Friday, February 01, 2008

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs and Li-Young Lee at AAWW

A friend attending the AWP Conference in NYC asked me to join her at the Asian American Writers' Workshop last night to hear the two readers. The room was crowded with women. Two white women sitting in front of me hung on every word Lee said, nudging each other when he made a gesture, or smiling at each other when he said something especially wise or self-deprecating. During the short Q&A, a woman, East Asian, asked Lee a barrage of questions that showed a devoted knowledge of his books. One of her questions was about an angry poem in his new book, an emotion new to his work. When Lee explained he hesitated writing in anger because he did not wish to arouse that emotion in the reader, the woman said that reading the poem only made her feel stronger. Another woman, short-haired, boyish-butch-looking, asked Lee how fatherhood has affected his writing. My friend, who noticed all this with wry amusement, confessed to me once we reached home that she found Lee very sexy too. She said it's his hair, slicked back and wet-looking, as if he had just stepped out of the shower. It's also his slightly stooped stature, buffeted by his family tragedies, and yet possessing of such strength. How could Jennifer Kwon Dobbs compete? She is stunningly beautiful, but the men in the room that night were happy to let the women do all the talking.

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