Walt Whitman Birthplace Association

2014 Poet in Residence

Li-Young Lee



“What characterizes Lee’s poetry is a certain humility…a willingness to let the sublime enter his field of concentration and take over, a devotion to language, a belief in its holiness.”                          —Gerald Stern



Li-Young Lee is the author of four critically acclaimed books of poetry, his most recent being Behind My Eyes. His earlier collections are: Book of My Nights; Rose, winner of the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award from New York University; and The City in Which I Love You, the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection. His memoir, entitled The Winged Seed: A Remembrance, received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

Li-Young Lee’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Lannan Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, as well as grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. In 1988 he received the Writer's Award from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation.

Born in 1957 of Chinese parents in Jakarta, Indonesia, Lee learned early about loss and exile. His great grandfather was China's first republican President; and his father, a deeply religious Christian, was physician to Communist leader Mao Tse-Tung. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Lee's parents escaped to Indonesia. In 1959, his father, after spending a year as a political prisoner in President Sukarno's jails, fled Indonesia with his family to escape anti-Chinese sentiment. After a five-year trek through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964.

Through the observation and translation of often unassuming and silent moments, the poetry of Li-Young Lee gives clear voice to the solemn and extraordinary beauty found within humanity. By employing hauntingly lyrical skill and astute poetic awareness, Lee allows silence, sound, form, and spirit to emerge brilliantly onto the page. His poetry reveals a dialogue between the eternal and the temporal, and accentuates the joys and sorrows of family, home, loss, exile, and love.



WWBA's Past Poets-in-Residence

The annual Poet In Residence is proudly sponsored by WWBA. Each year the program features revered and distinguished contemporary poets who continue to embody Walt Whitman’s spirit of democracy, diversity and creativity.


William Heyen: 1981;   Allan Planz: 1982;   Louis Simpson: 1983;   John Ciardi-1984;   W.D.Snodgrass: 1985;   Galway Kinnell: 1986;   David Ignatow: 1987;   June Jordan: 1988;   Stanley Kunitz: 1989;   William Stafford: 1990;   Allen Ginsberg: 1991;   Sharon Olds: 1992;   Adrienne Rich: 1993;   Robert Bly: 1994;   Joseph Bruchac: 1995;   Diane Wakoski: 1996;   Galway Kinnell: 1997;   Mark Rudman: 1998;   Yevgeny Yevtushenko: 1999;   Marge Piercy: 2000;   Billy Collins: 2001;   Gary Soto: 2002;   Samuel Menashe: 2003;   Marvin Bell: 2004;   Nikki Giovanni: 2005;   Molly Peacock: 2006;   David Wagoner: 2007;   Alicia Ostriker: 2008;   X. J. Kennedy: 2009;   Mark Doty: 2010;   C.K. Williams: 2011;   Martín Espada: 2012; Naomi Shihab Nye: 2013



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