Excerpts of the Interview with Li-Young Lee by Alec Marsh forthcoming in Vol. IX



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Excerpts of the Interview with Li-Young Lee
by Alec Marsh

Editor's Note:

We decided to publish an interview with Li-Young Lee from 1999 because it illuminates a great deal that was important to the poet at a critical juncture in his writing career. This interview preceded the publication of Book of My Nights, which may have been his most ambitious work until that time. The following interview with Li-Young Lee was conducted on a small college radio station at Muhlenberg College, which gives it a wonderful candor, openness, and freedom in discussing the personal and historical influences of his father, the influence of Taoist thought in his seeking of higher consciousness, the thought that went into the making of his Book of My Nights, his disappointment with Robert Frost, his vision of aesthetic consciousness as a kind of yogic path, his work with at-risk youth in Chicago, and much else. We are very grateful to Li-Young Lee for his permission to publish this interview, to Professor Alec Marsh for conducting the interview, and to Grace Gardella, the Muhlenberg English Department Secretary, who transcribed all of this in the spring of 2008.

— Jeffrey Ethan Lee, senior poetry editor


Prefatory note by Alec Marsh:

This interview was recorded over the Muhlenberg College radio station WMUH, when Li-Young Lee visited as part of a “Living Writers” class on September 13, 1999. Every several years, “Living Writers” brings writers of distinction and promise to the college to read and answer questions from students who have been reading and studying their recent work. Talking with my colleague Jeffrey Ethan Lee on the occasion of Li-Young’s new book Behind My Eyes (2008) reminded me of my conversation with the poet, and I lent him the tape. Jeffrey thought the interview, presented here in lightly edited form, was still extremely worthwhile.

At the time Li-Young Lee and I spoke, he had completed but not published Book of My Nights (2001). He was then the author of three books: The Rose (1986), The City in Which I Love You (1990), which won the Lamont Poetry Prize, and his memoir The Winged Seed....