Dandarians
Milkweed Editions, 2014

 

Based on sources as diverse as Heian period female Japanese writers and the world of science fiction, and drawing on her own experience as a second-generation Japanese American, acclaimed poet Lee Ann Roripaugh’s fourth collection explores a series of “word betrayals”—English words misunderstood in transmission from her Japanese mother that came to take on symbolic ramifications in her early years. Co-opting and repurposing the language of knowledge and of misunderstanding, and dialoguing in original ways with notions of diaspora and hybrid identities, these poems demonstrate the many ways we attempt to be understood, culminating in an experience of aural awe. At once wonderfully lyrical and strikingly acute, Dandarians will further establish Lee Ann Roripaugh as one of the most important and original voices in contemporary Asian American literature.

 

 

On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year
Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, Southern Illinois University Press, 2009
Finalist, 2009 Publishing Triangle Audre Lorde Award

 

Lady Murasaki wrote in The Tale of Genji that thirty-seven is “a dangerous year” for women. Evoking the styles of Murasaki and other women writers of the Heian-period Japanese court, Lee Ann Roripaugh presents a collection of confessional poems charting the course of that perilous year. Roripaugh, in both an homage to and a dialogue with women writers of the past, explores the trials of women facing the treacherous waters of time while losing none of the grace and decadence of femininity. Often calling upon the passing of the seasons and revelations of nature, these lyrically elegant poems chronicle the dangers and delights of a range of issues facing contemporary women—from bisexuality and biracial culture and identity, to restless nights and lingering memories of the past. The pleasures of the senses collide with parallels of time and the natural world; tangible solitude lies down beside wistful memories of relationships gone by. What is ultimately revealed is both heartbreaking and illuminating. At once provocative, humorous, and bittersweet, On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year is a pillow book for the twenty-first century, providing a candid and whimsical look into the often tumultuous universe of the modern woman.

 

 

Year of the Snake

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, Southern Illinois University Press, 2004

Winner, 2004 Association of Asian American Studies Book Award

Finalist, 2004 Publishing Triangle Audre Lorde Award

 

In her second collection of poems, Lee Ann Roripaugh probes themes of mixed-race female identities, evoking the molting processes of snakes and insects who shed their skins and shells as an ongoing metaphor for transformation of self. Intertwining contemporary renditions of traditional Japanese myths and fairy tales with poems that explore the landscape of childhood and early adolescence, she blurs the boundaries between myth and memory, between real and imagined selves. This collection explores cultural, psychological, and physical liminalities and exposes the diasporic arc cast by first-generation Asian American mothers and their second-generation daughters, revealing a desire for metamorphosis of self through time, geography, culture, and myth.

Beyond Heart Mountain
Penguin Books, 1999
1998 National Poetry Series Selection
Finalist, 2000 Asian American Literary Awards

 

Lee Ann Roripaugh has been hailed by Ishmael Reed as "one of the brightest talents" writing poetry today. In this collection, she gives voice to the Japanese immigrants of the American West. In an unforgiving land of dirt and sagebrush, mothers labor to teach their children of the ocean, old men are displaced by geography and language, and the ghosts of Hiroshima clamor for peace. Lee Ann Roripaugh's exquisitely crafted poems rise from the pages of Beyond Heart Mountain burdened with memory and pain, yet converting these to powerful art—art that is like "the pattern of kimono found burned into a woman after Hiroshima . . . almost too beautiful, too horrible . . . to bear."