Poetry News

Elizabeth Lund Reviews New Poetry by Miller, Nye, Lee

By Harriet Staff
Li-Young Li, The Undressing, cover

At the Chicago Tribune, Elizabeth Lund reviews new books of poetry by Li-Young Lee, E. Ethelbert Miller, and Naomi Shihab Nye. Lund begins by opening readers' eyes to Lee's poetry, writing "Li-Young Li's 'The Undressing' (Norton), opens provocatively, with erotic verbal banter between a man and his lover: 'In one light,/ love might look like siege./ In another light, rescue/ might look like danger.'" From there: 

The book, Lee's sixth, explores the relationship between language and the body, between love and aggression. Lee, who was born in Jakarta, the son of Chinese refugees, also considers the impact of brutality and forced expulsions, a subject he understands intimately. In the poem "The Sweet Accompanist," he recalls some of the lessons he learned from his father, who was imprisoned and tortured and later became a minister. "The ones who know not what they do are fierce,/ though sometimes they apologized for murdering their prey./ Yet, I taught you to renounce violence./ I taught you love means to vest your interest/ in the outcome of the other." In the closing piece, "Changing Places in the Fire," Lee draws upon biblical texts and spars with a female "battle angel" who argues that the words used in poetry cannot compare to the word of God. As he does throughout this multilayered book, Li challenges readers to think and to feel more deeply.

"There is no future without baseball. No past either," explains E. Ethelbert Miller in the preface of "If God Invented Baseball" (City Point Press), a delightful collection that celebrates the "magic released when three holy things come together: bat, ball and glove." Miller, a writer and activist who lives in Washington, D.C., beautifully recounts playing baseball as a child in the South Bronx. The game provided excitement and a sense of freedom for him and other boys against the backdrop of "the housing projects so many could not escape." It was also a useful metaphor as the young Miller grappled with questions about his career prospects and "being traded" by his parents to a school across town "where the white kids are." No matter what he faced, including heartbreak and betrayal later in life, the game and his heroes in the Major Leagues - Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal - provided an example of how to move forward.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune.

Originally Published: March 13th, 2018