Poet Ed Bok Lee ends Great River Reading Series


Ed Bok Lee speaks to the public as part of the Great River Reading series.  Bartholome Rondet/Winonan
Ed Bok Lee speaks to the public as part of the Great River Reading series.
Bartholome Rondet/Winonan

Abby Peschges
Poet Ed Bok Lee performed poetry from his books “Whorled” and “Real Karaoke People” as part of the Great River Reading Series last Tuesday at Winona State University.

Lee has a Master’s in Fine Arts from Brown University and is a part-time teacher at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis, Minn.

He visited English professor James Armstrong’s advanced poetry class for a discussion where students and community members asked questions and exchanged their own poetry with him.

Senior English writing major Kate Barrett said, “Lee’s poetry is hard to not read aloud. It in itself is striking.”
Lee’s background includes Korean and Russian studies and spoken word.

“His way of speaking is dynamic. He performs his poetry” Barrett said.

Tuesday night’s reading began with a poem entitled “Thrown.” Lee said, “This is my answer to the question, why or how did you get into poetry.” Lee recited the poem in a spoken word fashion.

“When writing poetry, for me it is more important to get into a state of mind. Let the windows open and wait for that bird to fly in,” Lee told Armstrong’s class about where he gets his inspiration for his work.

Lee also told the class he believes that “silence is the backdrop and you’re carving it.” He said it’s important to think of a poem like a musical score.

A fiction writer and a playwright, Lee applies soliloquys, monologues, direct addresses and other dramatic literary functions to his poetry to add to its depth.

Lee also works with prisoners creating poetry. “I’m amazed at what they can write. Art seeps out of people’s flaws, not their perfections,” he said.

Lee incorporates many different cultures and languages into his poem, focusing on things such as onomatopoeia in each language.

Barrett said, “Poetry is a way to explore the world through words. You can use anything as a poetic subject, from death of a loved one to the scum on top of a puddle.”

“Whorled” is the 2012 American Book Award Winner, the 2012 Minnesota Book Award Winner and the 2012 National Bestseller in Poetry.

Lee’s reading was the last event of the Great River Reading Series for spring 2013.

Contact Abby at [email protected]