Monday, March 24, 2008

NPR: Poet's Intimate Stanzas Explore Grief and Salvation

Weekend Edition Saturday, March 8, 2008 ·

The poet Li-Young Lee was born into history and suffering in 1957.

His parents were Chinese, and his father, Lee Kuo Yuan, had been Mao Zedong's personal physician. But after a falling out with Mao, the elder Lee fled to Indonesia with his family — a move that almost cost him his life.

"Because of his being Chinese, and his political and spiritual influences, he was thrown into jail and tortured," Lee says. "He spent 19 months in a leper colony and he nearly died. And he escaped."

Poetry of Pain

In Behind My Eyes, Lee's first collection of poetry in seven years, the acclaimed poet reflects on his extraordinary family history in meditations on suffering, prayer, death and love. One of his 22 poems is "Self-Help for Fellow Refugees," a work that looks back on his father's painful imprisonment and its effect on the family.

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