There are countless ways to talk about poetry — what it looks like or sounds like; what it’s for — but all that really matters is whether or not you want to read it. What a writer meant to say is less important than how you receive the meaning, but when a poet is able to meld lilting, resonant language with graspable ideas, reading poetry is less like reading a story and more like a symbiosis or even friendship between writer and reader. In The Underside of Light, Pasatiempo contributor Wayne Lee tackles disease, faith, family history, and Virginia Woolf, among other inspirations, in tightly calibrated poems that wring use out of language like water from a sponge. Lee doesn’t stick to one style, yet his voice and tone remain consistent, whether the poem is dealing with his friend’s death from cancer or taking a walk through a museum. He moves easily between narrative and more conceptual structures, nearly always grounded in the immediacy of image. In “Thirst,” he toys with the tension between academic knowledge of writing and lived experience:
He’s learned the terms for image, symbol,
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