Poetry & Writing

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"Through Priscilla Lee's Wishbone, we enter a world both magical and harrowing, where the barracudas are melancholy and porcupines are kept as pets, a world in which a firing squad and America are a telegram apart. Seldom are we blessed with a first book as poignant and absorbing as this one is, as street-pure, as wise."

   — Carolyn Forché

"Priscilla Lee's wonderful Wishbone draws together cultures and varied experiences to form a mature wisdom. A sensuous intelligence of body and mind helps to unite the sacred and profane, and a tension is created in these poems that surprises and pleases. This young poet's words dance within her well controlled, provocative images—a distilled passion that takes little for granted in this imaginative, observed arena of chance and honed design. Wishbone is bold and tender, shaped out of classical mythologies and everyday life into an earned beauty we can trust."

   — Yusef Komunyakaa

"In Wishbone, Priscilla Lee mixes Kuan Yin and Christmas lights, shark fin dumplings and shots of tequila, the sound of mah jong tiles and slashing punk-rock guitar riffs.... Lee patrols the borders of experience with a keen eye and ear for the stories of those who, like Lee herself, perpetually cross back and forth between past and present, fortune and accident, dreams and waking life. It's our good luck that from her relentless attention she has fashioned these rich, involving poems."

   — Kim Addonizio

Her name, the poet tells us, means ancient wisdom, which she delivers with refreshing poise and maturity in Wishbone, her first volume of poetry.  A second generation Chinese American, Lee questions the limitations of writing only the "cross cultural experience." Nonetheless, she is proud of her heritage and her work reflects a blend of cultures and beliefs. Lee explores a spiritual world shaped by myth and magic and memory. Playful and sensuous, sardonic and bittersweet, her poems are a journey of self-discovery-reflections on sexuality, family, ethnicity. "I love the act of giving shape to desire, the inexplicable light that lets us look into the secrets of others," she says. Sometimes profane, sometimes profound, these poems provoke and enchant, always inhabited by a sense of Lee's revealing presence. 

   — Virginia Quarterly Review

"[B]racing energy and unsentimentality make WISHBONE... a rewarding ride. The book is worth buying just for "Peel," a riff on her Chinese and American names." It's a memoir of a girl trying to hold on to the part of herself that comes from her grandparents' Chinese culture while living out her desires and ambitions, healthy and not-so, as a young independent woman in San Francisco. The tension is palpable and exciting. For example, in "Offering," the poet wants to give her lover, "the rock and roll star in black high-tops" a statue of Kuan Yin. Her grandmother retorts, "Kuan Yin is not given as a gesture, even her name is holier/ than the ocean's thunder. Why do you give him this blessing? His nose/ is like a knife. He will have a short life, eating wind and/ coughing up bitterness."

In "Chinese Girl in the Mirror" she mocks her English teacher's praise of her "distinctly/ Asian voice" and tells off a friend who "asked me/ whether my family would consider/ going back to China/ if the Communists/ were overthrown . . . my grandfather came/ to build the railroads/ and what did his family ever do/ to make him feel/ more American than me."

   —San Francisco Chronicle Book Review