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Rose by Li-Young Lee

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 71 pages
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Rose by Li-Young Lee is a collection of poems filled with esteem and reverence for a father who is not fallible, but who is unattainable because of the myth a son has created about him.  Like roses, fathers can be beautiful and yet dangerous creatures, prickly to the touch and radiant.  On the face of Lee’s verse, it is simple, but looking more closely, readers will discern multiple levels of meaning.

From “The Weight of Sweetness” (page 20)

The good boy hugs a bag of peaches
his father has entrusted
to him.
Now he follows
his father, who carries a bagful in each arm.
See the look on the boy’s face
as his father moves
faster and father ahead, while his own steps
flag, and his arms grow weak, as he labors
under the weight
of peaches.

Like in “The Weight of Sweetness,” the boy is beaming with joy that his father would entrust him with something as precious as a bag of peaches, like knowledge passed from one generation to another, only to have that precious gift become a burden and weigh down the child’s steps as he moves forward.  Although there are some poems laden with a heaviness, there are also moments of sweetness, like that in “The Gift”: (page 15)

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,

Here it is clear that the child, who has become a man, continues to esteem his father, holding him high and praising any small gift bestowed upon him, even if it is the most mundane knowledge.  Many kids look up to their parents, and it is a wonder when kids become adults and still admire their parents — faults included — but Lee touches on the big question mark in all these relationships, the inability of us all to truly “know” our parents — to understand their motivations — so that we can learn to emulate the best parts of them.  Rose by Li-Young Lee is powerful, endearing, and filled with heartbreaking awe.

About the Poet:

Li-Young Lee is an American poet. He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. His maternal grandfather was Yuan Shikai, China’s first Republican President, who attempted to make himself emperor.

28th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

Book 15 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.

  • I’m intrigued by the snippets you’ve posted from this collection.

    • This collection is so outside of what I would think a collection about a father (well mostly) would be like. Many tend to demonize the father or seek forgiveness of some sort. This is not the case here. There’s really a sense of awe.

  • Beth, that poetry list must be getting sooooo long!
    Serena´s last blog post ..Rose by Li-Young Lee

  • Beth Hoffman

    Such beautiful simplicity. Lee is incredibly talented. Thank you for introducing me to his work, I’m adding his name to my list right now!