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Engine Empire: Poems

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  438 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Engine 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 prosper ...more
Hardcover, 95 pages
Published May 7th 2012 by W. W. Norton Company
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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Nadine Jones
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is some weird shit.

That was my note to myself when I started reading. I thought about leaving that as my entire review, but that doesn't seem fair. It doesn't explain how wonderful this book is.

It's common, I think, when reading a new poet, to realize, this is unlike anything I've ever read before. At least, it's common for me. Poetry is like that, it's so individual, and yet it can speak to so many different people. The blurb on the book jacket is quite accurate: Hong is "one of our most s
Kiran Bhat
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the most fascinating poetry collections to have been written in the last few decades, Hong's Engine Empire would be the equivalent of TS Eliot's The Wasteland for our globalized era. It is the perfect melange of culture, heritage, language, and history. It does what Cloud Atlas did for the novel in poetry form.
Paul Bindel
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I feel alive when I read these poems.
Simeon Berry
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I wouldn't say I enjoyed this book (or could even follow many of the moves an individual poem was making), but this bafflement alone is worth an extra star.
Jerome Berglund
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Peculiar and engaging!

If you enjoy the Dark Tower series, check this out.
Apr 16, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't care for this collection. A line like "the room thrums with zither/ the thip of pick against rack of strings" feels too clever, and thus inauthentic. I really didn't care for the first section, set in the American West during the Civil War. I feel as if the work could have benefited with a good study of John Neihardt's Cycle of the West before being written.

There were these fitting lines in the poem "A Wreath of Hummingbirds:"

I am afraid
I will infect you

after a virus clogs the gift eco
Nom Chompsky
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
"we sulk into our loam"

Constantly engaging language. Clear imagery. This terrifying roar thru frontier history to industrial horror present to endlessly connected cloud futurity. I can't believe how well narrative and voice are married in here. How it moves from Cormac McCarthy-like deft language into such sincere and provocative reflection (that CM hardly ever circles near to). This is like what Cloud Atlas could've been like if Cloud Atlas wasn't an awful terrible novel. This is so so terrifyi
R. D. Landau
Engine Empire spans centuries and continents. It blurs the boundaries between myth and history, poetry and fiction. It’s difficult to talk about the poems in Engine Empire separately because so much of their meaning derives from context. The poems in the first section, “The Battle of Our Jim”, form a narrative. The sections, “Shangdu My Artful Boomtown,” and “The World Cloud” build a world through a collection of poems. In addition to connections within sections, there are connections between s ...more
Dusty Roether
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Unlike anything I've read before. I decided to read each part of this trilogy one at a time on three consecutive days. The narratives in each successive part is so drastically different that doing this helped me to keep each part both separate and together. Honestly, the first part, Ballad of Our Jim, confused me with its western theme. Clearly, I never watched old western movies! The second part, Shangdu, My Artful Boomtown!, was really where I got the most from this collection. I particularly ...more
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've not read any poetry in AGES but I figured I'd pick up one of Hong's collections since I loved Minor Feelings so much! And these poems did not disappoint. Hong crafts an interesting collection of narrative poems, centered around 3 interpretations of society (a western, a Chinese boomtown and a futuristic imagining of what our lives might turn into). I enjoyed the narrative aspect of these poems, where you could at least vaguely follow a story or action. I especially admired how Hong's langua ...more
Patti K
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
A 2013 volume of poetry by Hong , the Korean-American poet and professor. This work
is not for everyone, but if you want some outrageous, wierdly inventive poems, you are
at the right place. There are three sections of broadly speaking narratives, which visit
a dystopian West, her home of Shangdu, My Artful Boomtown, and The World Cloud.
The pyrotechnics of her language leave the reader nearly breathless wondering what in
the world is coming next. Some of the poems are nearly unintelligible, some are
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm not going to write a proper review of this book, because I want to spend a lot more time with its poems. I didn't like the first section almost at all, but I liked the second section quite a lot, and I absolutely loved the third section. My favorite poems in this first read were Who's Who, The Golden State, and Fable of the Last Untouched Town.
“We are the only hole in a world of light.
No lamps grid our streets, no cars flash their headlights.
When the sun sets, we have no choice
but to resign ourselves.”

(from “Fable of the Last Untouched Town”)

I really wanted to like this, but it just...didn’t quite work for me.
Richard Yoon
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
a triptych I didn't enjoy until it got to the second part. they don't really feel like poems. rather they're short stories consisting of poems continuing where it left off. still, it's fun to read and touching.

basically, appreciate nature, appreciate the present time.

forgive but never forget.
Luke Gorham
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, poetry
4 1/2. The active and passive violence of progress. The human collateral of progress. 5 stars through the first two sections, but the third part of the triptych here skews a little too abstracted in idea and language to feel 5-star cohesive. Very close though.
Annie Su
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
i read and reread and it made sense and then blew my mind the second time over. world-building....always my favorite. the physical book is a very satisfying almost-square shape

(skipped the first set of poems though. sorry western ballads...)
Weston Richey
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Holy shit.
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Probably 3.5-4. the Old West ballads are really compelling
jasmine sun
the second set (shangdu, my artful boomtown!) was my favorite
Craig Werner
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Like Cathy Park Hong's previous book, Dance Dance Revolution, Engine Empire imagines her way into the human meanings of our globalized techno-dystopic present. EE is divided into three sections, each with a distinctive set of voices. THe first section reimagines the history of the American frontier; the second a contemporary Chinese industrial city; the third a future/present world inundated by "smart snow," modeled on today's "cloud." The final poem, "Fable of the Last Untouched Town," stands o ...more
Patricia Murphy
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Lyrical and inventive, these poems (Ballads) sing with a vision of a different time, a different culture. At once playful and biting, the public and personal intersect for greatest impact.

Some of my favorite moments:

“Near starved, we find a fort of teetotalers
who begrudge us their succor.”

“Sod homes no bigger than raised graves.”

“A Kansan plays cards, calls marshall
a crawdad, that barb lands that rascal a slap.”

“I cant my rambling
jabber like a carnage
starved lobo.”

“Yuccas gnarl out with red spi
Peter Landau
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The three sections of Cathy Park Hong’s ENGINE EMPIRE are a past, present and future economic imperfect. The book of poems opens with a gold rush, a mythic gothic western, where greed is fuel driving this engine. But that greed isn’t isolated to history as section two shows with its narrative of a present-day Chinese boomtown turned absurdly abusive. By the time we’re taken into a future dystopia the fantastic is all too familiar and even fatalistic. We’ve been here before. We are here. Have we ...more
I don't read poetry often, and this slim book of interconnected poems in three parts was too abstruse for me to really get a handle on. I didn't hate it. (It would be hard for me to hate a book set in the 19th century American West, an alternate present Chinese industrial city, and the far future. And Hong's use of language was frequently breathtaking, when I wasn't finding it inscrutable.) I think I'll have to let the book percolate for a while and then reread it, if I want to respond to it wit ...more
May 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Hong is really inventive in her use of language and the stories she tells through these three sets of poems flow effortlessly. There's a surreal, dream-like sense to her imagery, but at the same time she manages to ground her poems in some form or another of figures, ideas and events based off of history that give her poems a realistic fullness. She also evokes colours very easily in her work, without coming off too flowery.

Looking forward to reading more of Hong's work in the future.
Savanny Savath
Aug 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Took me forever to get through section one: Ballad of Our Jim bc of the language and the dialect. But after getting through that section, I came to enjoy and understand the meanings and complexities of the poems.

The collection really works if one reads it all through in order. By the end, I was fearful of the consequences of progress and Hong's portrayal of the (potential) future. Plus one cannot doubt Hong's grasp of language and the extent to which she can break it for new meanings.
Roberto Garcia
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I give this book credit for how imaginative it is. The voice In each section never comes off as staged or Hollywood. The 'political' message is cleverly couched. At times I wanted a more overt protest but I definitely recommend it.
Nov 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
These poems click as a book, the disorienting voices coming together to criticize ‘progress’ on multiple fronts. A line I enjoyed:

now we have snow sensors,
so you can go spelunking
in anyone's mind,
Jeff Hoffman
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Notes for myself --

Ballad of Our Jim: No.

Shangdu, My Artful Boomtown: liked, especially "Adventures in Shangdu," which I thought was fantastic.

The World Cloud: Amazing. Especially loved "Come Together" (like Auden for a new age), "A Visitation," "Who's Who," and "A Wreath of Hummingbirds."
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Genius. Indispensable. I loved it even more than Dance Dance Revolution.
Chris Schaeffer
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Her new thing! I read this in a sitting at a bookstore in New Jersey, flanked on either side by Michael Robbins' new thing and CAConrad's new thing. Exciting work. Lots of cowboy deaths.
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Cathy Park Hong’s book of creative nonfiction, Minor Feelings, was published in Spring 2020 by One World/Random House (US) and Profile Books (UK). She is also the author of poetry collections Engine Empire, published in 2012 by W.W. Norton, Dance Dance Revolution, chosen by Adrienne Rich for the Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Translating Mo'um. Hong is the recipient of the Windham-Campbell Pri ...more

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