1By: Celia Aloia, Caroline Niehoff & Kendall Liang Li Young Lee 李立揚By: Celia Aloia, Caroline Niehoff & Kendall Liang
2Biography Born in 1957- present Born in Jakarta, Indonesia Father was a physician to Mao Zedong in ChinaFather was a nationalist who was imprisoned and tortured for his beliefsFamily fled Indonesia in 1959Arrived in Pittsburgh in 1964, father became a preacherMarried in 1978 to Donna Bozzarelli, two sons, lives in Chicago
3AchievementsBook of My Nights - won the 2002 William Carlos Williams AwardRose – Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry AwardFellowships:National Endowment for the ArtsGuggenheim – 1987The Academy of American Poets – 2003: $25,000 stipend, given to poets of distinguished achievement in their fieldWriting Writers Award
4Common Motifs Silence Nature Hair Fruits Love/Family- Father Small Moments & Memories“This Room and Everything In It”
5General ThemesSince small moments stay with a person throughout life, those memories should be appreciated and enjoyed.Time is priceless and therefore should be savored.Gratitude towards one’s family is important.
7From BlossomsFrom 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 eatnot only the skin, but the shade,not only the sugar, but the days, to holdthe fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into the round jubilance of peach.There are days we liveas if death were nowherein the background; from joyto joy to joy, from wing to wing,from blossom to blossom toimpossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
9Eating AloneI'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 eye. I turn, a cardinal vanishes. By the cellar door, I wash the onions, then drink from the icy metal spigot. Once, years back, I walked beside my father among the windfall pears. I can't recall our words. We may have strolled in silence. But I still see him bend that way-left hand braced on knee, creaky-to lift and hold to my eye a rotten pear. In it, a hornet spun crazily, glazed in slow, glistening juice.It was my father I saw this morningwaving to me from the trees. I almostcalled to him, until I came close enoughto see the shovel, leaning where I hadleft it, in the flickering, deep green shade.White rice steaming, almost done. Sweet green peasfried in onions. Shrimp braised in sesameoil and garlic. And my own loneliness.What more could I, a young man, want.
10Literary Criticism“Most critics have praised Lee's intimate poetry for its tender tone, elegant form, and poignant memories, although others have also discussed the role of “memory” and “family” in his verse, focusing on Lee's turbulent childhood and his life as an American citizen and artist.”- E Notes“The dreamy, sotto voce poems of Book of My Nights might lure babies to sleep, or butterflies. They’re “simple,” “lyrical,” “honest” —their graces come with little scare quotes attached, not because Li-Young Lee is ironic but because it’s so difficult to believe such sweetness isn’t ironic. A willed naïveté may be no worse than real naïveté, yet innocence isn’t always better than experience.” - William Logan
11More Literary Criticism “Near the end of Rose, a poem called “Braiding” unifies the collection, metaphorically braiding it together by echoing other poems. The narrator describes braiding his wife’s hair in the same way that his father braided the mother's, mirroring the past-present juxtaposition in “Gift.” And the act of grooming expresses the love of husband and wife as it does in “Early in the Morning.””- Bert Almon
12Connections Between Poetry and Lee’s Life Chinese Culture“Eating Alone”Lists Chinese food, important cultural element“From Blossoms”“we live / as if death were nowhere” - The Peach of everlasting lifeDescribes Father’s superiority in his parents’ marriageAllusion to Bible and religion; father was a devout preacher“The Gift”“flames of discipline” - Pentecostemphasizes a son’s kiss to his father, Bible book “Song of Solomon”Allusion to Book of Exodus – relates to family’s exile during the Chinese Diaspora
13To 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 the iron sliver I thought I'd die from. I can't remember the tale, but hear his voice still, a well of dark water, a prayer. And I recall his hands, two measures of tenderness he laid against my face, the flames of discipline he raised above my head. Had you entered that afternoon you would have thought you saw a man planting something in a boy's palm, a silver tear, a tiny flame. Had you followed that boy you would have arrived here, where I bend over my wife's right hand.The GiftLook how I shave her thumbnail down so carefully she feels no pain. Watch as I lift the splinter out. I was seven when my father took my hand like this, and I did not hold that shard between my fingers and think, Metal that will bury me, christen it Little Assassin, Ore Going Deep for My Heart. And I did not lift up my wound and cry, Death visited here! I did what a child does when he's given something to keep. I kissed my father.
14More ConnectionsInspired by father’s struggles and his death when Lee was 33“The Gift” and “Eating Alone”“Persimmons” – about courting his wife, teaching her Chinese
15Conclusion“I'm trying to get to a condition in the poems that somehow we can look at all of creation and human endeavor. And even in spite of all the atrocities and all the stuff we perpetrate on each other, that, somehow, we can come to the conclusion that being alive is good. And speaking in poems is good and that it's valuable” - LeeArtistically uses sound and literary devicesUses poetry to express not only his life experiences, but wants to describe universal suffering and salvationDespite difficult childhood, he triumphs in a field he is passionate about