The Poetry of Timothy Liu

Timothy Liu
Timothy Liu

April 2007

Timothy Liu was born in San Jose, California, in 1965, to Chinese parents, and served a Mormon mission in Hong Kong from 1984 to 1986. As a student at Brigham Young University, Liu began to publish his poetry and received important awards. He later attended the University of Houston, where he obtained a PhD in creative writing.

Liu is a gay man, a renowned poet, and the author of many books of poetry. He currently teaches at William Patterson University in New Jersey.

Despite the fact that Liu no longer practices the Mormon religion, authors such as Bryan Waterman have noticed Mormon themes in Liu’s poetry. Liu says that his Asianness, his Mormon roots, and his homosexuality are all part of his identity, but only a part of it.

Liu also says that ancient Chinese writers have influenced his work. “The great masters like Li Po and Tu Fu make me feel totally inadequate as I write,” Liu once told a reporter. “They also make me feel proud of my Chinese heritage.”

Here’s a beautiful poem by Timothy Liu that shows how he uses Christian and Mormon themes:

The Tree that Knowledge Is

I do not want to die. Not for love.
Nor a vision of that tree I cannot
recollect, shining in the darkness
with cherubim and a flaming sword.
All my life that still small voice
of God coiled up inside my body.
The lopped-off branch that guilt is
is not death. Nor life. But the lust
that flowers at the end of it.

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