Photo credit
Scott Adamson

Biography

Y S Lee is an emerging poet. Her work has been shortlisted for Australia’s 2021 Peter Porter Poetry Prize, longlisted for the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize, and a finalist for the 2022 Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize. Her poems also appear/are forthcoming in EVENT, Rattle, Room, The Literary Review of Canada, The Australian Book Review, The Malahat Review, and Arc Poetry. She’s at work on a first collection that explores the effects of colonialism, the Second World War, immigration, and language, on her extended family. Ying is also the author of The Agency (Candlewick Press), an award-winning young adult mystery tetralogy about a women's detective agency in Victorian London.

Micro-interview

Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?

I adored the metaphysical poets - John Donne, Andrew Marvell. In reading them, I realized that smart, prickly, playful people hadn't changed much over hundreds of years. It was simultaneously reassuring and alarming.

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?

I started writing poetry in 2020, during lockdown. I've been thinking about language and culture for much longer than that – my first novel was published in 2009 - but for some reason, poetry always seemed much more intimidating. I thought of it as something that only extremely serious people did, and didn’t think I had anything to say from up on a pedestal. Then I joined a remarkable writing group and, every single week, the poets in it cracked open my heart and boggled my mind and showed me how wrong I was. It was utterly humbling and inspirational. I was lucky to have my writing group tell me, "You're a poet! Submit your work to journals!" and I believed them. But just the other day, a bookstore clerk asked me, "Are you a poet?" and I fumbled the answer. Maybe one day I'll stop being ambivalent.

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?

Keep listening, keep observing, keep feeling. But really, ideally, this is every artist's - and every person’s - job. It's how we connect with other humans.

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?

WB Yeats's "The Lake Isle of Innisfree", because of its gorgeous music, and also for how lightly and casually he uses repetition and rhyme. And so I can say "bee-loud glade" over and over again.

Publications

Poem title(s)
Would You Rather
Title
Australian Book Review
Publisher
Australian Book Review
Editors
Peter Rose
Date
2021
Publication type
Periodical/Magazine
Poem title(s)
Dyad
Title
Malahat Review
Publisher
University of Victoria
Editors
Iain Higgins
Date
2021
Publication type
Periodical/Magazine
Poem title(s)
Rebuke the Ghosts
Title
Rattle
Publisher
Rattle Foundation
Editors
Timothy Green
Date
2023
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