The Lost Notebook of Zhao Li by J. R. Solonche


When J.R. Solonche published The Five Notebooks of Zhao Li in November of 2021, Kirkus Reviews called it an “intriguing set of philosophical poems…a novel in verse [that] offers a glimpse into the most personal thoughts of a creative thinker.” Filled with more of the wise, witty, profound, silly, thoughtful, thoughtless, koan-like musings, The Lost Notebook of Zhao Li can be considered the sixth and final chapter in the tale of this 75-year-old poet/philosopher, who if asked which one he is, would answer: “Both, but not at the same time.”


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 74
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: September, 2022
  • ISBN: 978-1-953252-65-4


These short poems are an extraordinary amalgam of wit, close observation, humor, and clear-seeing. Each one singles out and illuminates an ordinary moment – ordinary, that is, until the poet explodes into a miniature epiphany. Easy of access and frequently profound, J.R. Solonche’s poems induce in me a state of delighted surprise. —Chase Twichell 

The tone is established from the outset: wry, wise, sardonic and playful, drawing the reader irresistibly in. Solonche is revealed as a philosopher in the mould of Wittgenstein: aphoristic, charismatic, acerbic and oddly mystical. If you met this book in a bar, you would definitely want to take it home with you and every day thereafter congratulate yourself on how lucky you’ve been. But that is true of all his books. —David Mark Williams

The poems of J.R. Solonche catch the reader off-guard in playful profundity. While always mindful of the tradition of poetry masquerading as direct statement (the like of W.C. Williams, Robert Bly, Robert Creeley, and Charles Bukowski), J.R. Solonche nevertheless “makes it new” through his masterful use of understatement, aphorism, word play and anaphora – raising poem after thoughtful poem from the familiar and often overlooked “little things” of the poet’s day-to-day encounter with the world. —Phillip Sterling

Many times, poets with as many books under their belt as Solonche tend to assume a sage-like persona, presenting themselves as the wise old bard who has the answer to your every question about the universe—including that murkiest thought in the hindquarters of your brain—tucked conveniently up their sleeves. You can practically feel their feet lifting off of the ground as they imagine themselves hovering just a few inches above the rest of man and womankind. The glory of J.R. Solonche is that, over the course of his career (read: over the course of his life) he has been consistently able to keep his feet firmly on the ground. He achieves this through humor. He achieves this through quirkiness. He achieves this through self-deprecation. And sometimes he achieves this through a combination of the three. —Stephen Cramer


Zhao Li opens the literary magazine. Most of the poems are mediocre. Some are all right. Only one has a body and a soul that belong together. Zhao Li smiles.


Zhao Li looks in the mirror. He remembers his promise not to look in the mirror unless he is shaving. “What a silly promise,” he says.


Zhao Li thinks about growing a beard. Then he dismisses the thought. “If I grow a beard, I shall have to marry the first woman who says she likes it,” he laughs.


Zhao Li pauses by the Virginia creeper. “This is the fastest creeping I’ve ever seen,” he says while pulling up the vine that has crept right up to his door.


J. R. SoloncheNominated for the National Book Award and twice-nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, J.R. Solonche is the author of 26 books of poetry and coauthor of another. He lives in the Hudson Valley.


Additional information

Weight .54 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in