The Same-Different: Poems by Hannah Sanghee Park

Source: Academy of American Poets (purchased)
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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The Same-Different: Poems by Hannah Sanghee Park, 2014 Walt Whitman Award winner, straddles the line between myth and reality, as Park examines some global myths from China and India to Norway and Greece.  She uses phonemes to uncover the secrets in the words she’s chosen to get at the heart of their meaning to not only reach an origin but to generate a response.  Upon first reading, these poems seem like an exercise in word play, but reading more deeply encourages readers to see the similarities and differences inhere in the words chosen and how those nuances should be celebrated.

From "Bang" (pg. 3)

Just what they said about the river:
rift and ever.

And nothing was left for the ether
there either.

And if anything below could mature:
a matter of nature.

Here the interplay of words peeks beneath the surface of creation myths from the big bang theory to the story of creation in scripture. Rather than focus on the age-old battle between whether creationism or evolution is the correct theory of what happened, Park asks “to have left the world,/to what is left of it –/could you have anything left to cove?” Rather than battle for the correct theory and covet the glory of being correct, shouldn’t we be more focused on the awe of it all and our minor part in it? Park forces readers to question their perceptions of what is important about life, not just what happens in their own lives but also the life around them.

& A (pg 22)

Being a matter
of importance, there

is no mastering
this but to bind you,

thrash and all, to the 
mast.  O you won't reach

irresistible song,
but the rope will teach

you the body's give.
Go down to the bone,

then tell me again
there what matters.  It

will give you every
-thing you need to know

about what I cannot tell you and then,
just maybe then, could it be enough.

Similarities and differences are looked at with new eyes, and in many ways, those differences can be dangerous. However, these poems suggest that even in these perceived dichotomies there is beauty, something to be savored and to be loved. In the final section of poems — Fear — the sum of the poems reads like a single force, gyrating and churning the seas of perception until the final lines. Park wonders aloud what it means to be the fear-driven species that strives to become the sole survivor and upon reaching the summit what is there left but more fear. From “Beyond the meadow, the horizon fails” (pg. 47), “what then to our victor’s highest marks?/Only fear regrouping in your heart of hearts.” And yet, despite all this dreariness and dark, Park leaves readers with a hope, a bleak hope — “everything in life is a placeholder.” The Same-Different: Poems by Hannah Sanghee Park is stunning in its twists and turns, but it will require several reads and recitation aloud in some cases. But the gems within these lines and phrases are well worth the work.

About the Poet:

Hannah Sanghee Park was born in Tacoma, Washington and earned a BA from the University of Washington and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the author of a chapbook, Ode Days Ode (Catenary Press, 2011). She is the recipient of fellowships and awards from The Fulbright Program, 4Culture, The Iowa Arts Council/National Endowment for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony. Her work has appeared in various journals and publications, including LVNG, Petri Press, Poetry Northwest, and Best New Poets 2013. In 2014, Park won the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award.

Park lives in Los Angeles, where she attends the Writing for Screen & Television Program at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.





  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

    Glad you enjoyed it. The snippets you included are intriguing.