The Poetry of Li-Young Lee

“Mother Deluxe” from Li Young Lee’s Behind My Eyes: Using a Card Game Metaphor to Come to Terms with Life Experience College

Famous Romantic era poet Percy Shelley once noted that “a poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds”. In his 2008 poetry anthology Behind My Eyes, IndoChinese-American author Li Young Lee sings thirty nine different poems talking about themes ranging from the metaphorical merit of an apple to the role religion played throughout various stages of his life. One of these themes focused on life experience with civil conflict and ultimately being a refugee and finding asylum in the United States. One such poem is “Mother Deluxe”, in which Lee writes twelve stanzas that grapple with the events that make up his life experience. At face value, this poem appears to be about Lee and his mother playing a card game called “Memories from the 20th Century”, but, upon closer examination, the card game and its elements appear to reveal a deeper meaning.

In this poem, Lee uses the metaphor of life being like a card game to come to terms with significant events in his life. Accompanying his extended metaphor is a consistent air of satire, with him satirizing his life. This begins with the title where Lee alludes to the fact that he is playing the “deluxe edition” of the game, jabbing at...

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