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Li-Young Lee

Born: August 19, 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Lee moved to Chicago after graduate school and still resides there today.

Biography: Li-Young Lee is writer and educator. He taught at Northwestern University, University of Iowa, University of Oregon, and University of Texas at Austin. His verse has earned numerous honors, including a Lannan Literary Award, a Paterson Poetry Prize, and an American Book Award.

  • Rose Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, New York University, 1986
  • The City in Which I Love You Lamont Poetry Selection, The Academy of American Poets, 1990
  • The Winged Seed American Book Award, 1995
  • Book of My Nights William Carlos Williams Award, 2002
  • Behind My Eyes Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
  • The Undressing Starred Review, Booklist

Primary Literary Genre(s): Poetry

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

Behind My Eyes: Poems
ISBN: 0393065421 OCLC:

W. W. Norton & Company 2008

Combining sensitivity and eloquence with a broad appeal, Li-Young Lee walks in the footsteps of Stanley Kunitz and Billy Collins as one of the United States’s most beloved poets. Playful, erotic, at times mysterious, his work describes the immanent value of everyday experience. Straightforward language and simple narratives become gateways to the most powerful formulations of beauty, wisdom, and divine love.

Book of My Nights
ISBN: 1929918070 OCLC: Rochester, N.Y. :

BOA Editions Ltd Rochester, N.Y. : 2001

Book of My Nights is the first poetry collection in ten years by one of the world's most acclaimed young poets. In Book of My Nights, Li-Young Lee once again gives us lyrical poetry that fuses memory, family, culture and history. In language as simple and powerful as the human muscle, these poems work individually and as a full-sequence meditation on the vulnerability of humanity.

Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee
ISBN: 1929918828 OCLC: Rochester, NY :

BOA Editions Ltd. Rochester, NY : 2006

Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee is a collection of the best dozen interviews given by Li-Young Lee over the past twenty years. From a twenty-nine-year-old poet prodigy to a seasoned veteran in high demand for readings and appearances across the United States and abroad, these interviews capture Li-Young Lee at various stages of his artistic development. He not only discusses his family’s flight from political oppression in China and Indonesia, but how that journey affected his poetry and the engaging, often painful, insights being raised a cultural outsider in America afforded him. Other topics include spirituality (primarily Christianity and Buddhism) and a wide range of aesthetic topics such as literary influences, his own writing practices, the role of formal and informal education in becoming a writer, and his current life as a famous and highly sought-after American poet.

From Blossoms: Selected Poems
ISBN: 1852246987 OCLC: Tarset, Northumberland :

Bloodaxe Books Tarset, Northumberland : 2007

Li-Young Lee is a leading American poet, born in Indonesia, whose poetry fuses memory, family, culture and history to explore love, exile, family and mortality. This selection, drawn from three collections and a memoir, shows Lee searching for understanding and for the right language to give form to what is invisible and evanescent.

ISBN: 9781938160547 OCLC: 866440353

BOA Editions Ltd., New York : 2013.

Winner of the 1990 Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award.

The City in Which I Love You
ISBN: 0918526825 OCLC:

BOA Editions Ltd. 1990

Author's second book. Winner of the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1990.

The Invention of the Darling: Poems
ISBN: 0393867196 OCLC: [S.l.] :

W. W. Norton & Company [S.l.] : 2024

Acclaimed poet Li-Young Lee offers a revelatory volume of ecstatic poems that search out divine voices in the silences of life, love, and death.“The poet of rapture and tenderness” (Major Jackson, American Poets), Li-Young Lee speaks these poems with the intimacy and primacy of a whisper, as if from a lover to a beloved, or a believer to God. Each poem in The Invention of the Darling is a mysterious conjunction of spirit and matter, movement and stillness, the divine and the mundane, the sacred and the forbidden. They yearn for holistic union with The Beloved, every sentence another name for The Beloved, every poem another way to say “I love you.” Forged in awe of life and love, these poems emerge from the unlit depths of our earthly, material desires and our deepest fears of mortality.

The Undressing: Poems
ISBN: 039306543X OCLC:

W. W. Norton & Company 2018

Celebrated poet Li-Young Lee returns with a breathtaking new volume about the violence of desire and the peace of love.The Undressing is a tonic for spiritual anemia; it attempts to uncover things hidden since the dawn of the world. Short of achieving that end, these mysterious, unassuming poems investigate the human violence and dispossession increasingly prevalent around the world, as well as the horrors the poet grew up with as a child of refugees. Lee draws from disparate sources, including the Old Testament, the Dao De Jing, and the music of the Wu Tang Clan. While the ostensive subjects of these layered, impassioned poems are wide-ranging, their driving engine is a burning need to understand our collective human mission.

Winged Seed
ISBN: 1938160045 OCLC:

BOA Editions Ltd. 2013

Upon its initial publication, acclaimed poet Li-Young Lee's memoir The Winged Seed: A Remembrance (1995), received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. In lyrical prose, Lee's extraordinary story begins in the 1950s when his parents fled China's political turmoil for Indonesia. Along with many other Chinese members of the population, his family was persecuted under President Sukarno. Falsely accused and charged for crimes against the state, his father spent a year and a half in jail as a political prisoner, half of that time in a leper colony. While his entire family was being transported to a prison colony, they escaped and fled to Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and back to Hong Kong where his father rose to prominence as an evangelical preacher. Eventually, the family sought asylum in the United States in 1962. When the author was six, they emigrated to a small town in western Pennsylvania where his father became a Presbyterian minister. This reissued edition contains a new foreword by the author and never-before-seen photos of the family from different stages of their journey.