cover image Behind My Eyes

Behind My Eyes

Li-Young Lee, . . Norton, $24.95 (106pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06542-8

In this fourth collection by the popular Lee (Book of My Nights ), timely immigration issues drive such poems as “Self-Help for Fellow Refugees,” but Lee swiftly folds them into broader inquiries about inheritance, memory and loss: “you'll remember your life,” he advises, “as a book of candles,/ each page read by the light of its own burning.” Lee's late father appears in the light of his evangelical Christian beliefs, his mother and sister as cherished links to childhood. Biblical allusions enliven an otherwise spare verbal world, while aphorisms and spiritual advice strike a note reminiscent of Rumi: “Every wise child is sad.... Every wind-strewn flower is God tearing God.” Rarely subtle, Lee can nevertheless be concise: every line bears the weight of long meditation, sometimes even of wisdom. “Virtues of the Boring Husband,” the longest piece, is one of Lee's best: a discourse on the nature of love—ponderous but shot through with golden truths—that comes from the mouth of the sheepish partner who admits, “Whenever I talk, my wife falls asleep./ So now, when she can't sleep, I talk.” Lee's ringing clarity and his compelling life story have brought him uncommonly loyal readers: this volume should swell their ranks. A CD of Lee reading many of the poems is included. (Jan.)