Saturday, May 31, 2008

Light, for Julia

In Seoul, I wrote a poem for Julia, a Korean adoptee from New York now living in Israel. Some of you know her---I have not met her in person, but I know through correspondence over the internet how incredibly strong she is in the face of a serious and life-threatening battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. We corresponded early in 2008, exchanging ideas about community, health, and adoption, and when I learned of her most recent battles, for some reason I was moved to write a poem. I finished it in time to read it last Saturday night at KoRoot in Seoul. The person taking care of Julia's blog has posted my poem, called "Light," and you can read it here.

I would like to thank Jane Jeong Trenka for her inspiration at the poetry reading about sending Julia the poem. For information about bone marrow donation, please visit To visit Julia's blog, please visit here. Julia, we are with you.

I am back in the United States now, adjusting to life here and missing Korea already. I miss the smells of the city, the friends I made, the food!, the sounds. I hope they will all simmer into and out of some new poems I'm working on.


On another Korea and poetry related note, I will be speaking in New York City on July 2, 2008 for The Korea Society. Details forthcoming.

* Update: horrible news: I am deeply saddened to hear that Julia Ji-Hye Mendelson passed away this morning, May 31, 2008, just days after her 25th birthday. Julia, may you rest in peace.


Sheri said...

Dear Lee,

I've heard and learned of you through Susan Schultz and Facebook, however, this was the first time I've had the pleasure to read one of your poems. "Light" the poem for Julia, is so genuine, heart felt and eloquent;
like her I imagine.
I am sorry for your loss.
My brother spent a great deal of time in Korea;
he too, recently died from Pancreatic Cancer.
(December 20, 2006)
I appreciate your words and mind.
Scott, my brother, graduated from Harvard in East Asian Literature and Poetry. He was a Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle at the time of his death. He was 38. Taken much too soon.
He was in the middle of translating several books of Poetry from Korean into English. Korea, the people, culture, history, politics and writings were his passion.
TinFish published a chapbook of poetry, by the brilliant Hwang J-Woo: Someday I'll Be Sitting In a Dingy Bar, that Scott co-translated. He didn't live long enough to see it published, but the hope of knowing he was involved in something so incredible pleased him, and often gave him the energy to fight and rage against this ill mannered disease.

I wish you well; comfort and peace,
as I look forward to reading more of your writings.


Sheri Swaner

Anonymous said...

"light" was simply amazing.....beautiful. so full of thought and love.


Lee Herrick said...


Thank you for your kind words and for introducing me to Scott's work. I am so sorry about his passing; it sounds like he lived a full life and contributed much to the world and to his passions for Korean culture and literature. I will be sure to get a copy of the chapbook. Susan is wonderful, isn't she?

Thanks for your kind words in this difficult time. Julia was only 25.

Lee Herrick said...

thank you, jeni, very much.

Anonymous said...

Your poem was so beautiful and timely. I am so glad Julia was able to read it before she passed away. Your work has the ability to help heal a community, Lee.

emily said...

light, it is powerful, beautiful isn't it? Julia would have been a kindred spirit. Lee what a gift you have given to so many who are temporarily without words. You have given voice to loss, love,and hope. And for that, I am thankful and believe, perhaps a little bit more, that there's something more beyond this.