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.
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