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Chinese Poetry

A winged seed - like those that fall out of a shaken pine cone - travels a certain distance from the tree that formed it, carried on whatever winds choose to blow on the day that it is ripe. And then it falls to start its own life a short distance off from its parent tree, but not too far. Indeed, in nature a winged seed often travels not quite far enough so that its own growth is stunted by the shade of its parent. This idea - that those who give us life can also be responsible for stunting our growth, for twisting our development in directions that are to no one's benefit - is the central metaphor of The Winged Seed, Chinese-American poet Li-Young Lee's work that is part poetical autobiography, part novel, part prosody but always poetic. Lee has chosen his metaphor, his literary conceit, wisely. For he, liked any winged seed, is both grateful to the parents who have given him life and yet wistful that he did not have the chance to fly a little further away so that his own growth might be a little more independent, a little less encumbered by the shadow of the past.

On the most surface level of the book, Lee has written the story of his own family. The family fled its home and the state of political oppression in Mainland China during the 1950s. However, in their new homeland of Indonesia they would encounter oppression just as severe: Lee writes with both passion and an appreciation of the irony involved how Sukarno's government, whom the family had turn to for a respite from the insularity that they had faced in China was imprisoned Lee's father. These experiences, the dual repression regimes that they had experienced first in China and then in Indonesia, marked both Lee and his family. Even when they find more tolerant homes, first in Japan and then in Pennsylvania - where Lee's father finds his calling as a minister - Lee paints a portrait of a family that will never truly be home again.

The story of a homecoming is one of...

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Chinese Poetry. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:33, May 19, 2019, from