The Sky Isn’t Blue by Janice Lee

In every manner of framing, there is a house.

There is a door one must enter through, a door one must shut behind herself in order to leave.

In every manner of space, there is an intimate and crucial rivalry between open and close, between time and memory, between myself and yourself. The further we walk together, the further we walk in parallel, that distance between us that wavers, minuscule on some days, and incredibly vast on others, but always and certainly there, that distance persists.

The entire sky between us. The entire sky between us.

In this collection of essays, some originally published as part of “The Poetics of Spaces” series on Entropy, Lee bends the essay form in order to better explore the spaces that we occupy, the spaces that embody the physicality of our settings, and the measure with which we, as individuals, use these surfaces to echo out our every emotion.

These spaces are more than the homes we occupy, the streets we navigate, or the sky that we so often ignore: these spaces are a manner of framing. “There is an intimate and crucial rivalry between open and close, between time and memory, between myself and yourself.” Lee’s words echo across the page, resonating in full: “The entire sky between us,” and it is in these spaces that we see the reality of ourselves.

Janice Lee has achieved in not only chronicling the various intimacies of our surroundings but also an original essayist structure that creates its very own unique space wherein poetry and prose, statement and suggestion, quote and curiosity, all become unanimously tools for the exploration.

“To read Janice Lee’s new book, The Sky Isn’t Blue, is to remember. Not major events or turning points in life, even though she is writing after a huge one in her life, but remembering moments, textures, sounds, pauses. The air that touched my skin once as I walked home. The sound of dust touching glass. How there was blue once above me when I looked up. It makes me remember that my life is about spaces—of things as large as the sky that envelopes me and of the more intimate, like the space that is my body. The book disappeared as it became each second ticking away in my life, reminding me that I will not be able to save it nor will I ever be able to forget. ” –Chiwan Choi, author of Abductions


“Sensual, intellectual, bold enough to extend Bachelard’s seminal Poetics of Space and prod Nelson’s exquisite Bluets, Janice Lee’s The Sky Isn’t Blue is a series of ‘dialogues with the dead.’ These disconcerted essays observe our overrun absences—the monumental bleakness of the American West, the desert of the empty bed. Still, Lee’s frequently audacious declarations accompany a mournful narrative of loneliness. The ‘you’ Lee addresses throughout often seems the author’s lover, gone, and thus us—not with Lee, but with her collection of lustrous melancholy, an elegy for her mother and for the rest of us, who will fall to hard weather. For now, Lee’s built a space of “brightly lit darkness” in which we can all gather, alone together.”—Douglas Kearney, author of Patter


“In Janice Lee’s The Sky Isn’t Blue, her thoughtfully interrogative and raw turn towards intimacies elegantly weaves body, environment, and intellect together into a sensually theorized re-encounter. The attentive instance blooms into spiritual incantation. Gaston Bachelard, a phenomenologist of the imagination, becomes her Beatrice through this labyrinth of perception and insight. Through it all, Lee achingly demonstrates our shared human dilemma: of how we endure past tribulation, confusion, and despair. Her solution is to dwell in the dark blue ache of it, where she astoundingly discovers immense beauty. Lee’s meditative aphorisms diffuse a deeply atmospheric wisdom into us, like ‘the wound of expectation.’ And though it’s painfully true that ‘an inhabitation becomes an unlived one,’ Lee demonstrates that the proper reaction might best be to ruminate, to return, and to be transformed in that return… accomplishing a sensitivity and insight that magnifies. Isn’t that a central premise of our humanity?” –Sueyeun Juliette Lee, author of Solar Maximum


“Janice Lee is a poet’s poet, a writer’s writer, a griever’s griever, a human’s human. The Sky Isn’t Blue is a phenomenal work for a reader’s reader—demanding us to be awake in this world.”
–Ali Liebegott, author of Cha-Ching!

janiceJanice Lee (she/her) is a Korean-American writer, editor, teacher, and shamanic healer. She is the author of 7 books of fiction, creative nonfiction & poetry: KEROTAKIS (Dog Horn Press, 2010), Daughter (Jaded Ibis, 2011), Damnation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013), Reconsolidation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2015), The Sky Isn’t Blue (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016), Imagine a Death (Texas Review Press, 2021), and Separation Anxiety (CLASH Books, 2022). A roundtable, unanimous dreamers chime in, a collaborative novel co-authored with Brenda Iijima, is also forthcoming in 2022 from Meekling Press. An essay (co-authored with Jared Woodland) is featured in the recently released 4K restoration of Sátántangó (dir. Béla Tarr) from Arbelos Films. She writes about interspecies communication, plants & personhood, the filmic long take, slowness, the apocalypse, architectural spaces, inherited trauma, and the Korean concept, and asks the question, how do we hold space open while maintaining intimacy? Incorporating shamanic and energetic healing, she teaches workshops on inherited trauma, healing, and writing, and practices in several lineages, including the Q’ero, Buddhism, plant & animal medicine, and Korean shamanic ritual (Muism). She is Founder & Executive Editor of Entropy, Co-Publisher at Civil Coping Mechanisms, and Co-Founder of The Accomplices LLC. She currently lives in Portland, OR where she is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Portland State University. She can be found online at and Twitter/Instagram: @diddioz.