The long-awaited new poetry collection from one of the world's most acclaimed young poets.
Read an Excerpt
There's nothing I can't find under there.
Voices in the trees, the missing pages
of the sea.
Everything but sleep.
And night is a river bridging
the speaking and the listening banks,
a fortress, undefended and inviolate.
There's nothing that won't fit under it:
fountains clogged with mud and leaves,
the houses of my childhood.
And night begins when my mother's fingers
let go of the thread
they've been tying and untying
to touch toward our fraying story's hem.
Night is the shadow of my father's hands
setting the clock for resurrection.
Or is it the clock unraveled, the numbers flown?
There's nothing that hasn't found home there:
discarded wings, lost shoes, a broken alphabet.
Everything but sleep. And night begins
with the first beheading
of the jasmine, its captive fragrance
rid at last of burial clothes.
A Table in the Wilderness
I draw a window
and a man sitting inside it.
I draw a bird in flight above the lintel.
That's my picture of thinking.
If I put a woman there instead
of the man, it's a picture of speaking.
If I draw a second bird
in the woman's lap, it's ministering.
A third flying below her feet.
Now it's singing.
Or erase thebirds,
make ivy branching
around the woman's ankles, clinging
to her knees, and it becomes remembering.
You'll have to find your own
pictures, whoever you are,
whatever your need.
As for me, many small hands
issuing from a waterfall
The hours hung like fruit in night's tree
means when I close my eyes
and look inside me,
a thousand open eyes
span the moment of my waking.
Meanwhile, the clock
adding a grain to a grain
and not getting bigger,
subtracting a day from a day
and never having less, means the honey
lies awake all night
inside the honeycomb
wondering who its parents are.
And even my death isn't my death
unless it's the unfathomed brow
of a nameless face.
Even my name isn't my name
except the bees assemble
a table to grant a stranger
light and moment in a wilderness
of Who? Where?
Excerpted from Book of My Nights by Li-Young Lee. Copyright © 2001 by Li-Young Lee. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Li-Young Lee was born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia, of Chinese parents. In 1959 his father, after spending a year as a political prisoner in President Sukarno's jails, fled Indonesia with his family. Between 1959 and 1964 the Lee family traveled throughout Hong Kong, Macau and Japan, until arriving in America.
Li-Young Lee's first poetry collection, Rose, won the New York University's 1986 Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award. His second collection, The City In Which I Love You, was the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. His third collection, Book of My Nights, was awarded the 2002 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.
In September 2006, BOA Editions published Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee, edited by Earl G. Ingersoll. This book collects the best dozen interviews Li-Young Lee has granted since the 1986 publication of Rose, including the 1988 interview with Bill Moyers on his The Power of the Word series. Breaking the Alabaster Jar contains new insights on Li-Young Lee's aesthetics, history, and various philosophies. Breaking the Alabaster Jar is an invaluable companion to Li-Young Lee's previous award-winning poetry collections.
Li-Young Lee currently lives in Chicago, Illinois, with his wife Donna and their two children.
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i enjoyed the surreal journey i took when reading this collection.