Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

October 14, 2005

Poet Li-Young Lee to Present Nov. 4 Reading
as Whitworth's 2005 Endowed English Reader

Li-Young Lee, poet and author of the memoir The Winged Seed: A Remembrance, is Whitworth's Endowed English Reader for 2005. Lee will read from his works on Friday, Nov. 4, at 8 p.m., in Weyerhaeuser Hall's Robinson Teaching Theatre at Whitworth College. A question-and-answer session, book sale and signing will follow the reading. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please call 509-777-3253.

"He dares to be simple. And he is surely among the finest young poets alive," says The American Poetry Review of Li-Young Lee.

Though his first poems were uncomplicated - just "little things to my mother" - Lee's early life was not at all simple. He was born in 1957, in Jakarta, Indonesia, into a prominent Chinese family. His great grandfather, Yuan Shikai, had served from 1912 to 1916 as China's first republican president. His father, Lee Kuo Yuan, a devout Christian and a supporter of the Nationalist Chinese, became physician to Communist leader Mao Tse-Tung. The family moved to Indonesia in 1949, after the establishment of the People's Republic of China, and his father was instrumental in the founding of Gamaliel University.

In 1959, after enduring 19 months in jail as a political prisoner during a period of virulent anti-Chinese sentiment, Lee's father fled the country with his family; they traveled through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan before settling in the U.S.

Li-Young Lee earned his B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and has taught at universities including Northwestern and the University of Iowa. During 1990, he returned to Indonesia and traveled to China, gathering material for a book centering on the life of his father, The Winged Seed: A Remembrance (1995). The book received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

Lee's work has been honored with numerous prizes and awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Guggenheim fellowship. In 1987, the year that he received the Guggenheim, his first book of poems, Rose, won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award. His second, The City in Which I Love You (1990), was the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Lee's most recent poetry collection is Book of My Nights: Poetry (2001).

In a recent interview regarding Book of My Nights, Lee calls the collection "a book of lullabies." When asked to elaborate, he says, "We sing a lullaby to a child to tell him it's okay to go to sleep. In the same way that a child doesn't want to go to sleep, I think sometimes we deny our death. . . . I was hoping that this book basically says that it's okay to die, and so the book is kind of singing us into our dying. I don't want to seem morbid, but it feels to me that the process of dying is actually dying into a greater presence. It isn't lessening, it's actually more. And we die into greater awe, greater splendor, greater terror, and greater presence."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,400 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.


Doug Sugano, professor of English, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4212 or dsugano@whitworth.edu.

Lisa Sem-Rodrigues, English program assistant, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3253 or lrodrigues@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information officer, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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