Pano: K-Thought: Cathy Park Hong and Jennifer Koh for UCSB Arts & Lectures


In preparing for this week’s cover story, which features an interview with author Roxane Gay, I also read Minor Sentiments: An Asian American Calculation by Cathy Park Hong. Hong will be at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Thursday, February 10 to present and participate in a moderated discussion on race, identity, poetry, and the power of creating art influenced by politics, culture, and the moment. current society. I wrote to Hong about her book and she kindly answered my questions before her next appearance. This email exchange is reproduced below. I highly recommend his book and all of his writings. Hong’s voice is the one we all need to hear now.

A key point that Hong makes in Minor feelings is that, despite its origins in the progressive student movements of the 1960s, it’s time to move beyond the flat, indiscriminate “Asian-American” label and begin to learn the specific stories of individual artists and their families. A starting point is Hong’s book, which is great. Another would be with the music of Jennifer Koh, who will perform at Campbell Hall on Tuesday April 12, with baritone Davóne Tines to perform a piece called Everything goes up which was commissioned by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Both Hong and Koh are from the Korean diaspora, and their projects, though carried out in disparate media, share an intention to give voice to experiences too often overlooked in American culture. I hope you can find the time to explore some of this rich material, and that you will join me and the community brought together by UCSB Arts & Lectures to witness the work of these women.

ARCO Foundation by Jennifer Koh

This edition of Pano was originally emailed to subscribers on February 2, 2022. To receive Charles Donelan’s arts newsletter in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up at

Cathy Park Hong | Credit: Courtesy

Email interview with Cathy Park Hong:

When you travel, speak and teach now, do people express interest and gratitude for the concept of Minor feelings? Do you feel like it’s a threshold concept, like an idea that allows people to access their experience in new ways?

Yes, I was absolutely satisfied with the responses I received about Minor feelings – often readers say I was able to express childhood hurts or doubts they didn’t have the words for, which helped them process their own racial experiences.

How important do you think it is for artists today to operate in a broader realm? Is this something that poets in particular need to do? How do you encourage the kind of reach and curiosity that you describe among your friends at Oberlin in the students you work with today? Or is it something they come naturally to?

I always encourage my students to look outside their own medium for inspiration in visual arts, performance, even computer coding to find new means of expression in their work. I ask my students to go to museums to find inspiration, to integrate into a community and to interview people from this community to make it a poetic project. I had a biology student who wrote the most brilliant poem using DNA coding.

What are you working on now? Will you write an essay or a poem that reflects your life during the pandemic? Do you continue to experiment with other genres like you did when you tried to do poetry readings as stand-up comedy?

In fact, I write poems that explore the pandemic. Like probably many writers, I was determined not to write about the pandemic, but it has been so dominant in all of our lives that it’s hard not to think about it! My experiments are less outrageous, I’m afraid. Actually, I’m just trying to write lyric poems. I’m also working on a prose book that talks about mothers, the Cold War and North Korea!

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