“This is Lee's third book of poetry, and it's epic in scope, exploring everything from our cellular history to ancestral memory to the future of the human soul.”
—All Things Considered
“There is a nomadic beauty to Ed Bok Lee’s Whorled, which pulses with raw political anger and vital lyricism.”
“[T]he impressive, at moments superlative, craftsmanship of Whorled, among other things, illuminates the innocence and blush of Lee's earlier work. . .There is a wizened insight and well-wrought precision of form in the movement from the exhortative in Real Karaoke People to the meditative in Whorled. Lee's deftness pulls structure and measure from that recursive, inwardly spiraling, compulsive-obsessive poetic desire…. If in Real Karaoke People, Lee observes and marks the divine in the detritus of an urban landscape, in Whorled, he has become the interpreter of that divine, attending to the rise and fall of kingdoms, and language, in the everyday."
‘There is another other/ in the other of every/ Another,’ goes the opening poem, ‘All Love Is Immigrant.’ It’s a beautiful poem charged with a breathtaking idea. Whorled is a book that believes love is like a superior kind of capital: It’s a force that flows into new markets, sensing absences, and fills them, whether it’s a debased kind of space or an ennobling one.”
“Whorled enters fearlessly into the chaos of our social, cultural, political, and familial milieu, always with an eye toward finding the beauty among the hard truths of our situations—and fighting for them.”
—Rain Taxi Review of Books
“Where Lee’s work shines, though, is in his ability to draw grace from the most forlorn, even squalid, scenarios, and his careful attention to voice. The various friends, overheard strangers, lovers, and family members that populate his poems sparkle with the full roundness of life.”
—The Margins, Asian American Writers’ Workshop
“Lee’s exceptional Whorled is . . . a jolting gaze focused on today’s 21st-century global citizen, uprooted and unleashed…. Like his 2005 debut Real Karaoke People, Lee again provides searing ‘oh-my-gawd’-moments that will rip through your soul.” —BookDragon, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
“Ed Bok Lee’s worldview is capacious. His poems seek out startlingly insightful perspectives and stories across the globe and on our very doorsteps. At times unexpectedly, his poems help us see the familiar in new ways and the unfamiliar in profoundly identifiable ways.”
“Whorled is a courageous attempt to portray the intricate human workings at the heart of the dusty underbelly of the American dream… It is a vision of constantly shifting politico-cultural systems where nationality is just one more playing card to keep up your sleeve and even love is ‘immigrant’—and therefore itinerant, and unsettled…. Rather than merely focus on the lack and lapses of ‘the System’ against which the people fight, Ed Bok Lee’s Whorled poses the greater and more horrifying question: what if the absence of which we lament comes from within?”
—Phati’tude Literary Magazine
“Sometimes a poem stops you in your tracks. Today I had that experience while reading Ed Bok Lee’s new collection Whorled.”
—Minnesota Public Radio
“Drawing from a well of personal experience, empathy and his fine-tuned imagination, Bok Lee sketches vivid characters caught on the fulcrum of history, where political machinations and cultural currents far outside their control meet… His poems offer a reader: naked humanity and sensuous use of language, alluring melancholy and unvarnished insight and undercurrents of tempered fury and compassion that color his every word.”
"Lee is more than a Matthew Arnold, a figure who cannot help but take the cacophony of the world as a personal insult. If the modern world is a problem, it’s a fascinating one, both despite and because of its crimes, both large and small, and Lee does this truth better than justice….”
—The Constant Critic
“In this book, Lee is the writer and traveler of not only distances but of time. His staccato free-verse style is dynamic as ever, better read aloud than in silence, with a greater maturity, and a discernible global perspective… If Ed Bok Lee still carries the sense of being an immigrant, then language—the power of words is Lee’s turf, his citizenship….Lee is a prolific and diverse writer.”
"[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
"Oh my gawd: 'The Secret to Life in America' will rip through your soul…"
“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….”
“Whorled is an inquisitive, powerful, global exploration of identity, thrumming with insight and taut phrasing.”
"Lee’s riffing mastery of form and imagery is nothing short of breath-taking—he weaves together hip hop, prose poem…prayer, lyricism…."
“Prose and poems of our global and transitory America.”
—Providence Journal (Reviewers' List: TOP FIVE BOOKS of 2005)