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Book of My Nights (American Poets Continuum) Hardcover – September 1, 2001

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Product Details

  • Series: American Poets Continuum (Book 67)
  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: BOA Editions Ltd.; 1 edition (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1929918070
  • ISBN-13: 978-1929918072
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,977,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

assionate and profound, Lee's long-awaited third collection charts the mid-life ontological crisis of a speaker who "can't tell what my father said about the sea... from the sea itself," and finds himself unmoored without that strong male voice. Lee's father was a personal physician to Mao Zedong, who took the family to Jakarta (where Lee was born) in the '50s. As Indonesia began persecuting Chinese citizens and his father was imprisoned, Lee's family left the country, spent five years moving from place to place in Asia, and arrived in the U.S. in 1964. (These events are described in The Winged Seed, Lee's American Book Award-winning memoir of 1995.) Lee has ever been concerned with questions of origins, but in the 11 years since the publication of his last collection, memories of childhood answers furnished by father, mother and siblings now fail to assuage the poet's 3 a.m. doubts. Yet he does not trust himself to formulate answers on his own in these 35 nocturnes, and the father seems to be missing or dead. The poet's tightly wrought, extraordinarily careful and finally heart-wrenching responses finally boil down to one ultimate cry: "Where is his father? Who is his mother?" The complex permutations of these fundamental inquiries and their unsatisfactory answers construct a space in which knowledge and redemption, if never quite attained, always seem possible. Lee is never faced with sheer emptiness; his "silence thunders," a vocal presence to which Lee's speaker responds, "declaring a new circumference/ even the stars enlarge by crowding down to hear." (Sept. 15) Forecast: A favorite on course syllabi, Lee should sell strongly and steadily with this long-awaited new collection. The Winged Seed, first published by S&S, is available in paperback from Ruminator Books, the Minnesota house (and review) formerly called Hungry Mind.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

"A wilderness of 'who' and 'why'" a line from one of the poems in this slim volume by Indonesian-born poet Lee (Winged Seed), who won the Lamont Poetry Award of the Academy of American Poets in 1990 well describes the work as a whole. "What is the world?" "Who am I?" These questions and others are at the core of each poem. "Does anyone want to know the way to Spring?" he asks. Lee's poems are riddled with puzzles reminiscent of Zen koans. Meditative, ungrounded, and vaporous, they are almost metaphysical and require the reader to proceed slowly. Strong images of the poet's mother and of a dead brother abound. Lee's work is also concerned with the transition from one continent and culture to another he and his family fled to the United States when Lee was a small child after his father spent a year as a political prisoner of President Sukarno. These poems can be a challenge, but they will reward the persistent reader. Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By James Crews Jr. on June 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Pick up this book and prepare to revel in several readings of it. Li-young Lee is a poet of profound force not so concerned with the effect of a poem as with its "center" as he would call it. In his past collections he has dealt with the theme of the literal father--knowing and finding him in the present self, and most of all, remembering him--and with the more mythical/religious father. It is this more abstract father that Lee looks to more and more especially in this, his third collection of verse. He asks questions of himself, the father, his family and the world at large in his poetry as when in "Hurry toward Beginning" his closing lines quietly ask, "The fruit of listening, what's that?" His poetry seems to have listened to all of our most secret needs for centuries. Lee also seeks memory's essence perhaps putting forth that in the act of remembering and writing it down we inevitably must refigure it somehow. It is the spirit that connects us, "sown in the air, realized in a body uttering/windows, growing rafters, couching seeds." Lee also sees the body, perhaps the poet too, as a vessel for all memory. Though doubt weighs in greatly throughout _Book of My Nights_ Li-young Lee comes to some new understanding and awareness of the self not as apparent in his earlier works. The last poem in the book is titled "Out of Hiding," and in many of the other poems we follow Lee on his journey to reconcile the divided sides of the self to reach, "that ancient sorrow between his hips,/his body's ripe listening/the planet knowing itself at last." Li-young Lee's _Book of My Nights_ are essentials for anyone concerned with the art of memory, the spirit that poetry can embody and around which it must revolve, and the fruits of one poet's productive insomnia.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By on March 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Li-Young Lee's latest collection once again shows what a phenomenal poet he is. While not quite as good as his first collection, _Rose_ (which is one of the better first books i've seen), it comes close. Lee has a lyricism and depth that continues to raise the bar for contemporary poets. The central theme of the mythic-hero father that was in Lee's first collection does not dominate this latest collection. Instead, we have poems that try to understand origins from both the father and the mother. _Book of My Nights_ is another poetry collection that deserves to be on your shelf.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eric Hull on June 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
While we may never feel the rush we felt discovering Lee in _Rose_, _Book of My Nights_ is easily his second best book, surpassing the imagery and emotional depth of _The City in Which I Love You_. Of course, you'd have to be crazy not to own all three!
If you've never read Lee and are considering picking up this book, by all means do so. This is heart/gut wrenching poetry at its original best. This is poetry which makes poets think, "I wish I wrote that".
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Li-Young Lee, Book of My Nights (BOA Editions, 2001)
Every time I find myself ready to crown a single person the foremost voice in American poetry (the candidate at present being Charles Simic), a book comes along by some other author I've forgotten who relegates the candidate to a shortlist. He undermining principle today is Li-Young Lee's Book of My Nights. I'd read The City in Which I Love You some years ago, thought it wonderful, and then promptly forgotten about Lee, who is of that school of poets who releases a book every seven or eight years. This is his most recent, and it is fantastic.
The subgenre of poetry best classified as "zen koan poems" has been greatly denigrated in Western literature, thanks in no small part to a bunch of bad amateurs in the fifties and sixties whose work persists in the public memory to this day. (I'm sure I don't need to name names. It's that impenetrable merde you came across in various literary magazines and the like that made you think "what on earth is this person on about?") The zen koan makes you think, not dismiss. Li-Young Lee seems to have taken the unenviable task upon himself to return the poetic version of the zen koan to the literary heights which it by rights should hold, and in The Book of My Nights, he takes great steps toward that goal.
Centering, as one would surmise from the title, around such topics as dreams and insomnia, Book of My Nights showcases Lee's considerable prowess with putting together strings of words aimed at making the reader contemplate some question that has no definitive answer; either it is unanswerable or every person will have his own different answer to the question.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought Book of my Nights at the urging of one of my most talented poetry critique friends, Lois P. Jones. It is a lovely little book, very nearly a chapbook. I read it in those free moments one gets when one travels. Shortly afterward, my mother died. I believe that Lee's work informed the poem I wrote in her memory. I consider THAT a successful book of the first order.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning chapbook of poetry Tracings]] and a coming chapbook (She Wore Emerald Then) published by Amazon's CreateSpace.
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