Will's Reviews > The City in Which I Love You

The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee
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's review
Mar 25, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: 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 exploring the author's personal history and categorical placement among other contemporary Asian-American poets. I don't think this kind of socio-economic geo-racial profiling is very helpful or essential to City's poems. Interesting but unnecessary.

Reminiscent of Rose perhaps in its rich yet murky symbolism, City's title poem for example is a new and significant development in Lee's technique--the speaker seems to be searching a dream for meaning, and where the old Li-Young might have simply discussed familial or physical love, the new Li-Young seems bent on trading the familiar small pings of sensuality for the larger pangs of longing. Likewise, he exchanges quiet meditation for a darker sort of surrealism. Through this, Lee seems more aware of the dangers of sentimentality and more intent on incorporating a deeper range of emotions to his poems.

By the by, whether a fan or not, read (or better yet, hear him read) "The Cleaving." It is an amazing piece of work.
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