PRESENT TENSE COMPLEX
Winner of the 2020 Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize
Poetry / Conduit Books & Ephemera (March ‘21)
Present Tense Complex, divided into three sections, expands on its point of view from ‘individuals’ (problems of ‘I’) to ‘society’ (problems of ‘We’), and eventually to the ‘mind’ (problems without definite subjects).”
On the flight from Boston I read Present Tense Complex . . . From the title to the very last poem, Park’s is rare ingenuity and artistry woven together hauntingly beautifully . . . I occasionally remark in class on the deeply embedded Korean propensity toward “We vs. They” mentality, that is, ethnonationalism, and cite as examples “Our hometown, school, language, mother…”–and, in particular, “our husband, wife.” Park’s exploration of this dynamic is visually stunning and emotionally captivating. Beautifully suffused in sky blue and bitter crimson simultaneously.
—Sung-Yoon Lee, author of The Sister (Pan Macmillan ’22)
The poems in this fearless debut, which entangle themes of identity, family, gender, and landscape, are gorgeous, elliptical, and delightfully strange . . . Suphil Lee Park’s transmissions are equal parts lush and violent. Present Tense Complex bridges the beautiful and the grotesque to access a new view of human loneliness.
At times nearly imperiled by the intensity of its music, Present Tense Complex sings a world into being that is both sinister and full of eruptive beauties, that is utterly strange and our own. In these marvelous poems, words are tactile; they percuss and leave ripples as well as cajole and beguile. Not the usual news-crawl or doilies of conventional feeling, readers, this is poetry. What a gift.
From the first phrase of Present Tense Complex . . . Suphil Lee Park’s poems investigate, tear at, and adore physical and emotional dislocations, separations, and losses. She has a way of combining tones that should never fit together–lush austerity, calm fury–even peaceful unrest. I’d even say that she seems at ease…with unease, in large part because she recognizes her own nature and is not afraid to give her poems over to it . . . I love this passage, both for itself and how it announces the nature of this mind, this poet: “A different stretch of despite / and because to swim across / lies between any two of us. / Up close, pain / has a lion’s share in everything / we deem enduring. / But how short-lipped, the promise / never to name a pain.” Suphil Lee Park is anything but short-lipped. For anyone who has recognized the kinship of despite and because, here is your champion.