“Whorled,” by Ed Bok Lee

WhorledLoved these poems. I read them aloud and wished I could have had them read aloud to me.

In fact, I’ll remember this book when speech season comes–the right student could make several of these poems sing in the Serious Poetry category.

For the student with the right cocktail of courage and empathy, “If in America,” about Chai Vang, the hunter who shot 8 other hunters in Wisconsin in 2004. The MPR story about this event begins, “Wisconsin officials are trying to understand why a hunter opened fire on other hunters Sunday, killing six people and seriously wounding two.” This poem has that project and does understand, probably as well as anyone could.

For the student with an articulate voice, a heart out of time, and some Slam Enthusiasm, “Whorled,” a letter to the future about the languages that will have been lost by then and what else will get lost with them.

And possibly for a student with a myth-sized imagination and a compassionate eye for innocent, small-part victims in larger dramas, “Mnemonikos: A Foreigner’s Figment,” which retells a story of the Greek Poet Simonides. In Lee’s telling, he is cast out of King Sopas’s palace because his poem did not praise the king enough, which spares his life because the palace collapses that night. When he is called back to identify the dead guests for whom he had performed, he especially–and tenderly–remembers the face of a nameless serving girl.

I hope I get the chance to coach these to life. I hope you read them. They deserve to be heard.

(Read “If in America” here. Listen to Ed Bok Lee talk about and read “Whorled” here. And click here to buy buy Whorled.)

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