Li-Young Lee was born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia, of Chinese parents. His great-grandfather, Yuan Shikai, was China's first republican president (1912-16). His father, Lee Kuo Yuan, a deeply religious Christian physician, was personal secretary to Communist leader Mao Tse-tung. After they fell out, Lee's father escaped to Indonesia, where he helped found Gamaliel University, but was later imprisoned for 19 months in Sukarno's jails and in a leper colony, before he managed to escape and take his family out of the country. After a five-year trek through Hong Kong, Macau and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964, where Lee's father became a Presbyterian minister. Assisting his father on preaching trips in Pennsylvania was another of Li-Young Lee's formative experiences. Li-Young Lee has published five collections in the States, including Rose (1986), winner of the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, The City in Which I Love You (1991), the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection, and Book of My Nights (2001), as well as a memoir, The Winged Seed: A Remembrance (1995), which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. His first British publication, From Blossoms: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2007), draws on all four of these books. He has since published two other collections in the US, Behind My Eyes (2008) and The Undressing (2018). He lives in Chicago, Illinois.
His poems are made from his life with his life; his poems are
earned. He dares to be simple. And he is surely among the finest
young poets alive. * American Poetry Review *
Li-Young Lee has been praised for his passionate poetry and its deceptively simple style. His poems are unique in their emotional intensity and metaphysical abstraction, particularly at a time when many contemporary American poets are breaking away from the "lyric I" in order to articulate an unstable and plural "I"...Many of his poems recall his father, who is portrayed as strict and tender, powerful and vulnerable, godlike and human. -- Xiaojing Zhou * Heath Anthology of American Literature *