Haiku Festival’s 2017 Guest Poet
Li-Young Lee is the author of four critically-acclaimed books of poetry including Behind My Eyes (2008); a chapbook The Word From His Song (2016); Book of My Nights (2001); Rose (1986), winner of Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award from New York University; The City in Which I Love You (1991), 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection; and a memoir, The Winged Seed (1995), which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and was reissued in 2012.
Lee’s honors include fellowships from National Endowment for the Arts, Lannan Foundation, and Guggenheim Foundation; grants from IL Arts Council, Commonwealth of PA, and PA Council on the Arts. In 1988 he received the Writer’s Award from the Whiting Foundation. He is featured in Katja Esson‘s documentary, Poetry of Resilience.
Born in 1957 of Chinese parents in Jakarta, Indonesia, Lee learned early about loss and exile. His great grandfather was China’s first republican president. His father, a deeply religious Christian, was physician to Communist leader Mao Tse-Tung. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Lee’s parents escaped to Indonesia. In 1959, his father, after a year as a political prisoner in Pres. Sukarno’s jails, fled to Indonesia with his family to escape anti-Chinese sentiment. After a trek through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, they settled in the US in 1964.
Li-Young Lee’s poetry gives clear voice to humanity’s beauty. Lee allows silence, sound, form, and spirit to emerge onto the page. His poetry reveals accentuating joys and sorrows of family, home, loss, exile, and love. In City In Which I love You, Lee asks, “Is prayer, then, the proper attitude / for the mind that longs to be freely blown, / but which gets snagged on the barb / called world, that / tooth-ache, the actual?”
Lee is one of the finest poetry readers alive. He lives in Chicago with his wife and their two sons.