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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.
“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