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Li-Young lee
Li-Young Lee


NYS Writers institute, April 1, 2008
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Assembly Hall, Campus Center
8:00 p.m. Reading | Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Li-Young Lee, award-winning Chinese-American poet influenced both by ancient Chinese sources and the King James Bible, will read from and discuss his new collection, “Behind My Eyes” (2008) on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 8:00 p.m. in the Assembly Hall, Campus Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m. the author will present an informal seminar in the same location. The events, which are free and open to the public, are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute.


“One of America’s most important contemporary poets” (“The Dictionary of Literary Biography”), Li-Young Lee was born to Chinese parents in Jakarta, Indonesia. His father, who had been Mao Zedong’s personal physician, fled China to escape persecution for Christian beliefs. The family eventually emigrated to the United States in 1964.

Strongly influenced by T’ang Dynasty poetry—as well as the poetry of the King James Bible—Lee’s work is often characterized by simplicity and silence. He frequently describes writing poetry as “an encounter with God.” In a 2006 interview with “Rock Salt Plum Review,” Lee described his attitude toward poetry readings as follows:  “You do this for God, to please God, to delight the God in each member of the audience and the God in you. And the invisible audience of spirits and ethereals, souls of the unborn and the dead. God likes to hear your voice. God gave you your voice. God gave you these poems. They’re not your poems, really. Who are you to judge them, or yourself, for that matter?”

Lee’s newest collection is “Behind My Eyes” (2008), a reflection on immigration, the origin of self, personal inheritance, spiritual purpose, loss, and the power and meaning of memory. “Publishers Weekly” in a starred review said, “....every line bears the weight of long meditation, sometimes even of wisdom.... Lee’s ringing clarity and his compelling life story have brought him uncommonly loyal readers: this volume should swell their ranks.” The book is accompanied by an audio CD of Lee reading his poems.

Lee’s awards include a 2003 Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets; the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America for the collection “Book of My Nights” (2001); the American Book Award for the memoir, “The Winged Seed” (1995); the Lamont Poetry Prize for “The City in Which I Love You” (1990); and the Delmore Schwartz Award for “Rose” (1986). He is also a recipient of the Lannan Literary and Whiting Writer’s Awards.

In a review of “Book of My Nights” (2001) that appeared in the “Boston Globe,” Devra First said, “the intimacy Lee conjures is as easily grasped as ever; he is still pushing the boundaries of what words can do with memory, love, and grief. This collection is masterful....”

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.