Book of My Nights : Poems by Li-Young Lee
Reviewed by John Glover, Reference Librarian for the Humanities
Li-Young Lee is a poet of the core elements of human experience, shunning the transitory. His work encompasses loneliness, fatherhood, love, the inner life of children, and many other experiences familiar to readers of today, yesterday, or tomorrow. The poems of Book of My Nights are not very long as a rule, focusing with spare language on the things one tends to ruminate about in the hours between dusk and dawn.
On the death of his brother, in "Black Petal":
Ask him who his mother is. He'll declare the birds
have eaten the path home, but each of us
joins night's ongoing story
On the concerns of a father, in "Words for Worry":
Worry boils the water
for tea in the middle of the night.
Worry trimmed the child's nails before
singing him to sleep.
On youth and mortality, in "Stations of the Sea":
Once forsaken, I remain
hidden in the dust, a mortal threshold
unearthed by crying.
Crying, my body turns to dark petals.
The poet has been well-laurelled in his life as a poet, winning multiple Pushcart Prizes, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. Perhaps the most prominent of Asian American poets, a collection of interviews entitled Breaking the Alabaster Jar was published in 2006. His poems have been anthologized in major works like the Norton Anthology of American Literature, signaling both provisional inclusion in the oft-debated canon and the regard in which his work is held.
Cabell Library PS3562.E35438 Z46 2006 Breaking the Alabaster Jar