Ed Bok Lee

Mitochondrial Night 




Pub. date March 5, 2019 | Coffee House Press | ISBN: 978-1-56689-532-3 | 118 pages

Taking mitochondrial DNA as his guide, Lee explores familial and national legacies, and their persistence across shifting boundaries and the erosions of time. In these poems, the trait of an ancestor appears in the face of a newborn, and in her cry generations of women’s voices echo. Stories, benign and traumatic, travel far and wide. Using lush, exact imagery, whether about the corner bar or an invasion in medieval Korea, Lee is a careful observer, tracking and documenting the way that seemingly small moments can explode into larger insights.

Advance Praise

“Like mitochondrion, from whence this exhilarating book’s title comes, the poet’s eye and spirit are ubiquitous, examining and probing the tangled bloodlines of our social and political networks, and the parasitic heft we are exerting on the world’s chest. Formally protean and polyphonic, the poems change shapes and registers in a thrilling and often poignant chase after their truth. Ed Bok Lee’s Mitochondrial Night is a thrilling book by a gifted poet at the height of his powers.” —Khaled Mattawa

“In Mitochondrial Night, Ed Bok Lee takes us on an intimate journey through space and time, introduces us to people and places we have and have not met, to center us in our humblest humanity. Lee is a shaman, he rides with his pen into the vast darkness of our pasts, centers us in our present, and then makes the fearless leap into the imagined, the predestined future. He looks to raise from the dead the spirits of wars lost, wars long forgotten, the wars being waged now, and he does so with a light, lonely hand. This collection is explosive; it shatters the boundaries of self in the service of art.” —Kao Kalia Yang


Pub. date August 23, 2011| Coffee House Press | ISBN: 978-1-56689-278-0 | 117 pages

In Whorled, Ed Bok Lee looks toward a global future, one where the dividing lines between state, religion, race, history, and culture have been blurred to the extent that the very idea of difference requires a new understanding. What does it mean to be a Global Citizen in an era of constant war, rampant industrialization, and ever-advancing technology? Whorled strives to give a voice to those left out with words of loss and longing, confrontation and celebration. From gambling Buddhists at a Midwest Native American casino, to a Russian rave, Lee’s ever-wandering cultural and spiritual nomads struggle to make sense of what it means to be a citizen of an increasingly homeless world.

Reviews of Whorled

“There is a nomadic beauty to Ed Bok Lee’s Whorled, which pulses with raw political anger and vital lyricism.” —The Guardian

" Whorled is on fire with the poetry of the future, written with a wild passion and a furious grace. . . ” —Dorianne Laux

“These poems work in powerful concert to give body to an entire world of beauty, terror, loss, grief, and joy. The strength and magnetism of Lee’s voice come from his mind’s profound awareness of a person’s embeddedness in a context simultaneously personal and archetypal; social, historical, political, and cosmic.” —Li-Young Lee

Real Karaoke People

Pub. date October 2005 | New Rivers Press | ISBN: 0-89823-226-0 | 101 pages

A dramatic debut, Real Karaoke People juxtaposes tradition and pop culture to bridge generations and continents in a way both heart-rending and real. Poems and prose engage readers with vivid and emotional portrayals of immigrant life and scrutinize conceptions of race, class, and ethnicity. Through everything from frank confession to lyric verse, this collection offers an open yet often highly individual account of contemporary America and the aftermath of assimilation. At once nostalgic and critical, this collection offers a gritty, honest, and compelling worldview. A 2007 national bestseller in poetry, Real Karaoke People will appeal to a wide variety of domestic and international readers (of all ethnic backgrounds and ages) with personal connections to the changing face of America, the Immigrant Experience, Karaoke singing, Asian Pop Culture and Hip-Hop, Buddhism, the Korean War, and/or Travel through Asia.

Reviews of Real Karaoke People

"[Real Karaoke People] contains...searing honesty [and] tenderness...The vitality of the country, its capacity to absorb the rich and the strange is nowhere clearer." San Francisco Chronicle

“A potent voice for young immigrants and their second- and third-generation peers, poet Ed Bok Lee[’s]...galloping imagination…describes what it's like to be part of a global generation. His experiments with prose/poetry blending are bold and unself-conscious…." Star Tribune