Biography of Li-Young Lee
Li-Young Lee (born August 19, 1957) is an American poet. He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. His maternal grandfather was Yuan Shikai, China's first Republican President, who attempted to make himself emperor. Lee's father, who was a personal physician to Mao Zedong while in China, relocated his family to Indonesia, where he helped found Gamaliel University. His father was exiled and spent 19 months in an Indonesian prison camp in Macau. In 1959 the Lee family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese sentiment and after a five-year trek through Hong Kong and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964. Li-Young Lee attended the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Arizona, and the State University of New York at Brockport.
Development as a poet
Lee attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he began to develop his love for writing. He had seen his father find his passion for ministry and as a result of his father reading to him and encouraging Lee to find his passion, Lee began to dive into the art of language. Lee’s writing has also been influenced by classic Chinese poets, such as Li Bai and Du Fu. Many of Lee’s poems are filled with themes of simplicity, strength, and silence. All are strongly influenced by his family history, childhood, and individuality. He writes with simplicity and passion which creates images that take the reader deeper and also requires his audience to fill in the gaps with their own imagination. These feelings of exile and boldness to rebel take shape as they provide common themes for many of his poems.
Lee’s influence on Asian American poetry
Li-Young Lee has been an established Asian American poet who has been doing interviews for the past twenty years. Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee (BOA Editions, 2006, ed. Earl G. Ingersoll), is the first edited and published collection of interviews with an Asian American poet. In this book, Earl G. Ingersoll has collected interviews with the poet consisting of "conversational" questions meant to bring out Lee’s views on Asian American poetry, writing, and identity.
Li-Young Lee Poems
I Ask My Mother To Sing
She begins, and my grandmother joins her. Mother and daughter sing like young girls. If my father were alive, he would play his accordion and sway like a boat.
From blossoms comes this brown paper bag of peaches we bought from the joy at the bend in the road where we turned toward
In the steamer is the trout seasoned with slivers of ginger, two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil. We shall eat it with rice for lunch,
The City In Which I Loved You
And when, in the city in which I love you, even my most excellent song goes unanswered, andI mount the scabbed streets, the long shouts of avenues,
Early In The Morning
While the long grain is softening in the water, gurgling over a low stove flame, before the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
To pull the metal splinter from my palm my father recited a story in a low voice. I watched his lovely face and not the blade. Before the story ended, he'd removed
Sad is the man who is asked for a story and can't come up with one. His five-year-old son waits in his lap.
I've pulled the last of the year's young onions. The garden is bare now. The ground is cold, brown and old. What is left of the day flames in the maples at the corner of my
Visions And Interpretations
Because this graveyard is a hill, I must climb up to see my dead, stopping once midway to rest beside this tree.
1. We two sit on our bed, you between my legs, your back to me, your head slightly bowed, that I may brush and braid
This Room And Everything In It
Lie still now while I prepare for my future, certain hard days ahead, when I'll need what I know so clearly this moment.
Dreaming Of Hair
Ivy ties the cellar door in autumn, in summer morning glory wraps the ribs of a mouse. Love binds me to the one
This Hour And What Is Dead
Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking through the bare rooms over my head, opening and closing doors. What could he be looking for in an empty house?
It's late. I've come to find the flower which blossoms like a saint dying upside down. The rose won't do, nor the iris.
I Ask My Mother To Sing
She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.
I've never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.