'Visions And Interpretations' by Li-Young Lee

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Because this graveyard is a hill,I must climb up to see my dead,stopping once midway to restbeside this tree.It was here, between the anticipationof exhaustion, and exhaustion,between vale and peak,my father came down to meand we climbed arm in arm to the top.He cradled the bouquet I'd brought,and 1, a good son, never mentioned his grave,erect like a door behind him.And it was here, one summer day, I sat downto read an old book.When I looked upfrom the noon-lit page, I saw a visionof a world about to come, and a world about to go.Truth is, I've not seen my fathersince he died, and, no, the deaddo not walk arm in arm with me.If I carry flowers to them, I do so without their help,the blossoms not always bright, torch-like,but often heavy as sodden newspaper.Truth is, I came here with my son one day,and we rested against this tree,and I fell asleep, and dreameda dream which, upon my boy waking me, I told.Neither of us understood.Then we went up.Even this is not accurate.Let me begin again:Between two griefs, a tree.Between my hands, white chrysanthemums, yellowchrysanthemums.The old book I finished readingI've since read again and again.And what was far grows near,and what is near grows more dear,and all of my visions and interpretationsdepend on what I see,and between my eyes is alwaysthe rain, the migrant rain.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Visions and Interpretations by Li-Young Lee: A Masterpiece of Poetry

Have you ever read a book of poetry that made you feel like you were witnessing a master at work? That's exactly how I felt when I read Li-Young Lee's Visions and Interpretations. This collection of poems is a masterpiece of language, imagery, and emotion. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore why Li-Young Lee's poetry is so powerful and why Visions and Interpretations is a must-read for anyone who loves poetry.


Before diving into the poems themselves, it's important to understand some background information about Li-Young Lee. He was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1957, to Chinese parents who had fled China during the Communist Revolution. When Lee was just seven years old, his family was forced to flee Indonesia due to political unrest. They eventually settled in the United States, where Lee grew up in various cities across the country. Lee's experiences as a child and young adult, as well as his family's history, are major themes in his poetry.


One of the most striking things about Li-Young Lee's poetry is the way he weaves together different themes. Throughout Visions and Interpretations, Lee explores themes of family, memory, love, loss, and spirituality. These themes are all deeply interconnected, and they all relate back to Lee's own experiences and the experiences of his family.

Family is perhaps the most prominent theme in Visions and Interpretations. In many of the poems, Lee writes about his parents, his siblings, and his own children. He explores the relationships between family members, as well as the ways in which family can shape our identities and our understanding of the world. For example, in the poem "I Ask My Mother to Sing," Lee writes about his mother's singing voice and how it connects him to his heritage:

What song would she sing now? What could she offer me now of her mother's Chinese operas? What I have is the way she stood there, her voice a rising ribbon of silk, her hands fluttering like birds, her face radiant with applause, a smile that filled our home with love's bounty, lighting the corners where the night waited to disappear.

Memory is another prominent theme in Visions and Interpretations. Lee writes about his own memories, as well as the memories of his family members. He explores the ways in which memory can be both a burden and a source of comfort, and he reflects on the power of memory to shape our understanding of ourselves and our relationships. In the poem "The Gift," Lee writes about a memory from his childhood when he and his brothers stole a piece of fruit from a neighbor's tree:

And then, as if he had heard our prayer, the neighbor's dog barked, and we were gone, running as fast as we could, each holding onto his piece of fruit, each marveling at the gift we'd been given, the gift of something sweet and forbidden.

Love and loss are also major themes in Visions and Interpretations. Lee writes about love in all its forms, from romantic love to familial love to love for one's cultural heritage. He also writes about loss, whether it be the loss of a loved one or the loss of a culture. In the poem "Eating Together," Lee writes about the loss of his father and how it has impacted his relationship with his mother:

I want to tell her she's done enough, but I don't. It's her kitchen. In the silence that follows, we taste together the sweetened morsel of meat in our mouths fierce with spices, the cool cucumber, a water chestnut's crunch, a snow pea's smoothness on our tongues, the wine singing in our already warmed-over blood.

Finally, spirituality is a theme that runs throughout Visions and Interpretations. Lee writes about his own spirituality, as well as the spirituality of his family and his cultural heritage. He explores the ways in which spirituality can provide comfort and guidance, as well as the ways in which it can be a source of conflict and confusion. In the poem "The City in Which I Love You," Lee writes about the spiritual significance of his ancestral home:

In the city in which I love you, you no longer know my voice. In the city in which I love you, the wind carries everything away, and I am powerless to hold on to our life, our love, or even your departing shadow.

Language and Imagery

One of the things that makes Li-Young Lee's poetry so powerful is his use of language and imagery. Lee has a gift for evoking vivid images with just a few words, and his language is often lyrical and musical. In the poem "Eating Together," for example, Lee writes:

Our mother remembers her own mother's hands holding the same curve of the blade as she peeled apples, swiftly, almost without thought, in the same simple movement.

The language in this poem is simple, yet it is also deeply evocative. Lee paints a picture of a mother and her children peeling apples together, and in doing so, he captures the intimacy and the beauty of family life.

Another example of Lee's powerful imagery can be found in the poem "Early in the Morning":

While the long grain is softening in the water, gurgling over a low stove flame, before the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced for breakfast, before the birds, my mother glides an ivory comb through her hair, heavy and black as calligrapher's ink.

In this poem, Lee uses imagery to describe the quiet, mundane moments of everyday life. The image of the mother combing her hair is simple, yet it is also deeply intimate and personal. Lee's language, with its soft sounds and gentle rhythms, captures the quiet beauty of this moment.


In conclusion, Li-Young Lee's Visions and Interpretations is a masterful collection of poetry that explores themes of family, memory, love, loss, and spirituality. Lee's use of language and imagery is powerful and evocative, and his poetry is deeply personal and reflective. If you're a fan of poetry, I highly recommend this collection. And even if you're not, I still urge you to give it a chance. Li-Young Lee's poetry has the power to move even the most skeptical of hearts.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is a form of art that has been used for centuries to express emotions, ideas, and experiences. It is a medium that allows us to connect with our innermost thoughts and feelings, and to share them with others. Li-Young Lee's Poetry Visions And Interpretations is a classic collection of poems that explores the human experience in a profound and moving way. In this analysis, we will delve into the themes, imagery, and language used in this collection to gain a deeper understanding of the poet's vision and interpretation of life.

The first thing that strikes the reader about this collection is the depth of emotion that is conveyed in each poem. Lee's poetry is intensely personal, and he draws on his own experiences to create a sense of intimacy with the reader. In the poem "The Gift," for example, Lee writes about his father's gift of a hammer, which becomes a symbol of the love and sacrifice that his father has made for him. The language is simple and direct, but the emotion behind it is powerful and moving.

Another theme that runs through this collection is the idea of identity and belonging. Lee is a Chinese-American poet, and his poems often explore the tension between his Chinese heritage and his American identity. In "Eating Alone," for example, Lee writes about the experience of eating Chinese food alone in a restaurant, and the sense of isolation that comes with it. The poem is a poignant reflection on the difficulty of finding a sense of belonging in a culture that is not one's own.

The imagery in Lee's poetry is also striking. He often uses natural imagery to convey complex emotions and ideas. In "The Cleaving," for example, Lee writes about the experience of being separated from a loved one, using the image of a tree being split in two. The language is spare and evocative, and the image of the tree is a powerful metaphor for the pain of separation.

One of the most striking aspects of Lee's poetry is his use of language. He has a gift for creating images and metaphors that are both beautiful and profound. In "Persimmons," for example, Lee writes about the experience of trying to communicate with his father, using the image of a persimmon to convey the difficulty of translation. The language is rich and evocative, and the metaphor is both beautiful and deeply meaningful.

Overall, Poetry Visions And Interpretations is a powerful collection of poems that explores the human experience in a profound and moving way. Lee's poetry is intensely personal, and he draws on his own experiences to create a sense of intimacy with the reader. The themes of identity, belonging, and the complexity of human relationships are explored with a depth of emotion and insight that is rare in contemporary poetry. The imagery and language used in these poems are both beautiful and profound, and they leave a lasting impression on the reader. This collection is a must-read for anyone who loves poetry, and it is sure to be remembered as a classic of contemporary literature.

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