swigging spirits, rigging spits,


picking fights, swinging fists,

slitting switching skin in livid fits,

crippling limbs, spitting kinnikinnick,

filling trim tins with hissing piss.


His mind’s still spiting, knifing with skill,

his victimizing intrinsic within his mind,

grinding within his skin,

Jim sings: I’m tiring, I’m tiring.


His grim instinct wilting.

Dispiriting Jim, climbing hill’s hilt,

drifting Jim, sighing in this lilting,

sinking light.

Cathy Park Hong, "Engine Empire" (Norton 2012)

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