The Shadow List

The Shadow List

Jen Sookfong Lee
  • $18.00

APRIL 2021
96 Pages | ISBN 978-1-989496-28-2

In these devastating lyric poems Jen Sookfong Lee unfolds the experience of her narrator, following her through frost-chilled nights and salt-scented days, as she pulls at the knot of accumulated expectations around her trying to create space to want and to be. The Shadow List is a book filled with desire, where we question the politics of who gets to choose and who doesn't and where the narrator creates hidden lists of what she really wants. With a novelist's way with character, Lee builds a deep connection with the narrator of the poems, yet each individual poem creates a vivid snapshot of moments many will recognize. The slick of black ice, the killing light of day, the cheap, plastic diamonds – they are all pieces of a life we gather and put in our pockets to remember with.

Reviews | Interviews | Articles | About the Author

Advance Praise

“Over the past century, literature has been rewarded by poets – from Sylvia Plath to Ocean Vuong – writing novels. But what happens when a novelist writes a debut poetry collection? 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 is a cumulative narrative-voice-driven anticipation and uncertainty that propels the collection. Akin to fiction, the reader is compelled to make an emotional investment. Jen Sookfong Lee reminds us that meaningful, meticulously crafted examinations of discomfort offer rewards in any genre.” – Amber Dawn, author of My Art is Killing Me and other Poems

“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, author of The Best Kind of People

“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, author of 100 Days

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, aging and – unforgettably – miraculous. Lee writes with searing intimacy and gripping urgency, striving always to capture the ever-fleeting now.” – Gillian Sze, author of Panicle


Jérôme Melançon : The Shadow List, by Jen Sookfong Lee (Jérôme Melançon, periodicities, 03/02/2023)
"The Shadow List is very much what it has to be: its length gives us a sense of plenty, but no bounty, only satisfaction. There’s pain, but no exposure, no room to stand as a voyeur. And the more I read these poems, the more riveting they become – what a feat it is to make non-narrative poems so riveting, so revealing of what we keep to ourselves."

Poetry Review (Carolyn Nakagawa, Event: Poetry and Prose, 01/10/2021)
"Lee [has] harnessed recognizable conceits of dreaming to create poetic works that expand [her] readers' waking consciousnesses past everyday barriers of self, memory and convention."

Anthology of women's poetry a feast for the senses (Johnathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press, 31/07/2021)
"Lee is better known as a novelist, and the poems here have a strong sense of vignette, compressed scenes playing out with startling dramatic force. They don’t shy from viciousness or void, offering darkly glimmering gems, like "A—holes and sociopaths, frozen in the sea."

Jen Sookfong Lee, The Shadow List (rob mclennan, rob mclennan's blog, 18/06/2021)
"This is a compelling collection, one that explores realms so often presented as unseemly or unfitting of contemplation, let alone as the property of exploration through poetry."

USEREVIEW 038: Watch the Left Hand (Leah Bobet, Carousel Magazine, 16/06/2021)
"Through its obfuscations, its struggles with duality and its brittle vinyl armour, The Shadow List sets up and then wears away readerly assumptions about sex, grief and worth."

Book review: The Shadow List by Jen Sookfong Lee is vividly, gorgeously alive (Michelle Cyca, Vancouver Sun, 28/04/2021)
"Lee’s poetry is not pretty – it’s mascara-smudged and red-eyed, anxious and prickly. But it is also vividly, gorgeously alive."

Jen Sookfong Lee expands her repertoire with The Shadow List book of poems (Charlie Smith, The Georgia Straight, 21/04/2021)
The Shadow List is a compulsively readable collection of poems touching on everything from moth infestations to former lovers, and from text etiquette to a common lie told by writers . . . 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.”

The Shadow List (Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire, April 2021)
"The poems in The Shadow List are tightly concentrated narratives that dissect their subjects with an almost surgical precision."

The Shadow List by Jen Sookfong Lee (Chris Banks, The Miramichi Reader, 26/02/2021)
"These poems burn deep into your sinews so they become part of you. They go where you go. Now read this book!"

1037 Lee’s listopian reading (Michael Turner, The Ormsby Review, 19/02/2021)
"The interiority informing The Shadow List is mediated correctly and rhythmically using the grammatical rules of standard English and is thus therapeutically dealt with and presented as information – ironed, folded and neatly shelved."


Book Therapy: Favourites from my favourites (Stacey May Fowles, Open Book, 20/12/2021)
Stacey May Fowles asks Jen about which books moved her in 2021.

Episode 23: Jen Sookfong Lee (Makda Mulatu, Glass Bookshop Podcast, 16/07/2021)
Jen Sookfong Lee and host Makda Mulatu talk about literary risk-taking, navigating writing (and life) as racialized women, Jen’s complicated but loving relationship with Vancouver, and so much more.

Jen Sookfong Lee's poetry collection The Shadow List is an honest and intimate look at agency and desire (Shelagh Rogers, The Next Chapter, 21/05/2021)
Jen talks to Shelagh Rogers about her collection.

094 - Can't Lit - Dina Interviews Jen (Dina Del Bucchia, Can't Lit, 26/04/2021)
Dina Del Bucchia interviews Jen Sookfong Lee about her new poetry book The Shadow List.

Poetry Express: Jen Sookfong Lee + The Shadow List (Jen Sookfong Lee, All Lit Up, 22/04/2021)
Jen talks to All Lit Up about her collection of devastating lyric poems about desire where we're asked to question the politics of who gets to choose and who doesn't.

"I Continued To Write It Anyway" Jen Sookfong Lee Shares Her Best Advice, Memories, & Tips from Her Iconic Writing and Publishing Journey (Jen Sookfong Lee, Open Book, 19/04/2021)
Find out Jen Sookfong Lee's publishing experience and advice through this engaging interview with Open Book.

Rob Taylor interviews Jen Sookfong Lee (Rob Taylor, Canadian Notes & Queries, April 2021)
Rob Taylor interviews Jen Sookfong Lee about her collection The Shadow List.

Jen Sookfong Lee shifts genres 
and gets personal for her debut poetry collection (Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire, April 2021)
“Novels take up so much headspace; there’s so much to consider in a novel. I just wanted to write things for myself.”


Voices Carry: Poetry & Voice (Chris Banks, 49th Shelf, 26/10/2023)
Jen's poetry is included in this recommended reading list by Chris Banks.

Asian Heritage Month: Poetry Edition (All Lit Up25-May-22)
Jen's collection makes this round-up of poetry to read for Asian Heritage month.

The CBC Books spring reading list: 32 great Canadian titles to read in spring 2021 (CBC Books, 21/05/2021)
Jen's collection makes this great round-up!

My Drifter Reading List (Jen Sookfong Lee, 49th Shelf, 06/05/2021)

Jen Sookfong Lee shares her "drifter reading list" of poetry.

32 Books for Asian Heritage Month (All Lit Up, 01/05/2021)
Jen's collection is featured in this round-up of books to read for Asian Heritage Month.

Jael Richardson’s book pick: The Shadow List by Jen Sookfong Lee (Jael Richardson, q with Tom Power, 07/04/2021)
In celebration of National Poetry Month, CBC's books columnist Jael Richardson fills us in on Jen Sookfong Lee's debut poetry collection, The Shadow List.

Jen Sookfong Lee’s New Poetry Forges Its Own Path (Dorothy Woodend, The Tyee, 06/04/2021)
"What we see is important, but more important is how we see, especially in poems," says the Vancouver author.

55 Canadian poetry collections to check out in spring 2021 (CBC Books, 31/03/2021)
Jen's poetry makes the CBC's list of poetry collections to check out in spring 2021.

2021 Spring Preview: Fiction (Quill & Quire, 11/01/2021)
Jen's collection is mentioned in Quill & Quire's Spring Preview


Read an excerpt from The Shadow List.

About the Author

Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, nominated for International Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The End of EastGentlemen of the Shade, and Chinese New Year. Jen teaches at The Writers’ Studio Online with Simon Fraser University, edits fiction for Wolsak & Wynn, and co-hosts the literary podcast, Can’t Lit.

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