The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Connotary by Ae Hee Lee

This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from Connotary by Ae Lee Hee, released by Bull City Press in 2021. 

Korea :: Things to Review Before Landing

My origin story:

My mother found me as a chestnut dangling from a tree.
When I fell onto her lap, she was eating
a copper pear with one hand, paging through
a book with the other. She carried out the burr
in the hollow of her arms; the spiny cupule made her bleed,
but she didn’t let go until I broke out from the shell.
Later, I sprouted needles anew, afraid
I was being nibbled away by the world.

My grandfather’s name:

I thought my grandfather’s name was Hal-abeoji,
only to find out it was the Korean word for grandfather.
He was the one who taught me and my sister to sail
a paper kite over a frozen river, to allow my index to flirt
with its mercurial tail.

An idiom:

When I was given a norigae to hang
under my first hanbok jacket, I foresaw
a pendulous love in my life. I alternated
between laughing and sobbing. Short horns
appeared on my back. From then on, a childlike
misfortune took the shape of a blank page
and muffled my steps in every new country I called
home. I didn’t want her at first, but eventually grew
fond of her, held her hand when she cried at night.

An road:

The one I took to school when I lived in Jang-yu
for that one year. I studied the occasional
bush of forsythias on the side
prodding yellow against an absolute autumn sky.

Born in South Korea, raised in Peru, Ae Hee Lee currently lives in the U.S. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks: Dear bear, (Platypus Press, 2021), Bedtime || Riverbed (Compound Press, 2017), and Connotary, which was selected as the winner for the 2021 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming at Poetry Magazine, Poetry Northwest, The Georgia Review, New England Review, and Southern Review, among others.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.


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