Autobiography of Horse: A Poem
A Paris Review Staff Pick, April 2019.
The co-winner of the inaugural Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize.
A frenetic tour of a splayed self writing through an equine obsession.
I became obsessed. I swallowed myself whole and turned into a knot. I couldn't undo myself, so I crawled inside a horse. Inside the horse I hardened, and then broke. The horse collected the pieces and glued me back together. I unraveled the horse and stitched it back together. The horse trampled me and I burned through its hooves.
Autobiography of Horse documents Jenifer Sang Eun Park's obsessive and parasitic relationship with the horse. At one point a muse, the horse is transformed into a vessel used to travel the volatile hollows of memory, selfhood, depression, and loss. To make this journey, the horse mutates from an image into a companion, a projection, and a reflection that, as Wallace Stevens wrote in "The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words," injects imagination with "the strength of reality."
Presented in lyrical prose, diagrams, photos, and conceptual excerpts from imagined texts, Autobiography of Horse pieces together a true story spurred by a tormented, pathological, and, ultimately, redemptive imagination.
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About the Author
"After reading Jenifer Sang Eun Park, I am more willing to accept life's inevitable excess, though it's terrifying. . . . A high-wire act of accepting a multiplicity of voices and forms. It slips into different personas, into images, back to text. The book asks its reader: Will you hold all of these things at once? Sometimes the horse knows itself to be good enough, sometimes less so. Sometimes the horse is hiding, but always, by putting itself on the page, the horse is not alone." --Paris Review
"Seduces the reader with the impression of having transgressed into a private diary. I was immediately struck by how rarely a poet impresses with something so novel, so extraordinary. To call it unique is an understatement. . . . Park transcends metaphor. Actually, we may need to make up a new word for what she is doing here. Her words bespeak prophet, martyr, oracle." --The Rumpus, reviewed by Risa Denenberg
"The horse inhabits the poet . . . the way Kafka's Gregor Samsa found himself morphed into a beetle. It is of course the diary of young poet--the making of a particular one with a unique sense and sensibility. I admire the hypnotic fever pitch of the obsession, the way the metamorphosis is handled, which leaves no room for narcissism. . . . The vision, if nightmarish, is broad and bold, never narrow or confining. . . . Above all, it stands alone. This is an original [that] won my heart." --Wong May, poet, author of Picasso's Tears
"Memoir, history, myth, fiction, song--Jenifer Sang Eun Park's poem gallops through its genres with fearsome and thrilling force. The voice here is brutal, intimate, smart as a whip, and above all wholly authentic; wherever it may take you is where you'll want to go. . . . It's this unique, perpetually surprising, and utterly convincing poem that will start that horse inside you running." --Joel Brouwer, poet, author of Off Message
"Here is a lyric documentary of the psyche, the human-horse-human psyche, 'the who that has been pulling the what of me through a burnt field.' It takes a commodious multi-genre and multi-voiced poem full of shifting texts and figures, photos and histories, to chart this phenomenological territory. It takes a thoroughly wild imagination. And heart-stopping phrasing and narratives, violence/love/hope in the crosshairs . . . . A riveting page-turner. A dazzling debut." --Robin Behn, poet, author of Quarry Cross andThe Yellow House
"A mesmerizingly obsessive book. The poet's obsession with HORSE in all its history, energy, grace, suffering, and beauty gradually yields to a reluctant but deepened knowledge of self and the complexities of family history. . . . The read is a ride, full of obsessive documentation, visuals, quotation, and self-scrutiny. An odd and wonderful first book full of courageous persistence." --Hank Lazer, poet, author of Slowly Becoming Awake (N32)
"Tristram Shandy's enigmatic 'hobbyhorse' opened the door for theoretical (and theatrical) metaphor. Jenifer Sang Eun Park expands the metaphor in this searching hybrid text. Energetic and evocative, the author explores language as a Trojan horse, unpacking emotional layers to reveal an alternate consciousness in a unique, informative reimagining of the epic poem." --Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, poet, author of Blue Lyre