Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Featuring Li-Young Lee, Asian American poet

Li-Young Lee was born in Djakarta, Indonesia in 1957, the son of exiled Chinese parents. His mother came from a noble family; her father, Yuan Shi-kai, was the first president of the Republic of China. On the other hand, Lee's father, Lee Kuo Yuan, came from a family of gangsters and entrepreneurs. Their marriage received official disapproval; moreover, Lee Kuo Yuan attached himself to a nationalist general in the Chinese civil war. During the course of the war, the general switched sides and Dr. Lee found himself in the position of personal physician to Mao continued here. The photo is also from this site.

The following poem, one of my favorites can be found on the Moonrabbit Blues site, one which features Asian American poetry, as well as in his book.

I've been a fan of Li-Young Lee since I read his first poem. I have the book, Rose, and would highly recommend it. There is a gentleness about Li-Young's poetry and a poignancy that makes something sigh deep inside of you, reading it.

From Blossoms
in Rose, by Li-Young Lee
Boa Editions, Ltd.

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

(I'm curious. If you were to feature a poet, whom would you choose? Michael Parker has introduced me to two excellent poets on his blog. I'm always looking for more)


Berenice said...

Maya Angelou for the poem on this link.

Pris said...

Oh I like!

Michael Parker said...

Pris, Li-Young Lee's poem is exceptional. Magical. Simply breathtaking, especially the third and fourth stanzas! Thank you for this introduction of Lee.

Lyle Daggett said...

Sooner or later I plan to write something about Sharon Doubiago in my blog. The only reason I haven't so far is that her work is huge in scope and reach.

Her first book of poems, Hard Country (originally published in the early '80's) -- which she describes as an epic poem -- is, centrally, a narrative of traveling across the United States during the first half of 1976, and includes much other narrative and politics and history of her family and the world.

Her book-length poem South America, Mi Hija (published early '90's) is an account of traveling with her teenage daughter in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, again with much history and politics and story.

She has other books of poems, and has also published two short story collections.

She's one of the two poets I always name first (the other is Thomas McGrath) when people ask me which poets I like to read.

Lee Herrick said...


I also love Li Young Lee. Book of My Nights was a new direction, which I also enjoyed, but for my money, The City In Which I Love You may be my favorite book of poems bar none.

Others I really enjoy time and time again are Neruda, Wallace Stevens, Martin Espada, Amy Uyematsu, Kim Addonizio, and Brigit Pegeen Kelley.

Pris said...

Thanks for the reading suggestions. Since my appetite for books exceeds my budget, I make a list and check Amazon. Their used books there are a great bargain. I've ordered used ones that barely look touched...recently got eight for around thirty two or so dollars, including shipping. Our library here is abysmal. No poetry at all, but you guys have inspired me to go for more interlibrary loans, too.

And isn't Lee wonderful?? Michael, it's as this poem draws to that powerful close that makes me draw in my breath, too.


tom said...

that is a wonderful poem

from - todays recommendations would be
jim harrison and lorine neidecker


Brian Campbell said...

Pris, I'm impressed by this guy's poetry, and will be ordering a copy soon. Check out this link: an interview with him at

Pris said...

Hi Brian,
Isn't he wonderful? I'll follow your link to the interview. Thanks!

Pris said...

Tom...thanks. More to add to my 'spend' list:-)

gingerivers said...

Thanks for the link to Moon Rabbit Blues! It's a wonderful site.

Pris said...

You're welcome.