The Only Worlds We Know


Michael Lee, 2019.


Michael Lee’s The Only Worlds We Know is a staggering debut that grapples with sobriety and survival.

Lee paints a nuanced and tactile portrait of  addiction, and an unflinching look at the life that is built in recovery. Having suffered unspeakable grief, these poems are patient meditations on loss and the land where the people we love have not only lived, but are also buried.

The Only Worlds We Know is constantly looking for the “words that carry us into the dark and then beyond it.” Lee’s work carries readers, beyond personal demons, beyond life, death, and grief, tenderly, patiently pulling us through The Only Worlds We Know. 

An award winning short film of Michael Lee’s poem “Pass On” helped to break stereotypes about poetry and pave the way for thousands of poets to broadcast their work in video as well as in print.

Praise for The Only Worlds We Know

The Only Worlds We Know is, as Michael Lee writes, an “act of remembering like sharpening a blade until the blade is gone.” Memory is shaped with a resolve that is without resolution in these moving marvelous poems.

– Terrance Hayes, National Book Award Winner, Lighthead

Michael Lee has found newly slanted and richly tinged ways to write about some of the crucial subjects – love and love lost, recovery and addiction, the bullet and the pill.
– Billy Collins, author of Sailing Alone Around the Room

These are not easy poems, and Lee offers no easy solutions . . . Yes, there’s wreckage here, but also “words that carry us into the dark and then beyond it.” Indeed, these words will carry you. This is a striking debut collection – a voice that feels urgent, honest, and earned.

– Matthew Olzmann, author of Mezzanines</em>

About Michael Lee

Michael Lee is a Norwegian-American writer, youth worker, and organizer. He has received grants and scholarships from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the LOFT Literary Center, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Winner of the Scotti Merrill Award… MORE

Additional information

Weight4.7 oz
Dimensions8.5 × 5.5 × .313 in

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Page Count

104 pages

Publication Date

August 13, 2019



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