When he was growing up, Lee’s minister father exhorted him to read the Bible incessantly, and Lee grew to love the book. From it, Exodus, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes remain his favorites, and in them one may see the seeds of Lee’s major poetic themes: immigration and identity formation, the coupling of sensual and spiritual love, and the attainment of wisdom through pain.
Not surprisingly, biblical echoes and Christian influences abound in Rose. Its first poem is entitled “Epistle,” an allusion to Saint Paul, and its last poem is “Visions and Interpretations,” a reference to mystical religious experiences necessitating exegesis.
At the center of Rose is the 274-line poem “Always a Rose.” Lee calls this core poem “my meditation.” This is more than a casual descriptor, for the poem has the structure of the meditative mystical experience that scholarly studies such as Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (1911) extrapolated through analyses of the spiritual experience of such mystics as Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Ignatius Loyola, Saint Teresa of Ávila, and Saint John of the Cross, among others. Underhill identifies the structure of a meditative mystical experience as passing through five stages: awakening, purgation, illumination, dark night of the soul, and union. Lee’s “Always a Rose”...
(The entire section is 511 words.)