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,
can’t get past the syntax of this incident
that shaped his
adolescence, the white man’s grammar
cinching his words
the way his down-heeled cowboy boots
once pinched his toes.
Lee is the author of two previous books of poetry: Doggerel & Caterwauls: Poems Inspired by Cats & Dogs and, with his wife Alice Lee, Twenty Poems From the Blue House. He is at work on a memoir called “Man in the Moonies: My Three Years in the Unification Church.” Lee reads from The Underside of Light (Aldrich Press) at Teatro Paraguas Studio (3205 Calle Marie, 505-424-1601) on Sunday, Dec. 1, at 5 p.m. The event also features music by flutist Windy Dankoff and classical guitarist Yves C. Lucero.