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The City in Which I Love You

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  2,809 ratings  ·  119 reviews

Furious Versionis

The Interrogation
This Hour And What Is Dead
Arise, Go Down
My Father, In Heaven, Is Reading Out Loud
For A New Citizen Of These United States
With Ruins

This Room And Everything In It
The City In Which I Love You


The Waiting
A Story
You Must Sing
Here I Am
A Final Thing

The Cleaving
Paperback, 89 pages
Published June 1st 1990 by BOA Editions Ltd.
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  2,809 ratings  ·  119 reviews

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Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, li-young-lee
In this life, this is how
one must wait, past despair,
the heart a fossil, the minutes molten, the feet turned to stone.
And though I stopped waiting years ago,
I continue to wait.
Even now
Mar 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Because Rose is the first collection of poems by Li-Young Lee, it's only natural to assume that Lee's voice and stylistic preferences would undergo changes as he continued traveling the long road toward scholastic recognition; however, since Rose has gained considerable attention and become so frequently anthologized, Lee's sophomore attempt, The City in Which I Love You, is largely overshadowed. In fact, City seems almost pigeonholed by criticism for Rose, which spends much of its time explorin ...more
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
There were two poems in this small collection I did not love and all the others I loved deeply, especially the title poem, 'A Final Thing', 'Goodnight', 'This Room and Everything in It', the first poem 'Furious Versions' and the final poem 'The Cleaving', which is a kind of hymn to a kind of face, a face like the poet's and maybe like mine:

I would devour this race to sing it,
this race that according to Emerson
managed to preserve to a hair
for three or four thousand years
the ugliest features in th
Apr 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poems, author-m, under-200
rain ringing like teeth into the beggar's tin,
the cleaving is still my fave literally who does it like li-young lee
Nov 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I don't usually read poetry for fun, but in celebration of National Poetry Month (April), I perused my Goodreads "poetry" shelf for something interesting. I can't remember where I first heard about Li-Young Lee's poetry. Maybe it was NPR's story on Lee's more recent poetry collection, Behind My Eyes. Maybe it was when Color Online featured The Interrogation as part of its Poetry Friday series.

Wherever I first heard about Lee, I'm glad that I did hear about him. Lee's poetry is evocative of the
Alex Johnson
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Li-Young Lee's poetry excels at turning perspectives and perceptions on their heads. He has a way of building unlike ideas that coalesce into a uniformed whole. Some of the pieces were a little too narrative or a little too out there for me, but overall I really enjoy Lee's style. "The Interrogation" was a stand-out for me. ...more
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
This collection of poetry pretty much sums up Lee's beliefs in poetry, especially in lines like this from "The Room and Everything in It":

it had something to do
with death... it had something
to do with love.

In a guest lecture he gave more than seven years ago, Lee said that the only two subjects worthy of poetry are death and love, and this book encompasses poems that split those subjects pretty evenly, even by combining the two subjects into single poems. The book is divided into five sections,
Emily Anne
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
I am not a fan of poetry. In fact, I would say that I avidly avoid and disdain all such practices of poetry. If I could destroy one art form in the world it would be poetry. Having said that, however, this is a FANTASTIC read. This was assigned in my Contemporary Literature class and I was dreading it throughout the class until we got to it. I skimmed through it at first... and then it got good. The entire book of poetry tell a full story all together. It is an autobiography in poems. They are n ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book shook me. One of the best books of poetry I’ve read. In an interview with in The Sun, Lee quotes Yehuda Amichai saying, “every poem I write takes all of human history into consideration, all of the atrocities, all the good stuff, and it’s the last poem I’m going to write.” All of Lee’s poems feel like this too.

He also says something really interesting: “If a work of art lacks the presence of God, then it’s not even art to me. For me, the definition of poetry is very narrow, but then,
Dec 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: favorites
Reading the Songs of Solomon made the title poem that much more beautiful, intense, lively. I started by dog-earing a handful of pages so I could re-read my favorite, but quikly undid that action due to all of the poems being so beautiful.
Apr 14, 2017 added it
Shelves: poetry
​I’m revisiting one of my favorite books of poetry this week because it’s National Poetry Month. ​I first read Li Young Lee’s The City in Which I Love You when I was in graduate school. I fell instantly in love with the book, and especially the title poem and “This Room and Everything in It.” The poems are accessible without being simplistic and now, nearly 30 years later, I easily recall how moved I was the first time I read these poems and how the hair on the back of my neck rises again as it ...more
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
the writing about his father was so moving to me - immigrating to the US, shared trauma...
some poems: This Room and Everything in It, The City in Which I Love You, Here I Am, and The Cleaving (The Cleaving is truly remarkable).
"His love for me is like his sewing:/ various colors and too much thread,/ the stitching uneven. But the needle pierces/ clean through with each stroke of his hand" -35
"I never believed that the multitude of dreams and many words were vain" -57

Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
"To think of the sea is to hear in the sound of trees." What strikes me most about this collection is the silence. Of love, of death. You can almost hear Lee breathing through the page. A very ethereal collection that I'll have to reread to fully grasp. ...more
Nov 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aoc-latinx
I don’t know if I can have a favorite poet considering how little poetry I read, but Li-Young Lee is my favorite anyway.
Reluctant Anesthetist
Nov 09, 2015 marked it as to-read
From The Room And Everything In it

I'll close my eyes
and recall this room and everything in it:
My body is estrangement.
This desire, perfection.
Your closed eyes my extinction.
Now I've forgotten my
idea. The book
on the windowsill, riffled by wind...
the even-numbered pages are
the past, the odd-
numbered pages, the future.

Little Father

I buried my father
in the sky.
Since then, the birds
clean and comb him every morning and pull the blanket up to his chin every night.

I buried my father underground. Since
Ben Wenzel
Dec 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I paid attention to Lee because of "The Cleaving". I decided to buy this book because of "This Room and Everything In It".

After having read it, those poems are the tips of the iceberg. This collection is awesome, both for the individual poems it contains and for the coherence of them all together.

Notable stops along the way:
Furious Versions
This Room and Everything In It
The City in Which I Love You
The Waiting
Goodnight- this one was a surprise hit with me. Hadn't heard of it before, but loved i
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
I am also lucky enough to have tickets to see him read in a few weeks! GO PORTLAND! Mary Oliver on Feb 5th, Li-Young Lee on Feb 20th, and Eavan Boland on March 4. Lucille Clifton shortly after in March. If anyone would like to come to Portland and attend one of these events let me know; you have a place to stay and you must buy tickets soon. I have my tickets but the event are all open seating. Except for Mary Oliver, sold out... of course. I imagine the other events will be sold out soon as wel ...more
Jun 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Li may love his city but I love Li. Sorry. Analysis. I met this guy when I was working on my Masters in Creative Writing up at CSUN. He's a great poet, but like most geniuses, he's not your typical person. He didn't say much at all. But I love the simplicity of his work. His imagery. The power comes through his love for family, his city (even though he’s Japanese, he grew up in Chicago), and the love for his family. Did I say family? As all great writers do, he presents an image, simple and clea ...more
Markland W
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one book of poetry I read almost religiously for many years. In fact when I lost my copy I hunted down another immediately. In it, Lee delves into the immigrant's experience of displacement, how that interrupts memory, complicated family bonds and creates a sort of hybrid identity that ensures neither country can ever truly be home. The title poem is amazing as well as the ones that explore his relationship with his father. I've definitely been inspired by his attention to detail that is ...more
Jul 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is the way poetry should be written. This is the way we should all feel, should all speak, should all experience our existence. All of his poems have a sense of purpose and contain stories. They are mesmerizing.
Lee is overwhelming in person; he evokes imagination, spirit, passion. He commands his audience. He has an incredible sense of humor and he is warm and inviting, while being serene and contemplative. He kept my attention captivated.

Brandon Willis
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Li-Young Lee is one of my favorite contemporary poets. "The Cleaving" still gives me chills. I have written several poems modeling Lee's style. He exercises his use of form, imagery, and language all the while interweaving aspects of his life that have affected him. If this has taught me anything, it has taught me that the way a poem "looks" is just as meaningful as its content. It's also showed me ways I can incorporate my own history into my poems as well. ...more
Kate Birgel
Jun 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Hilary
beautiful poetic voice.
Author was bon in Jakarta in 157.

Parents were Chinese. They had to escape bc his father had been a political prisoner under Pres. Sukarno.

They hopscotched their way to AMerica via Hon Kong, Macau, Janpan.

His poems are lyrical and narrative in nature. They express much beauty and sadness in the world via self & people's understanding of one another.
Rob the Obscure
Apr 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Some great poems here. Some contrived poems too. Eventually, the painful recalling of aspects of his childhood, and the over the top intensity of his romantic feelings, get tiring. It would be nice to see him break this up with some poems steeped in irony, humor, quirkiness, or all three.

But I'm not sure it's in him.
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was my first favorite book of poetry, and I guess that in a lot of ways I compare any poetry I read to Li-Young Lee. This isn't even my favorite of his collections (I prefer Rose) but it is the most personally important. I can hardly call this a review, more of a testament to my experience, but Lee opened me to poetry. If that doesn't speak to the power of his work, I'm not sure what would. ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Love Lee's intimate abstractions. Kept thinking of Rilke and Neruda as I read; Rilke's archetypal and visionary phrasings, Neruda's unabashed sensual imagery and emotion. Lee is a master of combining the concrete with the abstract. Favorite poem: "This Room and Everything in It." ...more
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry

Li-Young Lee's poetry is so beautiful and I just as much love watching videos or reading interviews of him talking about poetry. I can't wait to read more of his collections (:
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favs
Caroline Mao
I love Li-Young Lee he so rarely disappoints
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've encountered Lee's poems in the past, but this is the first book of his poems that I've read. It contains one of my absolute favorite poems, "My Father, in Heaven, is Reading Out Loud" (which the author reads out loud very well, by the way).
His command of language is unrivaled, and he has this way (as many poets do, but Lee does this particularly well) of giving words to indescribable sentiments. I especially love his poems about his father, because they remind me of my complicated yet ulti
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Li-Young Lee is an American poet. He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. His great-grandfather was Yuan Shikai, China's first Republican President, who attempted to make himself emperor. Lee's father, who was a personal physician to Mao Zedong while in China, relocated his family to Indonesia, where he helped found Gamaliel University. His father was exiled and spent a year in an I ...more

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“a bruise, blue
in the muscle, you
impinge upon me.
As bone hugs the ache home, so
I'm vexed to love you, your body

the shape of returns, your hair a torso
of light, your heat
I must have, your opening
I'd eat, each moment
of that soft-finned fruit,
inverted fountain in which I don't see me.”
“A door jumps
out from shadows,
then jumps away. This
is what I've come to find:
the back door, unlatched.
Tooled by insular wind, it
slams and slams
without meaning
to and without meaning.”
More quotes…