Li-Young Lee’s life story reads like something out of epic poetry.
From 1912-16, his great-grandfather served as China’s first republican president – and tried to install himself as emperor.
His father was a personal physician of Chinese leader Mao Zedong.
By 1957, when Lee was born, his family had relocated to Jakarta, Indonesia, where his father helped found a university.
Lee’s life was further altered when his family, fleeing Indonesian anti-Chinese sentiment that had resulted in his father’s imprisonment, immigrated to the United States in 1964.
Lee, who lives in Chicago, is a nationally renowned poet who will read from his works in Spokane during the coming week. As a poet, he’s conscious of the effect that such a polyglot past has had on him and his poetry.
As he said in a 1996 interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune: “I’m highly aware that I’m a guest in the language. I’m wondering if that’s not the truth for all of us, that somehow we’re all guests in language, that once we start speaking any language somehow we bow to that language at the same time we bend that language to us.”
Lee will give two readings, both of which are free and open to the public. He’ll speak at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Gonzaga University’s Cataldo Globe Room as part of GU’s 2008-2009 Visiting Writers Series, and he’ll appear at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Spokane Falls Community College’s Music Auditorium, Building 15.
Call GU at (509) 313-6681. Call SFCC at (509) 533-4173.
To give you a feel for Lee’s poetry, here are the first two stanzas of his 1986 poem, “The Gift”:
“To pull the metal splinter from my palm/
my father recited a story in a low voice./
I watched his lovely face and not the blade/
Before the story ended, he’d removed/
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from./
“I can’t remember the tale,/
but hear his voice still, a well/
of dark water, a prayer./
And I recall his hands,/
two measures of tenderness/
he laid against my face,/
the flames of discipline/
he raised above my head.”
Poets out loud
Fourteen high-school students will compete in the regional Poetry Out Loud recitation context Thursday between 6 and 8 p.m. at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, 2316 W. First Ave.
Winners go to the March state competition in Seattle, and winners there will advance in April to the national contest.
The event, which is associated with Eastern Washington University’s Get Lit! festival, is free and open to the public.
For information about Get Lit!, which will be held April 10 through 19 in Cheney and Spokane, call Dani Ringwald at (509) 368-6590.
How to lead
Whitworth President Bill Robinson has a new book out. “Incarnate Leadership: 5 Leadership Lessons from the Life of Jesus” (Zondervan, 128 pages, $14.99) is a study of how Jesus used inspiration to lead while never losing touch with the needs of everyday people.
“If any leader had the right to be a little ‘me-centered,’ it was Jesus,” Robinson says. “But he never was. From the manger to the cross he was mission-centered, service-centered, other-centered.”
Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public.
•Gay & Lesbian Book Group (“Things No Longer There: A Memoir of Losing Sight and Finding Vision,” by Susan Krieger), 7 p.m. Tuesday, Auntie’s Bookstore, Main and Washington. Call (509) 838-0206.
The reader board
•Dean Brackley, S.J. (“The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola”), lecture, 7:30 p.m. Monday, Cataldo Hall, Gonzaga University. Call (509) 313-6701.
•Li-Young Lee (“Behind My Eyes”), reading, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Cataldo Hall Globe Room, Gonzaga University; 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Spokane Falls Community College. For GU, call (509) 313-6681; for SFCC, call (509) 533-4173.
•Susie Weller (“Why Don’t You Understand? Improve Family Communication with the Four Thinking Styles”), reading, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Auntie’s Bookstore.
•C.J. Cherryh (“Regenesis”), reading, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Auntie’s Bookstore.
•Rachel Toor (“Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running”), reading, noon Thursday, Monroe Hall, Eastern Washington University’s Cheney campus. Call (509) 359-2898.