Introduction & Overview of The Weight of Sweetness by Li-Young Lee

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The Weight of Sweetness Summary & Study Guide Description

The Weight of Sweetness Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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"The Weight of Sweetness" is the fourth poem in Li-Young Lee's first collection of poems, Rose. It follows his most-anthologized poem in the collection, "Persimmons," which, like "The Weight of Sweetness," uses fruit as a central metaphor for exploring the poet's relationship to his past. In "The Weight of Sweetness." Lee takes twenty-nine lines to meditate on the relationship between memory and loss, mourning his dead father while remembering his father's tenderness.

Many of Lee's poems are about his father, Richard K. Y. Lee, a highly accomplished man who was personal physician to the Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung before he emigrated to Indonesia to found a college. An intellectual and a deeply religious man, Richard Lee had a profound impact on his son's life, an impact that the younger Lee continues to grapple with in his poetry. "Sweetness" is used in this poem as a metaphor which encompasses "song, wisdom, sadness, and joy," and Lee suggests that loss necessarily has to include some measure of all of these.

The poem begins in the abstract, then becomes gradually more concrete as Lee develops his metaphor of sweetness, using peaches as the vehicle for his comparison. He then moves on to a childhood anecdote in which he and his father lug bags of peaches through the wind and rain. The final image is one of separation of father and son, which echoes Lee's present tense exploration of loss and memory. In searching for the meaning of sweetness, Lee is also searching for a clearer sense of his own identity in relation to his father. This search is developed in many other poems in Rose, in particular "Mneomic" and "Eating Together." "The Weight of Sweetness" itself is rarely mentioned in reviews or criticism of Lee's poetry.

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Poetry for Students
The Weight of Sweetness from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.