For Hillsborough Poet, 74, Age Is Just a Number

Dennis H. Lee, a retired software engineer, published his first collection, Tidal Wave, this year.

dennis h. lee

At 74, poet Dennis H. Lee just published the first collection of his work, Tidal Wave. It’s a good thing he waited this long.

The Hillsborough resident is the inaugural recipient of the Henry Morgenthau III Poetry Prize, awarded to writers 70 or older, in honor of the eponymous late poet, who published his first collection at 99.

Poetry has punctuated Lee’s life from the beginning. His mother, Sylvia, introduced him to the genre when he was six. He recalls her “great old anthology,” and being struck by the opening lines in its index. “We recited poems our entire life together,” he says. “When she was 92, she was still doing it.”

After his first wife, Sheryl, died, Lee joined the Delaware Valley Poets group in Princeton. There, he met fellow poet Donna—now his wife of 20 years.

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The two trade poems and sometimes offer each other edits. “She hasn’t let me make mistakes,” Lee says.

Lee, a former software engineer, often writes on impulse. “When it gets ya—wow,” he says. “I’ve actually pulled over in the car to jot down a thought or dictate something into the iPhone, just to remember it.”

Lee’s publisher, Passager Books, launched the poet’s collection in September with a Zoom event. Two of Morgenthau’s children were on the call.

Passager’s mission is “to make public the passions of older writers, and to fight ageist thinking,” coeditor Kendra Kopelke said at the launch. “Today, with so many older Americans suffering in increased isolation…, we need to hear these voices more than ever.”

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