In the foreword to Li-Young Lee’s first book, Rose (BOA Editions, 1986), Gerald Stern wrote, “What characterizes Li-Young Lee’s poetry is a certain kind of humility, a kind of cunning, a love of plain speech, a search for wisdom and understanding. . . . I think we are in the presence of a true spirit.” Poetry lovers agree! Rose has gone on to sell more than eighty thousand copies, and Li-Young Lee has become one of the country’s most beloved poets.
Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee is a collection of the best dozen interviews given by Li-Young Lee over the past twenty years. From a twenty-nine-year-old poet prodigy to a seasoned veteran in high demand for readings and appearances across the United States and abroad, these interviews capture Li-Young Lee at various stages of his artistic development. He not only discusses his family’s flight from political oppression in China and Indonesia, but how that journey affected his poetry and the engaging, often painful, insights being raised a cultural outsider in America afforded him. Other topics include spirituality (primarily Christianity and Buddhism) and a wide range of aesthetic topics such as literary influences, his own writing practices, the role of formal and informal education in becoming a writer, and his current life as a famous and highly sought-after American poet.