An Interview with Y.S. Lee

Y.S. LEE is an emerging poet and her work appears/is forthcoming in Rattle, The Literary Review of Canada, EVENT, Arc Poetry, The Australian Book Review, and other journals. A lyric essay, Tek tek, was shortlisted for the 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize, and her fiction includes the critically acclaimed YA mystery series The Agency (Candlewick Press). She lives in a place we’re learning to call Katarokwi. 

You can read So dark in the April 2023 issue.

Why was the poetic form the best fit for this particular piece of work?

The refrain “So dark” came first – or, rather, it has always been with me, as something I heard regularly from visiting relatives/family friends while growing up. I knew this work had to be a poem because those words are a song, a malediction, a kind of haunting. I needed the compression of poetry in order to navigate my shifting responses to the words, and their consequences.

Have you ever received advice (or has there been something you’ve learned on your own) about writing or revising poems that has made you a better poet? What was it? 

My mentor, Sachiko Murakami, has given me so much to consider. Because I came to poetry from fiction, one of her first questions to me was, “How do you know when something must be a poem (as opposed to an essay, short story, etc)?” She taught me to think about form in free verse – something I found very challenging but have really come to appreciate.

Do you belong to a writer’s group? If not, where do you find poetry community and feedback? 

I do! I began to write poems almost by accident, when I joined a dynamic, big-hearted, sharp-minded group of poets. They were such amazing people that I wanted to be more like them, and thinking more attentively about poetry was one way to do that. My writing group inspires, nurtures, and gives constructive feedback – everyone should be so lucky. 

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