*Disclaimer: A free copy of the book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Meraki by Tobi-Hope Jieun Park is a debut collection of poems published by Atmosphere Press.
The poems are at once thought provoking, beautifully vivid and visual while also occasionally etching out the complexities of Korean-American identity.
Almost every poem of the collection begins by focusing on a simple moment that is made quite surreal with the language used to describe the moment. This technique flows into the rest of the poem, creating breathtaking entries that mesmerise the reader immediately. The surreal overtones are further added by the unique metaphors that bring in quite unusual comparisons that make the reader go, “Ah! That’s extraordinary!” These exquisite metaphors show the poet’s power of observation and insight to combine the most unfamiliar of things: a series of letters to bioluminescent planktons, crayons to flowers kissing or stars to porcelain.
Park merges such imaginative insights with the more tangible, visceral descriptions. For example in the opening poem of the collection, “Persimmon Girl,” Park evokes the persimmon as swiftly as it is cut by her grandmother, all the while evoking her connection to the fruit and to her grandmother.
The only downside would be that behind the mesmerising and kaleidoscopic metaphors and potent visuality, a coherent theme of the poem can often get lost, confusing the reader about the meaning behind the poem.
One might also mistake Meraki for a collection of poems only portraying the immigrant life. However, many of the poems speak of just beautiful lived moments and of thoughts whirling inside everyone. Through that Park does touch upon certain ideas around her Korean identity yet the focus itself remains the poems’ ability to connect and communicate the myriad facets of life with the reader. A few poems do indeed directly assert the problematic depths of immigrant identity, the most prominent being “we’re still not over ’92.”
Park also plays with different styles and forms in her poems. Prose poetry is a style she uses quite to her advantage, telling and often retelling stories such as the poem, “The Little Prince as told by a pilot-in-theory. ” The poem as the title suggests retells the story of the much-acclaimed eponymous novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is refreshing to see sustained longer poems especially at a time when short, succinct poems are fast becoming the norm. From using the epistolary form, to dabbling in both the first person and third person point of view, Park’s poems employ a wide range of styles that drive any intuitive reader think, question and to revisit the each poem and savour their varied nuances.
All in all, I think Meraki makes for a wonderful weekend read to help you soak in some well crafted poems and indulge leisurely at a singular turn of phrase.
Get to Know the Author:
Tobi-Hope Jieun Park is a resident of sunny Southern California, and has been writing since the age of eight. Her poems and narratives have appeared in various journals such as Rattle, Chautauqua Journal, SOLA, Common Ground Review, Cold Mountain Review, and more. Tobi-Hope is a three-time Gold Key winner and a National Gold Medalist at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. In her free time, she can be found singing
karaoke with her siblings, tending to her pets One-Eyed Jack and the Lizard Gang, and knitting pieces too small for conventional use. Visit her website for more information!