Wednesday, January 18, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Sueyeun Juliette Lee

Sueyeun Juliette Lee's book Solar Maximum came out in December, 2015, and was a nominee for an Elgin Award for Book of the Year from the Science Fiction Poetry Association. It's been my pleasure to know her since at least 2013, and to see how her poetry has continued to grow and challenge all of us.

She grew up three miles from the CIA. She edits Corollary Press, a chapbook series devoted to multi- ethnic innovative writing, and writes poetry reviews for The Constant Critic. Her books include That Gorgeous Feeling (Coconut Press, 2008) and Underground National (Factory School) as well as numerous chapbooks.

Brenda Iijima noted that a "vivid life force surges through That Gorgeous Feeling asserting and affirming the bounty of social complexity in electrified fields of discourse, lived engagement and cultural consciousness. This is tremendously rich language. Acting as lightning rods these poems feed energy along pathways of courageous, dissonant ethical charges. Sueyuen Juliette Lee unsettles illusions, pushes at questionable foregrounding elements, swerves, permeates and injects syntax with intensified feeling. Her words have agency. These poems are full of finesse, radiance and are unsettlingly real."

Underground National was her second book-length collection, tackling the topics of suicide, K-pop, tourism, and atomic explosions. Her premise was that these have emerged as expressions of forces upholding untenable national imaginations. She invited readers to go underground with her and "enter into a subterranean consideration of how History collides with human memory to generate new, unseen currents for being." It was an ambitious text that will hopefully find many readers over time.

A Pew Fellow in the Arts for Literature, she has held residencies for poetry and video art at Kunstnarhuset Messen (Norway), Hafnarborg (Iceland), and UCross Foundation in Wyoming.

In discussing Solar Maximum, Douglas Kearney asked, "Is it a reckoning of human success or error that the cannibalistic clouds over Lee’s blanched landscapes are full of weather and information? That they break themselves down as a body and communications must? Why poetry otherwise? These are stunning poems written to haunt a house we’re in the process of building or, in another light, gently dismantling."  I think it's an apt description of her text. I'm looking forward to what's next in store for her on her poetic journey.

In the meantime, you can visit her online at

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