"About the Work" with Suphil Lee Park
In our "About the Work" series, Savannah Trent asks recent contributors for insight into their writing or for current sources of inspiration. Read Park's poem, "“Another Day Dead from Having Been Awake Too Long” in SER vol. 38.2.
From their group-minded behavior to their pilfering habits in the early spring, bees are such arcane little insects with lots of gut, sometimes literally, when they sting. In short, bees are exemplary of mother nature’s governing principle by which every species evolves towards improvement: we’re to bring together and retain whatever traits, however seemingly incompatible, to ensure the continuance of our species. Bees’ way of seeing, migrant behavior, aversion, sense of community, what looks to be a sacrificial defense tactic, what they covet, even their rough form of democracy, and their bizarre and exclusive mating rituals in stark contrast with their largely asexual population—all these rich, meticulous, and even seemingly contradictory details of their being rule and keep the world of bees prospering, as if their genetics are almost sentient themselves and keenly aware of the future of the entire species continuing indefinitely beyond the present; they’re by far the best version of their species, and these gears of behavioral patterns and instincts have clicked into place and endured, all for the sake of their colony, which is to say, their collective future.
So it’s both hilarious and disheartening to see a beehive—which the bees always intend to build into the shape of “a globe full of holes,” and which always ends up being a cluster of hexagons, subject, as is everything tangible on this planet, to surface tension and gravity. There I see a very human dilemma. That of Sisyphus, even. What Camus might have called the futile resilience of free will, if it’s free at all to begin with. Despite the ultimate version of the species born out of centuries of trial and error, and the perfect governing rules that have endured the test of time in place, no plan is ever foolproof. Even when we play the hands we’ve been dealt the best way possible, life has a mind of its own. Every single likewise misshapen beehive seems to embody a ubiquitous tug of war between one species—its mortal individual members nonetheless—geared towards the idea of eternity as a whole and the rest of the world operating and shaping up around and regardless of its perpetual strife.
When I started the first line of this poem, it was a year ago, months before this unprecedented pandemic I then had no inkling about. But in the months to come, I’d keep returning to this idea of free will, and the relationship between mortality and eternity, which is at the very core of this poem. The fact of my own helpless mortality has rarely felt more real than in this past year. So much seemed to depend upon so-called fate, and if not, upon the synergic outcomes of external forces that remain completely out of our control.
SUPHIL LEE PARK is a bilingual writer who grew up in South Korea. She holds a BA in English from NYU and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Texas at Austin. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Ploughshares, the Massachusetts Review, and the Missouri Review, among many others. Her fiction received an honorable mention in the 2020 Force Majeure Contest and is forthcoming in J Journal, Storm Cellar, and the Iowa Review.