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Book of My Nights
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About the Author

Li-Young Lee was born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia, of Chinese parents. In 1959 his father, after spending a year as a political prisoner in President Sukarno's jails, fled Indonesia with his family. Between 1959 and 1964 the Lee family traveled throughout Hong Kong, Macau and Japan, until arriving in America. Li-Young Lee's first poetry collection, Rose, won the New York University's 1986 Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award. His second collection, The City In Which I Love You, was the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. His third collection, Book of My Nights, was awarded the 2002 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. In September 2006, BOA Editions published Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee, edited by Earl G. Ingersoll. This book collects the best dozen interviews Li-Young Lee has granted since the 1986 publication of Rose, including the 1988 interview with Bill Moyers on his The Power of the Word series. Breaking the Alabaster Jar contains new insights on Li-Young Lee's aesthetics, history, and various philosophies. Breaking the Alabaster Jar is an invaluable companion to Li-Young Lee's previous award-winning poetry collections. Li-Young Lee currently lives in Chicago, Illinois, with his wife Donna and their two children.

Reviews

Passionate and profound, Lee's long-awaited third collection charts the mid-life ontological crisis of a speaker who "can't tell what my father said about the sea... from the sea itself," and finds himself unmoored without that strong male voice. Lee's father was a personal physician to Mao Zedong, who took the family to Jakarta (where Lee was born) in the '50s. As Indonesia began persecuting Chinese citizens and his father was imprisoned, Lee's family left the country, spent five years moving from place to place in Asia, and arrived in the U.S. in 1964. (These events are described in The Winged Seed, Lee's American Book Award-winning memoir of 1995.) Lee has ever been concerned with questions of origins, but in the 11 years since the publication of his last collection, memories of childhood answers furnished by father, mother and siblings now fail to assuage the poet's 3 a.m. doubts. Yet he does not trust himself to formulate answers on his own in these 35 nocturnes, and the father seems to be missing or dead. The poet's tightly wrought, extraordinarily careful and finally heart-wrenching responses finally boil down to one ultimate cry: "Where is his father? Who is his mother?" The complex permutations of these fundamental inquiries and their unsatisfactory answers construct a space in which knowledge and redemption, if never quite attained, always seem possible. Lee is never faced with sheer emptiness; his "silence thunders," a vocal presence to which Lee's speaker responds, "declaring a new circumference/ even the stars enlarge by crowding down to hear." (Sept. 15) Forecast: A favorite on course syllabi, Lee should sell strongly and steadily with this long-awaited new collection. The Winged Seed, first published by S&S, is available in paperback from Ruminator Books, the Minnesota house (and review) formerly called Hungry Mind. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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