Cathy Park Hong

Cathy Park Hong’s exhilarating and surprising language connects us to unheard migrant voices, and her searching look at dystopic states gives her poetry urgent power.

Born in 1976 in Los Angeles, California, Cathy Park Hong is the author of three critically acclaimed books of poetry. Her most recent, Engine Empire (2012), explores three imaginary empires: a fantastic version of the American West during the Gold Rush, a myth-infused industrial Chinese city, and a near-future San Francisco Bay. Hong presents these strange, violent, and often surreal worlds as Dantean hellscapes—fractured funhouse mirrors in which can be seen the origins of our own contemporary reality of economic exploitation and social violence. In the poem “Fort Ballads,” she writes: “the mighty empire is a false pond / in this eternal light where night never descends.” With echoes of Cormac McCarthy and Ishmael Reed, Hong’s sharp, subversive voice guides us through borders and boomtowns of “eternal light” to confront the darkness of global capitalism. Hong brings her poetic-political engagement to her criticism, where she has produced several influential essays, including “Against Witness” and “Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde.” She is the recipient of many honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), the Barnard Women Poets Prize (2006), and a Fulbright Fellowship (2004). The poetry editor of The New Republic, she is a professor at the Rutgers-Newark MFA Program in Creative Writing. Stand Up, a new collection of nonfiction, will be published by One World/Random House in Spring 2020.

The Windham-Campbell Prize is an extraordinary gift. I’ve always struggled to find pockets of time to write—before class, early morning before my daughter wakes up, during weekends. But now, I have the opportunity to write as if I have all the time in the world. CATHY PARK HONG