Li-Young Lee

Li Young Lee at CSULA, March 2014


A multi-award winning and accomplished poet, Li-Young Lee (李立揚) is a man of rich history and richer words. He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 19, 1957, and his maternal grandfather was Yuan Shikai (袁世凱), a general and politician instrumental to the end of the Qing Dynasty who became the first Republican President of China. Lee’s father was a personal physician to Mao Zedong before he escaped to Indonesia. Later in 1959, his family fled from anti-Chinese sentiment and began a five-year journey through Hong Kong and Japan before reaching the United States in 1964.

This turbulent period led to the exploration of themes such as alienation and identity in Lee‘s writing, but the influences of classical Chinese poets like Li Bai (李白) and Du Fu (杜甫) and his father’s conversion to Presbyterianism inspire a sense of mysticism and what fellow poet and mentor Gerald Stern noted as a “certain humility.” His poetry and his prose both delight and enlighten audiences; his words are deceptively simple, simultaneously sensual and spiritual. His works are filled with vivid imagery, but also profound moments of silence that encourage readers’ imaginations to fill in and complete their experience.

Li-Young Lee studied at the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Arizona, and the State University of New York at Brockport. In a span of over two decades, Lee has produced four books of poetry: Rose (1986), The City In Which I Love You (1990), Book of My Nights (2001), and Behind My Eyes (2008), along with The Winged Seed: A Remembrance (1995), a memoir of his life.