Swans, owls, and other urban birds soar through the poems in Iris Lee's first collection taking the reader along with them as she covers a broad range in her exploration of the interiors and exteriors of her much-loved New York City. From descriptions of city streets to the Atlantic shores, to a lazy morning in bed with a lover, Lee delves into distances both temporal and spatial, connections both erotic and familial, and moments that are both ecstatic and dreadful all the while sustaining a frank, intense, and lyrical voice—which kicks ass when needed.
Iris Lee's poems are sometimes fanciful—see "If You Knew Then..." or "My Next Duchess"—and their fancy is an object of perpetual interest. They are always imaginative, spare and balanced, and richly and precisely composed, and these things are objects of that peculiar joy we feel in encountering art that is justly conceived and perfectly executed.
Iris Lee's shining collection Urban Bird Life puts her in the ranks of walkers in the city from Walt Whitman to Charles Reznikoff. With elisions and repetitions, yet with a vision that shines a direct light on all in her view, Iris Lee makes the apparent detritus of everyday New York into images that glow with such intensity that the city itself becomes a poem. From a lost glove to a single hair, from stoops to tarps, from sidewalk book sales to subway cars, she embraces it all by singling it out. Lovers, enemies, terrorists, children, cats—each have their place in an Urban Bird Life that sings, and triumphs in each song.