Winner of a 2012 American Book Award!
These poems are filled with a certain historical color of light.’ They're funny, slyly political, and gorgeous. Working with a variety of forms and modes, Ed Bok Lee rocks my socks off. I love this book.” Sherman Alexie
His poems are alternately devastating and grandstanding, word-drunk and built for speed. . . . There is another other/ in the other of every/ Another,” goes the opening poem, All Love Is Immigrant.” It’s a beautiful poem charged with a breathtaking idea. Whorled is a book that believes love is like a superior kind of capital: It’s a force that flows into new markets, sensing absences, and fills them, whether it’s a debased kind of space or an ennobling one.” John Freeman, Minneapolis Star Tribune
The spirit of Lee’s poetry hovers in the paradoxical space between markers of identification and actual identity. He makes wry and rightly skeptical use of the noun cluster and the adjective train, but does so in service to something elusive, something more precious. It’s as if he glues together shards of glass to make a bottle only to celebrate what that bottle cannot hold. . . .There’s something post-Romantic about thisLee writes frequently and without irony about love and friendshipbut it is not indulgent or salvific. Even at his mooniest, Lee is more than a Matthew Arnold, a figure who cannot help but take the cacophony of the world as a personal insult. If the modern world is a problem, it’s a fascinating one, both despite and because of its crimes, both large and small, and Lee does this truth better than justice. . . . Whorledis not a book of clean lines and sharp corners, a book that’s also a box. It spills and erupts and makes a mess, but its lists expand and grow, as living things do. . . .”Ray McDaniel, The Constant Critic
Whorled enters fearlessly into the chaos of our social, cultural, political, and familial milieu, always with an eye toward finding the beauty among the hard truths of our situationsand fighting for them.”Rain Taxi Review of Books,Winter 2012
In this book, Lee is the writer and traveler of not only distances but of time. His staccato free-verse style is dynamic as ever, better read aloud than in silence, with a greater maturity, and a discernible global perspective. . . . If Ed Bok Lee still carries the sense of being an immigrant, then languagethe power of words is Lee’s turf, his citizenship. . . . Lee is a prolific and diverse writer.”Korean Quarterly
Sometimes a poem stops you in your tracks. Today I had that experience while reading Ed Bok Lee’s new collection Whorled.”Marianne Combs, MPR
Whorled [is] an inquisitive, powerful, global exploration of identity, thrumming with insight and taut phrasing.”City Pages
These poems work in powerful concert to give body to an entire world of beauty, terror, loss, grief, and joy. The strength and magnetism of Lee’s voice come from his mind’s profound awareness of a person’s embeddedness in a context simultaneously personal and archetypal; social, historical, political, and cosmic. . . .What a moving read is Whorled.” Li-Young Lee
Whorled is on fire with the poetry of the future, written with a wild passion and a furious grace. Sociological, psychological, multicultural, ethereal, personal and vital, Lee spins out each poem in his unique, untempered voice.” Dorianne Laux
Atavistic arias and hip-hop haiku,memoir and mash-up, poetry and prose, Lee has serious game.Who else works with a lens this wide,this gracefully? Whorled will piss you off, crack you up, and leave you haunted by one of the most soulful love letters to language itself that you’ll ever read. All love is immigrant,’ says this book rich with destinations, each one opening our hearts wider to the miracle of having an entire world to call home.” Dobby Gibson
Elias Canetti remarked that a great writer must be for and against everything in the present time. In ways few Americans have attempted, Whorled takes on that challenge, deepening the reader into true soul work, grief and love for our human fragility. In poem after poem, Lee vividly explores knots of intersecting histories that connect the globe’s peoples in ways we have yet to take in and imagine."David Mura
"Where Lee's work shines, though, is in his ability to draw grace from the most forlorn, even squalid, scenarios, and his careful attention to voice. The various friends, overheard strangers, lovers, and family members that populate his poems sparkle with the full roundness of life."Asian American Writer's Workshop The Margins, interview with Lee
"Whorled examines what it means to be a global citizen in an era of constant war, rampant industrialization and ever-advancing technology. . . .Lee's poems and prose struggle to make sense of what it means to be a citizen of an increasingly homeless world."Metropolitan State University Buzz, "News and Notes"
Ed Bok Lee is the author of Real Karaoke People, winner of a PEN Open Book Award, an Asian American Literary Award (Members’ Choice) and a Many Voices Prize. Raised in South Korea, North Dakota and Minnesota, Lee has worked a variety of jobs in over a dozen U.S. states and abroad. He has studied Slavic, East Asian and Central Asian languages and literatures in America, South Korea, Russia and Kazakhstan and earned an MFA from Brown University. A recipient of grants from such foundations as the McKnight, Jerome and National Endowment for the Arts, Lee is an assistant professor at Metropolitan State University.