Pages Review: “Meraki” by Tobi-Hope Jieun Park

“In this moment, I’m not sure what sacred is
but I know this land is something different.
I decide that it is mine. “

Meraki – [may-rah-kee] – to put a piece of yourself into everything you do.
Over time, we collect pieces of the world around us, patchwork them into ourselves. Hoard them like family. Meraki pulls these pieces to the surface, and turns them gently to the light.
Using language which gives and takes, this collection explores the importance of our relationship with ourselves, and our relationships with others. It invites you to step into the Korean-American identity, to hold it in your hands, to carry it away. It explores themes of food, family, and color through the eyes of a foreigner.
Meraki is a journey of self reflection. Of unravelling. Of push and pull. Of blending sight with sound, tongue with touch. Of growing up before it’s too late.
I’ve been given so much. Meraki is a way to give back.

Meraki by Tobi-Hope Jieun Park is a sweet collection of poems that center on themes of race, family and belonging. I first fell in love with the minimalist cover, and when the author gifted me a copy of her book with a request for an honest review I was just too happy to be given the opportunity.

“How human it is to be mourned,
to gain pronoun and name

How human it is to phone home,
as the dark swallows your earth and leaves
you, glass eye,
gaping and blind.”

This collection is one of the most unique I’ve read so far. The poems are all dreamlike and written in a hypnotizing tone. Some of the pieces honestly felt a bit too experimental for me, and the format can be challenging to read. The poems and the curation can sometimes feel a bit disjointed, or it can be disorienting in a good way, depending on a reader’s preference. Personally, I love being pushed outside of my comfort zone and I ultimately enjoyed the experience.

The collection is full of honesty and vulnerability in its intimate portrayal of an immigrant’s thoughts as she explores the world around her. We are given a dizzying perspective on past, present and future. It is notable how the author uses various elements that I would not have believed could belong with each other but she makes them into something beautiful and captivating.

Cosmic elements will have the reader propelled from the tiniest atoms of matter into stars in the farthest of galaxies. A mix of fairy tales, mythology and biblical references form a wonderful concoction of thought and visual images. It is whimsical but also almost scientific. All of these in turn form a sublime picture of a multicultural society, connected and disconnected from each other all at the same time. It is essentially a commentary on how identities are split apart by society’s standards and stereotypes.

“We’ve lost the tongues of our motherland
but we haven’t forgotten the taste of her mouth,
Blood sausage, barbeque, the sting of green onions
fresh from the earth

her Songs are the stars our mothers cook into
to follow home when we are lost,
Which is always because

Our curves are forced into war-jagged frames,
And I hope that when I pull away,
my skin will hold those edges close,
like teeth to a sun-dried date.”

My favorite part of course is how the author’s appreciation of her roots and her love for her family shines through her enigmatic words and immerse me in a feeling of nostalgia and comfort as I remember the feeling of my own mother’s rough hands in mine, as I eat her signature Filipino dishes of sinigang and adobo. It is that special feeling, one that you only feel when you know that no matter where you’ve been or where you are going to, you are home.

About 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 here.

Book Details

Meraki by Tobi-Hope Jieun Park
Paperback, 70 pages
Published November 11th 2020 by Atmosphere Press
Original Title: Meraki
ISBN164921927X (ISBN13: 9781649219275)
Edition Language: English
Genre: Poetry

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