The Shadow List

From acclaimed novelist Jen Sookfong Lee comes The Shadow List, a debut collection of fierce, honest, and deeply visceral poems about the secrets we all keep, the brittle masks we build, and the undeniability of our real selves. Using the intimate to illuminate the political, as well as language to give breath to the emotional, The Shadow List follows the voice of one woman as she pulls at the knot of accumulated expectations and how they have been shaped by her relationships, the patriarchy, and the crushing weight of respectability. Nothing and no one is spared. From our ancestors to lovers to children, Jen Sookfong Lee writes into the gendered and racialized schemata we have all unwittingly followed, and pulls them apart with the force of desires, once hidden but now emerging, mad for air.

Buckrider Books, April 2021

“Jen Sookfong Lee writes poems about hearts breaking and lives mending. These are the poetics of living in relation, in relationship and as kin. The Shadow List is poetry to “wish the old hurts away” and conjure the present for us who live and love between rays of light.” Otoniya J. Okot Bitek

“Jen Sookfong Lee’s debut poetry collection is vivid and sophisticated, a whirlwind of tender, anxious lines, and a balm for any broken-hearted reader. Whether her subject is moth murder, Harry Styles, parenthood, or the man who “never yelled/as if that makes a difference,” The Shadow List is an addictive read from start to finish.” Zoe Whittall

“The Shadow List reveals a precise, and markedly painful, narrative tension that is frequently attributed to fiction. Jen Sookfong Lee demonstrates all the attentiveness to language and image that poetry lovers look for, and, looking at The Shadow List as a whole, there’s a cumulative narrative voice-driven anticipation and uncertainty that propels the collection. Lee reminds us that meaningful, meticulously-crafted examinations of discomfort offer rewards in any genre.” Amber Dawn

The Shadow List confronts the complex archives of the body, reminding us of our own impermanence. In lyrical poetry of exquisite and generous vulnerability, Jen Sookfong Lee defiantly bares the body in its many forms: animalistic, desiring, shunned, survived, urban, maternal, ageing, and—unforgettably—miraculous. Lee writes with searing intimacy and gripping urgency, striving always to capture the ever-fleeting now.” Gillian Sze

“Desire runs like an underground river through Jen Sookfong Lee’s The Shadow List. The narrator says at one point ‘I bruise easily’, but it is us who come away from this poetry collection with the bruise of knowing, the mark of understanding that life is made of hard choices and even more difficult feelings, and we do not get everything we want, but it is enough if we wish it to be. These poems burn deep into your sinews.” Chris Banks, The Miramichi Reader

The Shadow List is not a meandering, safe escape filled with alliterative, rhyming passages that leave the reader wondering what the poet is trying to convey. Rather, there’s an urgency to this text. It’s direct, detailed, and courageous. And it delivers rich, contemporary tales through vignettes in the narrator’s life.” Charlie Smith, The Georgia Straight

“Jen Sookfong Lee’s debut poetry collection is a searing excavation of desire. ‘The pretty poems are dead inside,’ writes Lee in the introduction to her debut collection of poetry, which demonstrates over and over the truth of this statement. Lee’s poetry is not pretty — it’s mascara-smudged and red-eyed, anxious and prickly. But it is also vividly, gorgeously alive.” Michelle Cyca, The Vancouver Sun