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Li-Young Lee
Born August 19, 1957 (1957-08-19) (age 52)
Jakarta, Indonesia
Occupation poet
Nationality USA
Ethnicity Chinese American
Notable work(s) The City in Which I Love You
Notable award(s) American Book Award
Whiting Writer's Award
Lannan Literary Award

Li-Young Lee (李立揚, pinyin: Lǐ Lìyáng) (born August 19, 1957) is an American poet. He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. His great-grandfather was Yuan Shikai, China's first Republican President, who attempted to make himself emperor. Lee's father, who was a personal physician to Mao Zedong while in China, relocated his family to Indonesia, where he helped found Gamaliel University. His father was exiled and spent a year in an Indonesian prison camp In 1959 the Lee family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese sentiment and after a five-year trek through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964. Li-Young Lee attended the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Arizona, and the State University of New York at Brockport.


Development as a poet

Lee attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he began to develop his love for writing. He had seen his father find his passion for ministry and as a result of his father reading to him and encouraging Lee to find his passion, Lee began to dive into the art of language. Lee’s writing has also been influenced by classic Chinese poets, Li Bo and Tu Fu. Many of Lee’s poems are filled with themes of simplicity, strength, and silence. All are strongly influenced by his family history, childhood, and individuality. He writes with simplicity and passion which creates images that take the reader deeper and also requires his audience to fill in the gaps with their own imagination. These feelings of exile and boldness to rebel take shape as they provide common themes for many of his poems.

Lee often writes from personal experience and uses poetry to tell his own story, which resonates with a wide spectrum of readers because of its universal themes. These themes include his rumored affair with poet Linda Gregg.

Lee’s influence on Asian American poetry

Li-Young Lee has been an established Asian American poet who has been doing interviews for the past twenty years. Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee (BOA Editions, 2006, ed. Earl G. Ingersoll), is the first edited and published collection of interviews with an Asian American poet. In this collection, Earl G. Ingersoll asks "conversational" questions to bring out Lee’s views on Asian American poetry, writing, and identity.

Awards and honors

Lee has won numerous poetry awards:[1]

Selected bibliography


  • 1986: Rose. Rochester: BOA Editions Limited, ISBN 0-918526-53-1
  • 1990: The City In Which I Love You. Rochester: BOA Editions Limited, ISBN 0-918526-83-3
  • 2001: Book of My Nights. Rochester: BOA Editions Limited, ISBN 1929918089
  • 2009: Behind My Eyes. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., ISBN 0393334813


  • The Wingéd Seed: A Remembrance. (hardcover) New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. ASIN: B000NGRB2G (paperback) St. Paul: Ruminator, 1999. ISBN 1-886913-28-5

See also

Critical studies

as of March 2008:

  1. Meaning Maker By: Butts, Lisa; Publishers Weekly, 2007 Nov 19; 254 (56): 38.
  2. Li-Young Lee no hyoka o tooshite By: Kajiwara, Teruko; Eigo Seinen/Rising Generation, 2006 July; 152 (4): 212-13.
  3. Transcendentalism, Ethnicity, and Food in the Work of Li-Young Lee By: Xu, Wenying; Boundary 2: An International Journal of Literature and Culture, 2006 Summer; 33 (2): 129-57.
  4. An Exile's Will to Canon and Its Tension with Ethnicity: Li-Young Lee By: Xu, Wenying. IN: Bona and Maini, Multiethnic Literature and Canon Debates. Albany, NY: State U of New York P; 2006. pp. 145-64
  5. Li-Young Lee By: Davis, Rocío G.. IN: Madsen, Asian American Writers. Detroit, MI: Gale; 2005. pp. 202-06
  6. 'Your Otherness Is Perfect as My Death': The Ethics and Aesthetics of Li-Young Lee's Poetry By: Zhou, Xiaojing. IN: Fahraeus and Jonsson, Textual Ethos Studies or Locating Ethics. New York, NY: Rodopi; 2005. pp. 297-314
  7. Sexual Desire and Cultural Memory in Three Ethnic Poets By: Basford, Douglas; MELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, 2004 Fall-Winter; 29 (3-4): 243-56.
  8. The Politics of Ethnic Authorship: Li-Young Lee, Emerson, and Whitman at the Banquet Table By: Partridge, Jeffrey F. L.; Studies in the Literary Imagination, 2004 Spring; 37 (1): 101-26.
  9. Interview with Li-Young Lee By: Bilyak, Dianne; Massachusetts Review: A Quarterly of Literature, the Arts and Public Affairs, 2003-2004 Winter; 44 (4): 600-12.
  10. Poetries of Transformation: Joy Harjo and Li-Young Lee By: Kolosov, Jacqueline; Studies in American Indian Literatures: The Journal of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures, 2003 Summer; 15 (2): 39-57.
  11. "Father-Stem and Mother-Root": Genealogy, Memory, and the Poetics of Origins in Theodore Roethke, Elizabeth Bishop, and Li-Young Lee By: Malandra, Marc Joseph; Dissertation, Cornell U, 2002.
  12. Forming Personal and Cultural Identities in the Face of Exodus: A Discussion of Li-Young Lee's Poetry By: Jenkins, Tricia; South Asian Review, 2003; 24 (2): 199-210.
  13. Lee's 'Eating Alone' By: Moeser, Daniel; Explicator, 2002 Winter; 60 (2): 117-19.
  14. The Way a Calendar Dissolves: A Refugee's Sense of Time in the Work of Li-Young Lee By: Lorenz, Johnny. IN: Davis and Ludwig, Asian American Literature in the International Context: Readings on Fiction, Poetry, and Performance. Hamburg, Germany: Lit; 2002. pp. 157-69
  15. Night of No Exile By: Jones, Marie C.; Dissertation, U of North Texas, 1999.
  16. Art, Spirituality, and the Ethic of Care: Alternative Masculinities in Chinese American Literature By: Cheung, King-Kok. IN: Gardiner, Masculinity Studies and Feminist Theory: New Directions. New York, NY: Columbia UP; 2002. pp. 261-89
  17. The Precision of Persimmons: Hybridity, Grafting and the Case of Li-Young Lee By: Yao, Steven G.; Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory, 2001 Apr; 12 (1): 1-23.
  18. To Witness the Invisible: A Talk with Li-Young Lee By: Marshall, Tod; Kenyon Review, 2000 Winter; 22 (1): 129-47.
  19. Beyond Lot's Wife: The Immigration Poems of Marilyn Chin, Garrett Hongo, Li-Young Lee, and David Mura By: Slowik, Mary; MELUS, 2000 Fall-Winter; 25 (3-4): 221-42.
  20. Form and Identity in Language Poetry and Asian American Poetry By: Yu, Timothy; Contemporary Literature, 2000 Spring; 41 (3): 422-61.
  21. An Interview with Li-Young Lee By: Fluharty, Matthew; Missouri Review, 2000; 23 (1): 81-99.
  22. Li-Young Lee By: Lee, James Kyung-Jin. IN: Cheung, Words Matter: Conversations with Asian American Writers. Honolulu: U of Hawaii P, with UCLA Asian American Studies Center; 2000. pp. 270-80
  23. Necessary Figures: Metaphor, Irony and Parody in the Poetry of Li-Young Lee, Marilyn Chin, and John Yau By: Wang, Dorothy Joan; Dissertation,U of California, Berkeley, 1998.
  24. A Conversation with Li-Young Lee ; Indiana Review, 1999 Fall-Winter; 21 (2): 101-08.
  25. The Cultural Predicaments of Ethnic Writers: Three Chicago Poets By: Bresnahan, Roger J. Jiang; Midwestern Miscellany, 1999 Fall; 27: 36-46.
  26. The City in Which I Love You: Li-Young Lee's Excellent Song By: Hesford, Walter A.; Christianity and Literature, 1996 Autumn; 46 (1): 37-60.
  27. Lee's 'Persimmons' By: Engles, Tim; Explicator, 1996 Spring; 54 (3): 191-92.
  28. Inheritance and Invention in Li-Young Lee's Poetry By: Zhou, Xiaojing; MELUS, 1996 Spring; 21 (1): 113-32.
  29. Li-Young Lee By: Hsu, Ruth Y. IN: Conte, American Poets since World War II: Fourth Series. Detroit: Thomson Gale; 1996. pp. 139-46
  30. Li-Young Lee By: Lee, James; BOMB, 1995 Spring; 51: 10-13.

External links

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